Kumamoto Bucket List: 15 Best Things to do in Kumamoto, Japan

Kumamoto Bucket List: 15 Best Things to do in Kumamoto, Japan

Kumamoto: Where rich history and nostalgia come together

Kumamoto, the capital of the wider Kumamoto Prefecture is known for a lot of things including interesting museums, galleries, and shopping arcades. It is a perfect reminder of why Japan remains among the favorite destinations in the world.

Best Things to do in Kumamoto, Japan
Best Things to do in Kumamoto, Japan

It is also the third-largest city in Kyushu Island and is home to one of the largest volcanoes in the world, the Mt. Aso and also to the three major castles in Japan. There are lots of activities to enjoy in the city, from nature-tripping, gallery hopping, golfing, and horse riding to name a few.

During Spring, Kumamoto is very well alive as the sakura trees blossoms with the Kumamoto Castle on the background. However, hiking is one of the most enjoyed activities during autumn, while the Kurokawa onsen is very much in demand especially in winter. Needless to say, Kumamoto is an interesting city to explore whatever the season is.

If you want to know more activities to enjoy in Kumamoto, we’ve compiled 15 exciting things to do for your future reference. Enjoy!

Hike Hanaokayama

View of Mount Hanaokayama from pedestrian deck in front of Kumamoto Station
View of Mount Hanaokayama from a pedestrian deck in front of Kumamoto Station

There’s nothing more amazing and dreamy than seeing the city surrounded by city lights (in a bird’s eye view.) Hanaokayama might just be the perfect place if you want to have a great view of the city, especially at night. It is a hill that takes about 15 minutes to trek but easier and faster if you take the car. You can also check out the small temple with a shrine gate known as torii in Japanese.

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle photo by @jcs_chen via Unsplash
Kumamoto Castle photo by @jcs_chen via Unsplash

As mentioned earlier, the Kumamoto Castle located at Chuo-ku shines best especially on spring during the cherry blossoms – as its 800 cherry trees serve as the perfect backdrop on the concrete castle which awes nearly two million visitors yearly. It is said that the castle features a unique underground passage that leads to the palace building and a former residence of the Hosokawa clan about 500 meters northwest of the main castle grounds.

Multiple events from conferences, cultural events, concerts, and exhibits have been held here at Kumamoto-jo. This four-story facility features an Exhibition Hall, the Civic Hall, and 19 small to large conference rooms perfect for all sorts of events. It’s definitely a venue for all venues.

To visit, take the JR Kumamoto Station and alight at Kumamotojo-mae tram stop. You can also walk from Kumamoto Station to the castle in about 30 to 45 minutes.

Suizen-ji Joju-en Garden

Suizenji Jojuen Garden photo by 663highland via Wikipedia CC
Suizenji Jojuen Garden photo by 663highland via Wikipedia CC

If you want to see a postcard-worthy Japanese-landscaped garden, then visit the Suizen-ji Joju-en Garden located within Kumamoto Prefecture. It’s just a 15-minute ride from the city center and is hailed to be a popular tourist attraction for both locals and international tourists. According to history, it took about 80 years for the 4th and 5th Lords of Kumamoto to complete the 6600 square-meter gardens.

Within the grounds are the Noh theatre which holds performances in the spring and autumn, tea rooms, and several souvenir stalls that contain historical pictures of the garden.

Visit Soseki Memorial Hall

Travel back in time and get to know one of the great writers of modern Japanese literature – Natsume Soseki. His previous residence is now a memorial museum that houses authentic and replica manuscripts, as well as photos of his students from Kumamoto University. The writer is also known to have written many of his haiku in Kumamoto.

To go here, ride from JR Kumamoto Station, proceed to the tram stop and locate Tram System A. Take the tram bound for Kengunmachi and get off at Kumamotojo Shiyakushomae. From there, it takes about a 13-minute walk to reach the memorial hall.

Suizenji Ezuko park

Suizenji Ezuko park photo by Kumamon's Kumamoto Diary FB Page
Suizenji Ezuko park photo by Kumamon’s Kumamoto Diary FB Page

Did you know that Kumamoto is named as “Japan’s No.1 groundwater city”? If you want to wander and see most of its wonders, visit the Lake Ezu which is made up of two smaller lakes, Kami-Ezu and Shimo-Ezu, a popular natural park with underground water. Some of the activities to do here include biking, boating, and nature walks. It’s also a great idea to bring some packed lunch and do a picnic.

Sakuranobaba Josaien

Sakuranobaba Johsaien
Sakuranobaba Johsaien

Sakuranobaba Josaien is an essential stop in the Sakuranobaba district of Kumamoto Castle that opened on March 5, 2011. This area is Kumamoto is filled historical display and shopping arcades. There are also restaurants as well as shops selling specialty items. For first-time visitors, this place is a great start in getting to know the city more!

