Kumamoto Prefecture extends from the west coast to the center of mainland Kyushu. Once the prosperous stronghold of
a powerful feudal lord, its history and tradition are still instilled in Kumamoto's character as a culturally advanced Japanese
Kumamoto City`s prosperity began when Kiyomasa Kato, one of the most influential of Hideyoshi Toyotomi's generals, had a
magnificent castle built here in 1601. The city was later granted by the Tokugawa Shogunate to the feudal lord Tadatoshi
Hosokawa. Throughout the Edo Era, Kumamoto prospered under the rule of successive generations of the Hosokawa family.
After the Meiji Restoration, when Japan moved toward modernization and democratization, samurai warriors who resisted the
new order fought their last battle in Kumamoto.
Kumamoto is often called the "forested city." The many trees in every neighborhood of this lovely city help create and maintain
its fresh and pleasant atmosphere. The prefecture has two extremely scenic national parks of its own. Since ancient days
Kumamoto Prefecture has been called the "Land of Fire" because it contains twin-coned volcanic Mt. Aso. Its southwestern
sector contains much striking coastline and the 120 or so islands of the Amakusa chain.
Transportation to Kumamoto There are 8 flights daily on ANA, JAL, and JAS from Tokyo which reach Kumamoto in 1
hr. 40 min., and 5 flights daily on ANA from Osaka that arrive in 1 hr. 5 min., from there downtown is a 54 min bus ride. By
train, Kumamoto is accessed by Shinkansen through Hakata, where you must transfer to a Limited Express for the final 1 hr.
30 min. journey to Kumamoto.
Places of Interest in Kumamoto Prefecture
Located in the center of Kyushu, with a population of 630,000, Kumamoto City is the capital of Kumamoto Prefecture,
forming the nucleus of the island in politics, commerce and culture along with Fukuoka. With many green groves and delicately
executed gardens, Kumamoto has been a thriving castle town for centuries. It has now developed into a modern metropolis,
its broad streets lined with high-rise buildings. JR Kumamoto Station is secluded from the city's downtown, but thanks to the
No. 2 streetcar, it is quite easy to reach the downtown area from the Station. The downtown area is located to the south of
Kumamotojo Castle. Kurnamotojo Castle is the major attraction in Kumamoto, and is easily accessible by streetcar
(Kumamotojo-mae stop). The information Office is located at JR Kumamoto Station.
Kumamoto City Tourist Information Desk: Tel: (096)352-3743
Kumamoto Airport Information Office: Tel: (096)232-2810
Sightseeing In Kumamoto
- Downtown Kumamoto: Kumamoto has extensive shopping arcades. Two department stores - Shiroya and Tsuruya -
are located in the arcades, and one more department store - IwatayaIsetan - is located near Kotsu Center Bus
Terminal. Most drinking and eating establishments are located to the northwest of these arcades.
- Honmyoji Temple: Take the No. 12 city bus from Platform No. 36 at Kotsu Center Bus Terminal. The ride takes
about 10 minutes. Get off at Honmyoji-mae stop. Fare: 160. Walk in the direction the bus was going and you'll be able
to see the first of the gates of the Temple compound. Honmyoji Temple is Kumamoto's grandest temple and the head
temple of the Nichiren Sect of Buddhism in Kyushu. The tomb of Kiyomasa Kato is located here and a statue of the
samurai general stands guard over the city.
- Kumamotojo Castle: This castle was built by Lord Kato Kiyomasa in seven years beginning in 1601, and is counted
as one of Japan's three greatest castles. Kumamotojo Castle is especially famous for its delicately curved stone walls in
the musha gaeshi style. The curve served a defensive purpose, and prevented attackers from climbing them. The
defensive capabilities of the Castle were tested a few years after the Meiji Restoration when the imperial forces
barricaded themselves against samurai who had been deprived of the privileges and social status they enjoyed during
the feudal era. The imperial army survived for 55 days against the fierce attacks by rebels and eventually won the battle.
The major buildings were burnt down in this battle. The present castle was reconstructed in 1960. There are two major
entrances to the Castle. To better see the magnificent stone walls, we recommend that you get off the street car at
Kumamotojo-mae stop and use the southwestern entrance. The approach leading to the donjon, which is located on
the highest point of the grounds, may help you imagine what it was like for the 17th century samurai who ascended
these stone steps on their way to pledge allegiance to their feudal lord. The interior of the six-story donjon is a museum
that houses historical objects related to the feudal lords who governed the Kumamoto area. A 15 min. walk from
Kotsu Center, which is reached in 10 min. by bus from Kumamoto Station, the castle grounds are open from 8:30 Am
to 5:30 PM (4:30 PM in winter). Admission to the grounds: ¥200. Admission to the donjon: ¥300. Combination ticket
- Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Center: Located to the northeast of the Castle. This well-designed
museum displays local crafts in a lovely setting. Among the crafts featured are ceramics, paper lanterns, traditional toys,
bamboo bath accessories, wooden crafts, knives, swords and higo metal inlay (gold and silver inlaid on steel, a four
hundred year old craft originally used for swords). The first floor houses a shop and workshops where you can observe
artisans at work. Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Closed Mondays. Admission: ¥190.
