Kumamoto Prefecture

Natural discoveries with Mount Aso and coastal Amakusa

 By Francesco Agresti   Nov 3, 2011

Kumamoto is yet another highly attractive location in Kyushu, which is begging to be explored. It is most famous for its iconic castle, lush landscape gardens and tomb of one of the most influential samurai, Miyamoto Musashi. Kumamoto City feels small since most places can be reached on foot if you feel adventurous. Otherwise you can take the local tram to your desired destination.

Kumamoto Castle is one of the biggest and most fortified castles in Japan. Built by famed medieval castle builder and Kumamoto ruler Kato Kiyomasa, the tower is a modern recreation but much of the stonework and several of the watchtowers are original. The vista from the top floor of the castle is gorgeous as your field of vision is filled with distant mountains, vibrant green forests and traditional temples. A local had told me that there are special laws in the city, where buildings must not be built higher than the castle. This is to highlight the importance of the castle and to make sure that no other structure will block your view of it!    

Aside from visiting historical sites, Kumamoto allows you plenty of opportunity to summon the shopaholic within by browsing in the shopping arcade. The great thing about this arcade is the fact that it’s just a stone’s throw away from castle. If you need a break from all that shopping, you should treat your taste buds by divulging with Kumamoto’s famous delicacy, basashi (raw horse meat) or the cheaper yet equally tasty tonkotsu ramen.

There's much more to Kumamoto than its capital city. Venture into the countryside to find the true beauty of the prefecture. Hike the paths of Kikuchi Gorge, witness a water display at the Tsujun Bridge aqueduct or catch a sunset over the Ariake Sea from the Amakusa islands in Kumamoto's far western reaches. Yatsuhiro is known for its irises and avant-garde history museum, while Yamaga boasts a unique summer lantern festival during Obon. Witness Hina display in Hitoyshi in March or soak in the splendor of autumn in Gokanosho, the mountainous region that holds the secrets of the Heike clan. Above all, don't miss out on a soak in one of the prefecture's top onsen (hot springs). 

Wherever you venture, Kumamoto will will not fail to charm you and make you want to return.

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