Oita Prefecture (大分県)

Kuju Flower Park「久住花公園」

I love seeing big open fields full of flowers and I was glad that I had the opportunity to visit Kuju Flower Park「久住花公園」, which is located at the southern base of the Kuju Mountains and has about three million plants of more than 500 different varieties. Different flowers bloom during the different seasons during most of the year, except in winter. Do check the flowering schedule on the park’s website before your visit, so that you’ll know what you can expect to see there.

Entrance to Kuju Flower Park.

I just had to take that customary photo by posing at the “official photo spot”! LOL!!

Unfortunately it was a rainy day during my visit and the skies were rather foggy. However, I felt that it gave a “mysterious” feel to my pictures.

Here’s one of me getting lost in the sea of flowers.

Ahhh…the patches of purple and white were such a lovely sight to behold….

Making my way around the park, I came across a field of Marigolds.

Here’s another one of me trying to “blend in” with the flowers again! Haha…

As the various species of flowers take turns to bloom, do note that some may not be in full bloom during your visit, but you can imagine how lovely the scene will be when the flowers are all out.

We then found a different section of the park with lots of colourful flowers. Unfortunately the names of the flowers were all displayed in Japanese, so I didn’t know what their names were in English.

I then visited the Rose Garden, but wasn’t sure if the season for roses was already over.

Thankfully there were still some roses in bloom and I managed to see them!

There are also quite a few side paths where you can stroll along and admire the different views at the park.

Found a little pond surrounded by some autumn colours. If you look carefully, you can spot some ducks at the far end.

Duck feed is available for purchase and you can buy some to feed the ducks. They will come swimming towards you if they know that you have food for them!

Families with young children may want to note that there is a playground in the park, in case your kids aren’t interested in admiring the flowers.

If all that walking about has made you famished, there is a buffet restaurant No No Yasai「野のやさい」, which is located at the second floor of this building.

There is also a gift shop on the ground floor and I stumbled upon Mr Bear seated at the cafe next door but he looked rather sad, so I was trying to cheer him up!

Anyway, I went upstairs for my meal and here are some pictures of the buffet spread…

There’s even a separate section with a lady preparing tempura so that they are freshly fried when you go over to get some (yes, it’s also part of the buffet spread).

The dessert and beverage section.

Here’s my pick from the buffet spread! ^_^

Before leaving this flower park, you may want to stop by the Rose de Mal shop to purchase some dried flowers.

Souvenir ink stamps found at the park:


Address:

Kuju Flower Park「久住花公園」
4050 Oaza Kuju, Kuju-machi, Taketa, Oita, Kyushu, Japan.
[Map]

Opening Hours: 8:30 to 17:30
Closed December to February. Check their website for their latest updates.

Admission Fees:
Adults ¥1,300
Senior Citizens (70 years and above) ¥1,100
Children (5-12 years) ¥500

Getting There:
Kuju Flower Park is located about 10km off the Yamanami Highway which leads through the Kuju Mountains. It is difficult to reach there by public transport. The closest train station is Bungo-Taketa Station and it takes about 30min to get there by taxi (about ¥5,500). A cheaper alternative is to take a bus bound for Nagayu Onsen from the train station to Kuju-machi (¥510, 25 minutes), then take a taxi to the park (about ¥2000).

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Categories: Japan, Kyushu (九州), Oita Prefecture (大分県), Taketa City (竹田市), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring DRUM TAO’s Home Base “Grandioso”, ending with a Private Performance!

After watching Drum TAO’S performance at Okajo Castle the night before, we had the opportunity to visit them at their home base “Grandioso” 「TAOの里」 the next morning!

Yet again it was a rainy day and just before arriving at our destination, we were told that they would be putting up a special performance for us, with some acts that they originally wanted to perform at the castle site but couldn’t because of the rain. The drums are extremely sensitive to humidity and will be damaged if they get wet!

Upon arrival, we took in the view of the wide open space and the fresh air at this place which is located in the Aso Kuju National Park.

We were then taken on a brief tour of the grounds. (yes, I was posing for this photo in the rain!)

Main Studio

2nd Studio

The juniors’ lodgings are located behind the 2nd Studio.

Seniors’ lodgings are at the top of the slope, with another building which houses an onsen.

We learnt that Drum Tao has their training sessions from 5am-8am daily and a lot of hard work goes into their practice sessions! New apprentices have to be mentally prepared for a tough time during their initial 1-2 years there and some who cannot make the cut will be asked to leave. Perhaps some of the newbies may try to run away if they personally feel that they cannot endure the rigorous training, but as this location is in a rather remote area, it’s quite difficult for anyone to simply “run away” as it is an extremely long walk to get to the main road and public transportation is scarce in these parts!  Haha…it sounded very much like being stuck at some Chinese martial arts school hidden in the secluded mountains!

Finally, we were ushered into the Main Studio and there were several drums in the hall. We were thrilled to be at this venue and started taking pictures whilst waiting for the performance to start.

