Sitting in the middle-eastern pocket of Kyushu you’ll find Kumamoto Prefecture. An area filled with natural beauty, history and a whole lot of hot springs it’s a getaway ideal for those wanting to unwind, relax and enjoy the more peaceful side of Japan. The capital of the prefecture is Kumamoto City, with a population of around 700,000 it's a lively metropolis that doesn’t feel overcrowded.
In recent times the city was struck by a powerful earthquake, effectively bringing the iconic Kumamoto Castle and surrounding city area to its knees, however Kumamoto has bounced back, stronger than ever, ready to show the world just all the greatness Kumamoto city has to offer.
Some of the city’s most important sites include the aforementioned Kumamoto Castle. Originally constructed in the early 1600s, this towering structure has remained a popular tourist drawcard over the decades. Following the April 2016 earthquake, the inner grounds have been closed off to the public indefinitely but you can still marvel at the building from the surrounding areas.
If you find yourself in the area be sure to make a trip to the residence of Lafcadio Hearn who also worked under the name of Koizumi Yakumo. Born in Greece in 1850, Hearn was one of the first ever Western authors to write books about Japan.
For ideal cherry blossom viewing, make a trip to Kumamoto’s Suizenji Garden, a sprawling Japanese style landscape garden with winding walking paths and a small recreation of Mt. Fuji. The city’s central location makes it a great place to set up home base while exploring the other natural sites around Kumamoto Prefecture. The volcanic Mt. Aso, and the historic Kurokawa Onsen are just a short trip away.
Also located in Kumamoto you’ll find the Former Hosokawa Residence, a stunning mansion that was home to a powerful samurai family that ruled over the area during the Edo-period.
There are a number of ways to access the area by public transport, depending your budget and time. If you’re travelling via Tokyo the most direct way to get to the area is via airplane. JAL, ANA, and Solaseed Air all offer regular flights between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Kumamoto.
If you’d rather travel by train, Tokyo and Kumamoto are connected by Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen. The trip via shinkansen takes about six hours and costs around 26,000 yen each way. A transfer at Shin-Osaka or Hakata Station is typically required along this route. For those wanted to get around by car, it’s recommended you fly into Kumamoto and pick up a rental from one of the many rental companies available.
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR