The plan had been to drive up to Miyazaki on the east coast but, as we set out on the road that morning and the skies became increasingly dismal and torrential, we decided it might be an idea to stay slightly closer to home rather than suffer an 8-hour round trip to stand outside in the rain.

Instead, we ended up here at 霧島神宮 (Kirishima-Jingu). Originally built around 800 years ago during the Muromachi period, it was soon discovered after a series of eruptions and reconstructions that the shrine was located rather too close to the local volcano. It was subsequently moved and rebuilt on its current location in 1715. Jingū, as opposed to the more common jinja, are rare, high-ranking shrines with connections to the Imperial House of Japan.

Almost too adorable to eat.

…almost.

After consuming his sweet, kawaii flesh, we continued onwards to Sakura Sakura: another new and exciting mode of onsen wherein you cover yourself with sulphurous mud and let it dry until you resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of Predator. From there, we wound up at 霧島アートの森 – the Kirishima Open-air Art Museum.

I’ve mentioned before that the recurring presence of Yayoi Kusama’s artwork throughout my time in Japan was the impetus for using it as the design for my tattoo commemorating the years I spent there.

This trend continued almost as soon as I returned, with Colin and Kim’s new home of Kagoshima Prefecture having not one but two of her colossal sculptures.

シャングリラの華 (Flowers of Shangri-la)

High Heel (2002)

The mere sound of “Red Shoe” makes my heart pound with excitement.
The red high heel was filled with happiness, the happiness that knows no bounds.
Where shall I go wearing it? I want first of all to go to a dream-filled place, a coffee shop in the verdant park for a hot cup of coffee.
My heart overflows with hope.
Gazing at the shoe, I am lost in thought.
My dear red shoe.
I will wear it till the day I die, for I want to get hold of the unknown happiness.

Yayoi Kusama, January 2002

Male/Female – Jonathan Borofsky (1999)

You Are the Art – Jeonghwa Choi (2000)

This is probably the more family friendly of the pictures we took in this spot.

It is breezing – Kozo Nishino (1999)

Right Sheep – Tsubaki Noboru (2012)

I loved this guy. He looked like a prop from the ‘60s Batman series.

Strangely enough, not the first time three Dundonians had found themselves standing inside a giant polkadot flower in the middle of Japan.

Colin conceded the front seat to me after we discovered that it more or less eliminated my carsickness…a decision Kim came to regret almost immediately.

How appropriate that the first place we see upon entering Kagoshima City would be this.

Gourmet Neko: somewhat unbelievably, my very first visit to a cat café!

The owner was actually a fellow gaijin, named Mathilde.

This beautiful calico was Mango.

Hitler cat! (Real name: Mikan.)

All of the cats were adorable, though Mango was our clear favourite.

I do confess, however, that being surrounded by pedigrees in my daily life has somewhat spoiled me for all other felines. (Which isn’t to say that these guys weren’t adorable…they just weren’t Wilfred.)

Nevertheless, the hour or so we spent there did wonders for my erstwhile pet deprivation.

Samurai pals.

Guy on the left is heavy judging.

…and now we know why.

Mr & Mrs Cramb

That was my nickname in prison.

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