Kitakinokura Yotsumiya Shrine

A sanctuary for all seasons

By Bonson Lam    - 3 min read

When I was at school, one of the favourite things I looked forward to was riding my bike with my friends after school. You can go anywhere, like the secret hills and the countryside streams that were framed by reeds. All you would hear is the gentle trickling of a stream and maybe the sound of a cow mooing beyond eyesight, but just close enough to make you look twice. The setting for Kita-Kinokura Yotsumiya Shrine is a bit like that, out of the way of any tourist attraction, and actually, a kind of place you would not go to, but just stumble across, like if you were getting lost on a cycling expedition from Kumamoto city or the airport to the green mountains of Aso.

The shrine is located in Mifune, a land of rice fields, wheat and other crops, framed by high mountains and the odd grain silos. It is a land of plenty and the Shinto traditions play to the natures blessings. While this shrine won't win any beauty contests, with parts of the shrine looking like it is in a state of disrepair, with moss covered stone tori gates and ancient looking ruins that wouldn’t look too out of place in Angkor Wat. You get the feeling that there's actually no one around, so much so that you may initially feel that you are the first to discover it, like some lost city in the jungle. It is just you and nature itself, which is the essence of Shinto.

Growing up in this area means that you can actually experience this sanctuary in every season. In the early hours of New Year’s Day, the temple attendants spruce up the grounds and the rhythmic sound of the drums can be heard, preparing for the Hatsumode celebrations. Spring sees the first blossoms from March 26, while in May there is a Children’s Day festival. The highlight of the year though would be the Gion Festival on the second Saturday of July, with cicadas in the air and happy children of all ages brightly dressed and celebrating the summer festival.

Nearby are a number of attractions worthy of visiting in any season, including the Mifune Dinosaur Museum, the Mifune Country Club and golf course, as well as various hot spring Onsens. The locals here call the volcanoes of Aso the land of fire, making an abundance of hot springs and ensuring that Kumamoto remains as Japan's top five prefectures in terms of quantity of onsens.

In 2019 Kumamoto would also host the Rugby World Cup, making this area an ideal retreat after a big day watching titans clash on the field.

Getting there

From Suizenjiekidoriri Bus Stop in Kumamoto City, take the East 8 bus towards Mifune. Get off at Ochiai Mifune Bus Stop and it is a 11 minute walk . Busses are not frequent so this is best reached by car or a leisurely bicycle ride.

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Bonson Lam

Bonson Lam @bonson.lam

I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us. 

Join the discussion

Yui Yamaguchi 2 years ago
I'm sure local kids go there to play "hide & seek" like your childhood!
Bonson Lam Author 2 years ago
That is so true! The beautiful reeds on the river banks and the bamboo forest is a great place for hide and seek.
Nguyen Ngoc Diep 2 years ago
Great information!
Bonson Lam Author 2 years ago
Thank you Nguyen! I think the essence of travel, and in life generally, is to arrive and be at peace in your surroundings, and to feel really connected to the land and its people. The beautiful countryside in Kumamoto really lets you do that. I hope you can be here one day!