- Kumamoto International Folkcraft Museum: 30 min. by bus from Kotsu Center, the only one of its kind in
Kyushu, is a 120-year-old warehouse-style building remodeled into a museum of folk arts and crafts. On display there
are dyed textiles, ceramic ware, wood works, glassware and bamboo works collected from many parts of the world as
well as various works of folkcraft for daily use. Demonstrations of hand-weaving are also held there. Hours: 9:00-4:00.
Closed on Mondays, Dec. 29-Jan. 2. Admission: ¥350.
- Suizenji-Koen Park: The centerpiece of this park is an exquisite landscape garden originally created some 350 years
ago as a place of rest for the lords of the ruling Hosokawa Clan. The typical Momoyama-style hill garden named
"Joshuen" was laid out in 1632. With clear spring-fed streams integrated gracefully into its overall design, the park
symbolizes Kumamoto as a "Capital City of Streams." The park also has a number of literary monuments and the Janes'
Residence, a fine example of a Western wooden house of the early Meiji Period. Suizenji-Koen is officially open from
7:00 AM to 6:00 PM, but the Park never really closes. Take the No. 2 streetcar from Shiyakusho-mae stop after
visiting Kumamotojo Castle. Allow 15-20 minutes for the trip to Suizenji-Koen-mae stop. Take note that the stops
there for the west-bound streetcar and the east-bound streetcar are some distance apart. Suizenji-Koen Park was
established over 300 years ago by Tadatoshi Hosokawa and was improved upon by succeeding lords of the
Hosokawa family. The landscape garden, 64.6 ha. in area, is unusual for its large-scale design, features miniature
replicas of the picturesque scenery along the Tokaido Road (the road that connected feudal Kyoto and Edo), such as
Mt. Fuji and Lake Biwako. Itsumi Jinja Shrine, located in the Park, is a former Hosokawa tea house. Hours: 7:30-6:00
(middle of Mar.-Nov.), 8:30-5:00 (Dec.-middle of Mar.). Open daily. Admission: ¥200.
- Shimada Art Museum: Take the No. 6 city bus from Platform No. 36 at Kotsu Center Bus Terminal. The ride takes
about 10 minutes. Get off at JikeiByoin-mae stop, and walk another 10 minutes. The Museum displays artifacts of
warrior culture, including the personal effects of the famed swordsman Musashi Miyamoto.
Places of Interest Around Kumamoto Prefecture
- Prefectural Museum of Ancient Ornamental Burial Mounds (Kao Town): Ancient ornamental burial mounds
and ornamental cave-type tombs number some 480 in Japan. Nearly 40 percent of them are in Kumamoto Prefecture.
The museum casts light on various aspects of archaeology. (30 min. by rail from Kumamoto to Tamana on JR's
Kagoshima Honsen Line, then 25 min. by bus and a 20-min, walk.)
- Yachiyo-za Theater (Yamaga City): Built in 1910, this theater is an authentic example of a traditional Edo
Periodstyle playhouse. The only one of its kind in Kyushu, it is a nationally designated cultural property. Various
performances are staged even today. (1 hr. by bus from downtown Kumamoto.)
- Mt. Aso: Geologically, Mt. Asozan is a typical volcano chain. A 128 km (80 mile) rim of outer mountains surrounds a
wide caldera valley. It is in this valley that the JR Hohi Line runs, and where approximately 100,000 people live. In the
center of the valley rise the main mountains of Mt. Asozan. There are five main peaks 1,300-1,600 in (4,300-5,200
feet) above sea level. The crater of one of them - Mt. Nakadake still emits steam and demonstrates the wild and
mysterious powers of nature.
- One way to traverse Kyushu island is on a bus operated by the Kyushu Kokusai Kanko Bus Company. The bus
originates at Kumamoto Station, and stops at Kotsu Center Bus Terminal in downtown Kumamoto. The bus trip
includes a visit to Mt. Asozan, and a drive through the scenic Yamanam mountain highway to Beppu. The ride take
about 7 hours. There are four buses daily each way. The fare is 8,280-10,180 yen, including lunch. Three additional
buses are operated by the same company, but they do not visit Mt. Asozan.
- The other route is by train. You follow the entire route of the JR Hohi Line, with a stop at Aso Station. A round-trip
bus trip takes you from Aso Station to Mt. Asozan. The Sanko bus (marked "Aso Sanjo-sen") runs about once every
hour, and the trip takes 40 minutes from the JR Aso Station to Asozan-nishi ropeway station. The return bus trip takes
30 minutes. The fare is 570 each way.
- Asozan-nishi Ropeway Station: The road leading to Asozan-nishi ropeway station is a well-maintained toll road that
zigzags up the mountain slope. The valley between the inner (main) mountains and outer mountains falls away under
your eyes. The bus passes a distinctive mountain shaped like an inverted bowl of rice (called "Komezuka" - rice
mound). The bus usually makes a short stop at Kusasenri Meadow to allow passengers time to get off the bus and
enjoy the scenery (and to provide the professional cameramen waiting there some business opportunities).
- Aso-sancho (Top of Mt. Nakadake): There are a large number of restaurants and souvenir shops in and around the
ropeway station. The 0.9 km (0.6 mile) long ropeway operates every 8 minutes and takes visitors to the top of Mt.
Nakadake in only 4 minutes (Fare: 410 each way). From the ropeway you can traverse a pleasant walking path on the
lava slope. if the weathe