About Kumamoto City

Kumamoto City is the second largest city in Kyushu island with a population of around 730,000 people, situated in the centre of the island of Kyushu on the western coast. The city grew up around Kumamoto Castle which was completed by Lord Kato Kiyomasa in 1607. Kumamoto went on become the military and cultural capital of Kyushu for hundreds of years ruled by the Hosokawa daimyos.

In 1877 Kumamoto City suffered by being at the center of the Seinan Civil War. Kumamoto Castle was besieged by the last samurai of Kagoshima for over 2 months and much of the castle and city were destroyed by fire and fighting. Following the Meiji restoration with the advent of industrialisation Fukuoka rose to take the position of the largest city due to its more strategic location and deep water port.

These days Kumamoto is known as a vibrant and relaxed city offering great restaurants and fashionable shops, art museums and freshwater lakes fed by underground springs. Boasting the best water quality in Japan thanks to the nearby Aso region, Kumamoto is the largest city in Japan supplied completely by subterranean water.

Many of the city’s historical samurai roots remain. The mighty Kumamoto Castle underwent a huge restoration project completed in time for its 400th birthday in 2007 making it one of the top tourist destinations in Kyushu. The beautifully kept Suizenji Gardens dating back to the 17th Century are also well worth visiting in every season. In Kumamoto you will also find the tomb of Musashi Miyamoto, Japan’s legendary swordsman. Coming to Kumamoto at the invitation of the Hosokawa Lords he spent his last few years in the city and it was in a cave nearby that he produced his master work The Book of Five Rings.

Kumamoto also has strong  literary links, Natsume Soseki (the guy on the 1000 Yen note) spent several years here while teaching at Kumamoto University and writing about many of his experiences. Lafcadio Hearn, the Greek Irish writer who was one of the first foreigners to write about is life in Japan also spent several years teaching in Kumamoto. About Kumamoto he wrote:

“The future of greatness of Japan will depend on the preservation of that Kyushu or Kumamoto spirit, the love of what is plain and good and simple, and the hatred of useless luxury and extravagance in life.”

I’m not sure how happy he would be with current day Japan. The traditional Japanese house he lived in can still be visited, tucked away behind the Tsuruya Department Store which sells high fashion and luxury brand name goods in the city centre.

Fans of Japanese manga will be excited to know that Kumamoto is also the birthplace of Eijiro Oda the creator of the world famous pirate adventure ‘One Piece’.

Visitors to Kumamoto will not fail to become acquainted with the city’s newest star, its lovable mascot Kumamon. The smiling black bear with the rosy red cheeks took the nation by storm in 2011 when he won the prize for best Yurukyara mascot. Due to clever marketing by Kumamoto Prefecture his face is now on any and every item you can imagine all over the city and you can even meet him in person (or should it be in bearson?) at his office in Kumamon Square by Tsuruya Department store. Check his diary here!

Below are some of the activities and sights you can explore in and around the city. Click on the picture links to find out more. Then why not take a look at the Kumamoto City Tour  or make your own custom made guided tour and contact Explore Kumamoto for a quote.

Sakuranobaba Jousaien This recently opened Edo style tourist spot close to the castle is based on a facsimile of a traditional castle town area. (Unfortunately Kumamoto lost
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Japanese cuisine is famous worldwide, so why not try cooking in  Kumamoto; you can pick up some Japanese cooking techniques, meet the locals and experience making some
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The Kumamoto Zoo and Botanical Gardens are situated on the eastern edge of the city on the edge of the beautiful Ezu Lake. If you are
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Kumamon If you visit Kumamoto you will not fail to see a certain black bear with rosy red cheeks on everything from the buses to
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Kumamoto castle suffered severe damage in the earthquakes of April 14th and 16th, it is currently closed to visitors. The mighty and impenetrable Kumamoto Castle
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SItuated within an easy walk of the castle, the Kumamoto Traditional Crafts Center (Kumamoto Kougeikan) celebrates and promotes Kumamoto's unique range of traditional crafts. The crafts you
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The Reigando Cave, in Japanese simply Reigando 霊巌洞, is a mysterious and sacred cave located on the Western slopes of Mt. Kinpo the 200,000 year old extinct
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Rent a Bicycle What better way to explore the city and beyond than by renting a bicycle for a day. Kumamoto City is a great place to
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Tatsuda Nature Park is well worth putting on your itinerary for a day out in the city. Tucked away behind Kumamoto University, perhaps its difficult to
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Upper Ezu Lake is just 30 minutes from the heart of the city and 10 minutes walk from Suizenji Park. It's a wonderful place to
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Kumamoto City Tours with Explore Kumamoto The Kumamoto City Tour allows you to see all the main sights of Kumamoto City in a day, including
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Suizenji Gardens Also known as Suizenji Jojuen Park, these beautiful gardens are situated in the east of the city, a 15 minute tram ride from the
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An oasis just a few km from the  heart of the city, Ezu Lake (江津湖 Ezuko)  is a natural lake fed by the underground springs Kumamoto
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