Welcome to Kumamoto, Japan!
Mostly known for its countrified culture, this southern prefecture of Japan has a lot to offer for adventurous travelers looking to explore Japan. The city welcomes outdoor and photography lovers from all around Japan with its natural beauty and rustic feel. Hospitable people, breathtaking volcanic landscapes and lip-smacking foods all contribute to the unique experience you’ll get in Kumamoto, Japan.
While tourists may be familiar with the major attractions in Kumamoto, a worldwide local knows all the exquisite spots that make up the city’s charm. This is an insider guide that will direct you to discover some of Kumamoto’s hidden gems.
Worldwide Local Tip: The city was struck by an earthquake in April 2016 affecting many of the major Kumamoto hotels, attractions, and buildings. Visit the tourist information center near the Kumamoto castle for the up-to-date list of open/closed attractions.
Visit Kumamoto Castle and the Surrounding Neighborhood
Kumamoto Castle is one of the three most significant castles in Japan. This symbolic landmark of Kumamoto features stone walls specifically designed to combat intruders. With about 800 cherry trees, the castle premises is also a great cherry blossom viewing spot during the blooming season, usually in late March and early April. Entering the castle is currently prohibited; however, the Ninomaru Palace courtyard and Kato Shrine within the premises provide a stunning view of it. You can see the rebuilding process of the castle.
Near Kumamoto Castle is the enchanting ancient village of Josaien. A walk around this village offers a glimpse into the history of the region and its castle. Many of the souvenir shops and restaurants are built to replicate the feeling of walking down old Japanese streets hundreds of years ago. Make sure to indulge in Kumamoto’s famous ramen, known for its thick noodles and tasty garlic flavors. If you are feeling adventurous, you can also try another one of Kumamoto’s specialties—raw horse meat.
Worldwide Local Tip: While in this area, visit Kumamoto City Hall. The building may not have a lot to offer, but it has an observation deck on the fourteenth floor from which you can look out over the city. You will also get some spectacular views and photo opportunities of the castle and the downtown section of Kumamoto.
Hike an Active Volcano
Hiking Mount Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano just reveals the spectacular natural beauty of Kumamoto. You can take a walk around the massive 25-kilometer-wide caldera as you soak in the breathtaking view of the grassy fields of the Kusasenri, or you can even take a short horse ride around the area. Be advised that occasionally the area is closed off to visitors due to volcanic activity, so make sure to check the status before planning your trip.
By nature, Kumamoto is a hot spot for geothermal activity due to its nearby volcanoes. Therefore, no visit is complete without taking a relaxing soak in a bubbling onsen, a Japanese hot spring.
Kumamoto has a rich source of clean natural groundwater full of minerals from Mount Aso. Visiting Kumamoto grants you access to a rare opportunity where quality mineral water is available right at your faucet for your everyday use, including drinking, cooking, and bathing.
Worldwide Local Tip: There are hundreds of onsens in and around Kumamoto, and it can be very confusing to decide which one to book. For the best experience, consider the location of the onsen so as to save on transport, the water type used in the onsen (for example, Simple Thermal Spring / Sulphate Spring / Acidic Spring, etc.), if the facility is private or open air, and the reviews.
Kumamoto’s Diverse Dining
Kumamoto Prefecture definitely doesn’t lack in culinary diversity. The mineral-rich water, together with a friendly climate makes the region a fruitful producer of delicious natural vegetables and Jersey milk products. There is a large variety of seafood from the neighboring Amakusa.
Some local specialties you have to try include Karashi renkon, a textually exciting and compelling tasting fried lotus root filled with mustard and miso paste. Ikinari Dango (steamed buns with bean jam and sweet potato filling) are traditional sweets that unique to the region and that will appeal to your taste buds. A favorite local fruit you have to try is the Mikan, a Japanese orange that’s sweet, juicy and easy to peel. The best time to try them is in the earlier winter months when the Kumamoto weather means they’ll be perfectly ripe.
Worldwide Local Tip: Kumamoto Nurubon Garden, Yamamuro Okubo Branch has a wide variety of local dishes. And with its excellent location on top of a hill, you are awarded a great view of the city as you indulge in the reasonably priced local cuisine.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Kumamoto’s charm is undeniable. With plenty of natural resources, breathtaking landscapes, and delicious cuisine, Kumamoto is a worldwide local’s haven. Visit this beautiful city--but we warn you, you might have a difficult time leaving it!