I caught a glimpse of some members of the cast waiting backstage! Ooh…the anticipation started to build at this point!

As we weren’t allowed to photograph or videotape the performance, here are some pictures from WilzWorkz, who was there on an official blogger invite (I was there as a “contest winner” and “tour tester”, so I could sit back and enjoy the show!)

There were some round straw cushions on the floor as well as proper chairs and we were told that you will get a better experience if seated on the floor (i.e. front row). We soon understood what they meant as when the drums were being hit, you can feel the vibrations ripple across the entire floor and it amplified the innermost heartbeat of the drums! I was content sitting on a chair at the back row as at such close proximity, the sound was quite loud! The vibrations could still be felt where I was seated and also in clear view were the facial expressions of the performers and we could even see the sweat glistening on the well-toned bodies of the men!!

This private show beautifully showcased the drums incorporating dance, flags and various other instruments.

They play the Koto too!

Dance segment:

Performing with Flags:

This next pose is a good exercise for your stomach muscles! A senior was being “mean” and made them hold this pose for several minutes and some of them were grimacing and a few started shaking a little.

There was a merchandise corner in the room and various Drum Tao merchandise were being sold, some of which are exclusive to Japan only.

I bought a DVD…

…but due to time constraints, we only managed to get one autograph.

At this venue, we definitely had much better seats than the ones we had the previous night at Okajo Castle! I mean – how often do you get a chance to be at such close proximity to the performers? We even had an opportunity to take a group photo with them!

Wow and Double Wow!!… It’s definitely an experience that I will cherish for a lifetime!

Categories: Japan, Kyushu (九州), Oita Prefecture (大分県), Taketa City (竹田市), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DRUM TAO Premium LIVE at Okajo Castle「岡城 プレミアムLIVE」

Okajo Castle Premium LIVE「岡城 プレミアムLIVE」 was a project by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee, to measure Olympic and Paralympic basic policy promotion.

This was a special outdoor performance by Drum Tao at the Oka Castle Ruins, also known as Oka Castle or Okajo Castle (actually “jo” itself means “castle” in Japanese but somehow the typical English translations for places tend to have the same words repeated twice!).

Even though Okajo Castle is now in ruins, it still retains a special charm and is a popular spot to visit to see cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.

Tickets for the show can’t be purchased and Drum Tao had invited the public to apply for tickets to the event. There were a total of over 6000 applications but only 900 people successfully obtained the tickets.

This was my pass to the event and I made sure that I held on to it tightly!

Unfortunately, on that day the sky was merciless and brought forth heavy showers. However, Drum Tao had assured on their Facebook page that rain or shine, the show would still go on. They had even setup a tent on the stage during the day, in the event that the sky didn’t let up that evening.

We had to walk uphill to the main castle site where the performance was being held and this path can be quite slippery and muddy when it is wet.

Daylight was soon fading and the atmosphere at this location was starting to head toward the mysterious…

We were told there would be 2 stages at this venue and we were then systematically ushered by groups to the first stage at the castle’s turret, where we were allowed to use our cameras.

The drum beats brightened up the atmosphere and it felt as though they were welcoming us to this place.

Here’s a look at what took place whilst we were all standing in the rain at about 5:10pm. (Can you spot me? Haha…)




Watch the video of the performance:

After this brief segment, we were then ushered towards the main stage at the Honmaru「本丸」, which is the palace in the inner-most circle of defense, but were told that both photography and videography weren’t allowed here, unless you are from the official media.

Rain rain go away… unfortunately, it continued to pour whilst we took our seats!

The use of umbrellas wasn’t allowed as they would obstruct the view of those seated around you, thus everyone was expected to wear raincoats and watch the show in the rain!

A bit of trivia……. Okajo Castle is well known as the location for the famous Japanese song Kōjō no Tsuki「荒城の月」, which was composed by Rentarō Taki「滝 廉太郎」in 1901. The name of the song literally translates to “The Moon over the Ruined Castle”. I still remember this to be one of the first songs taught to me by my guitar instructor some 20+ years ago!

The music of this song was inspired by the ruins of Okajo Castle and its lyrics, written by Bansui Doi, were inspired by the ruins of Aoba Castle and Aizuwakamatsu Castle.

It was truly a befitting tribute to the venue that the show opened to the haunting strains of the flute playing Kōjō no Tsuki「荒城の月」. Forget the heavy rain, soggy ground and wet clothes – although it was too cloudy to be able to see the moon, the audience were mesmerized as it was an extremely beautiful and magical moment!

Here’s some excerpts from the show at the main stage (posted by Taketa City):

Curtain call:

Although the rain didn’t relent, our spirits were not dampened and judging from the response from the audience, everyone had a great time as the performance was amazing and all the members of Drum Tao were so talented! I was also extremely impressed with their sound system as everything sounded perfect even though this was an outdoor venue! Well done Drum Tao!!

(We also paid a visit to Drum Tao’s home base the next day <- click to find out more)

Categories: Japan, Kyushu (九州), Oita Prefecture (大分県), Taketa City (竹田市), Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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