Shin and I were invited by Shin's brother to spend a few days in Kumamoto, Kyushu. From there we did a day trip to Nagasaki about 2 hours from Kumamoto. During Japan's period of national isolation, Nagasaki was the only gateway to the West. Our first stop in Nagasaki was Glover Garden, overlooking the whole of Nagasaki Port. It was here, in 1863 that Thomas Blake Glover built a house and beautiful gardens. It was a very hot 36 degrees but the stroll through the gardens and houses was pleasant. After that we lined up and waited an hour!! to eat lunch in a famous Chinese restarant serving Nagasaki's most well know dish, Champon (noodles in soup topped with various meats and vegetables). After lunch we visited Nagasaki Dejima, site of the former Dutch trading employees. It was very interesting to read about the Dutch East India Trading Company and their dealings with Japan. Some of the exhibits were also very well airconditioned which provided a respite from the sweltering heat. On our way back out of Nagasaki we stopped in a Nagasaki Peace Park complete with peace statue and many thousands of paper cranes.
The next day we visited 400 year old Kumamoto Castle which is said to be the 3rd most beautiful castle in Japan. As we climbed the stairs to the top floor we could read about the history of the castle, its inhabitants and the wars waged over it. From the top we had a great view over the gardens and some of Kumamoto.