October 28

We met Mr.Don Alexander for the first time in 12 years. We were very glad to get an E-mail from him saying that he would like to visit Oita before he heads to the next destination Shanghai China. We soon sent back our welcome message to him.

On 28th evening, Mr. Don showed up to my house from Fukuoka. He looked almost no change as before. After the dinner, he showed us Mrs. Mayumi's web site through the Facebook. It was good to see Don's family on the monitor. Hello Mayumi,two children and their grandmother.
October 29

Don was also welcomed by the wonderful autumnal weather forecast on TV. I had been planning the drive course in many routes and finally decided to go to Mt. Aso. A pleasant drive through the autumnal highland has started just.
This is Azami view point of Kujyuu Highland. Don was very glad to view the 360 degree panoramic view
He took many pictures of Kujuu mountain range and Five peaks of Mt.Aso by his digital camera and video.
The view point is my favorite resort. Today the sky is really beautiful and we can expect a wonderful drive today.
When I explained Don that the Five peaks of Mt. Aso was called "Sleeping Buddha, Don quickly laid himself down on the lawn and copied the style of Sleeping Buddha.
We found an interesting playing toy but it was only for the elementary school kids. Mr. Don looked like a little bit disappointed but he continued to film the landscape from the toy stand.
Which is more flexible? Or are they enjoying up-side-down view of Kujyuu mountain range? They looked feel comfortable by the setting-up exercises.
Five Aso peaks are approaching quickly. We went down the rim of Aso caldera and drove around the east foot of Mt. Neko, one of the five peaks and finally arrived at the lunch point named Original Takamori Dengaku restaurant.
I remember the restaurant was straw- thatched roof,but it was rebuilt to ordinary tiled roof house.
It's noon time now. This is famous Dengaku food. The charcoal fire roasts the skewed vegetables. It is comfortable to hear the cracking sound of the warm charcoal.
The fish Yamame was swimming in the fish tank just a few minutes ago. Skewed vegetables are Tofu,Konnyaku (jelly-like food made from the starch of devilfs tongue), sweet pepper,Japanese white radish,taro and rice-cake.  
The local specialty rice of Takana and dumpling soup never get tired of us. The vegetables are now ready for eat with roasted soybean paste that releases mouth-watering savory smell.
The warmth of the charcoal is really good. I opened my palm over the fire. Good! The winter is at hand.    
The tablet on the wall reads "By viewing rocky Mt.Neko, by sitting around the warm fireplace,let's enjoy Dengaku food and drinks together with friends over the pleasant chatting on your birthplace in autumnal color." We also enjoyed the food and pleasant time for the first time in 12 years since I visited Don's house in Chicago.
A we-were-there-picture was taken at the backyard of the restaurant.   
After the lunch, we headed to Aso through the south driveway that leads us to Nakadake crater.
We parked the car at the parking lot and got on the ropeway.  
The colorful plume rising from the hot spots fascinated Don. He was busy in taking pictures and videos.
A king local guide explained many interesting stories of the volcano. What was funny, on the keep out sign, I found a "no-smoking" mark(though not visible in the picture.)    
The guide told us that we were really lucky, because the area has been off-limit early from the morning due to high sulfurous acid gas wind. Just a couple of minutes ago, the restriction was removed.  
We then climbed up to an observation platform. The density and direction of the smoke is changing periodically. Yes, we were lucky, God blessed us!    
Finally, a high density gas blow urged us to the return rope way terminal. We got two cup of soft ice cream named Aso volcanic ash ice cream. Actually the dark color comes from black sesame powder.

Mt Aso is in Kumamoto prefecture. "Kumamon", a well-known lovely character of the prefecture were every corner of the souvenir shop.
We then dropped at the view point called Kusa-senri, one of the old crater now filled with shallow pond. The amount of the water was considerably less than I saw before.    
The smallest volcano in the world,they say, was born just 1,500 years ago.
Road station Aso. We took a short break here welcomed by big Kumamon character.  
Now, we say goo-bye to Aso. On our way back home, we drive National road #57 through Taketa city. The scars left by the last autumn typhoon were still visible at Takimuro up slope.  
Passing through Taketa, we arrived at Nagayu spa. Banshou-no-yu spa is sometimes called Historical heritage of Nagayu spa. We got in the spa leisurely to rest ourselves. After the spa, we took dinner at the dinning room Tenkeijuku(Heaven blessing crammer dinning room.) Medically checked healthy 5 dishes and more than 40 kinds of food wait for the visitor.    
So many kind of dishes make my eyes happy and I took some of them carefully. A piece of fried chicken was specially served to each of us. I was happy to taste the well fried chicken. Medical dish taro was unusual and good. My friend Chiyoda supervises the food.
  The welcome drive to Mt Aso was blessed with the beautiful weather today and Mr. Don looked like happy by the dinner. We arrived home without any trouble,Thank you very much.  
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