If you’re traveling from JR Kumamoto Station ride the ”Shiromegurin” bus bound to Kumamoto Bus Terminal then to Kumamoto Castle and alight at ”Sakura-no-baba”

Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Centre

Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Centre photo via Untapped Kumamoto FB Page
Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Centre photo via Untapped Kumamoto FB Page

For generations, the locals have used the traditional way when it comes to metalwork, ceramics, woodwork, bamboo crafts, dying and weaving, paper products, and traditional toys. To see the creative output, you can check out Kumamoto’s handicrafts at the Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Centre. Just take note that they’re closed every Monday and national holidays, so make sure to check out their official website before visiting.

Visit the Shimada Museum of Art

Shimada Museum of Art
Shimada Museum of Art

Immerse in the rich history of Kumamoto and visit the Shimada Museum of Art located in the midst of a bamboo forest. It features a number of Kumamoto’s arts and crafts from the Momoyama-Edo period. historical relics as well as old artworks related to Kumamoto’s long history of warrior culture. The museum also displays weapons, relics, and documents related to Miyamoto Musashi. It also has a café you can visit afterward.

Kumamoto Contemporary Art Museum

If you’re traveling with the little ones, make sure to drop by at the Contemporary Art Museum, located in the heart of downtown Kumamoto. The main gallery features permanent displays from world-renowned artists as well as rotation of exhibitions from locals and popular artists. Inside are the lobby gallery, media gallery, and a kid’s factory workshop room perfect for kids. It has a very welcoming atmosphere and gives artists a platform to showcase their extraordinary art.

Hike to Mount Kinpo

Buddha Statue Mount Kinpo
Buddha Statue Mount Kinpo

First-time hikers must visit the Mount Kipo nestled in Kawachi-machi. The mountain’s name came from “kimponzanto” – a title of the Japanese god in the Heian era. The mountain can be seen from almost anywhere within the city limits. Trekking takes about 30 minutes to the starting point of a mountain climb entrance. Atop Mt. Kinpo is Kinpo Shrine, and viewing spots where you can see the breathtaking views of downtown Kumamoto, the Ariake Sea, and Mt. Unzen in Nagasaki Prefecture to the west.

Visit Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine

Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine photo by STA3816 via Wikipedia CC
Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine photo by STA3816 via Wikipedia CC

Visiting one of the most famous shrines in Kumamoto, in Chuo-ku specifically is a must! It was built with a purpose as divine protection for Kumamoto City and features a huge torii gate that stands at its entrance along Route 3, and a large two-storied gate and well-landscaped grounds which makes it a unique destination in Kumamoto. Every fall, there’s also the main festival of Fujisaki Hachiman-gu called ”Zuihyo Festival” or ”Uma-oi held inside where revelers are donned in traditional warrior gear and festival costumes parade decorated horses through the streets of Kumamoto while they play various instruments from gongs, trumpets, and drums.

Visit Hosokawa Gyobutei

Another landmark to check out when in Kumamoto is the 300-year old Hosokawa Gyobutei – a former residence of the powerful Hosokawa Clan, that ruled over Kumamoto during the Edo Period. This residence is also a great example of a high-class samurai mansion and is located in the north of Kumamoto Castle Park. The tour inside takes about 15 minutes around its 24 rooms, including the study room, reception room, teahouse, kitchen, and servants’ quarters.

Kumamoto Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Kumamoto Zoo and Botanical Gardens photo via Kuma Visit FB Page
Kumamoto Zoo and Botanical Gardens photo via Kuma Visit FB Page

After all the cultural immersions, you should cap off your vacation through some nature-tripping at Kumamoto Zoo and Botanical Gardens located right next to Lake Ezu. Such animals to see here are bears, lions, tigers, and snow leopard to name a few. In other sections, there are monkeys, birds, and polar bears which makes this an exciting place to visit.

There are two options of getting here, first is taking the Ken 6′ bus route and get off in front of ‘Doshokubutsuen’ / the zoo and botanical gardens. The other one would be taking the Tram System Abound for Kengunmachi and alight at Doshokubutsuen Iriguchi.

HOW TO GET TO KUMAMOTO

From Manila, book a flight bound to Tokyo or Osaka via www.airasia.com. Good thing, AirAsia has made traveling more convenient with their 33 flights every week to Osaka.

When you arrive in Osaka, book another flight Oita Airport which will take about a one hour travel time. From Kumamoto, you can either take the bus and train to get around your desired destination.

Overall, Kumamoto is an attractive city to visit. It’s filled with natural and historic wonders and delicious cuisine you can’t experience in other countries. Being here doesn’t only give you a sense of its rich past and diverse culture, but also a sense of belongingness because of the hospitable and genuine locals. You’ll never find it hard commuting to this city because anyone can lead you to the direction you’re headed at. Most of all, visiting Kumamoto will surely give you peace of mind and tranquility, and of course, an amazing experience you can share with your friends and the family.

Kumamoto Travel and Tour Packages

Searching for the best hotels and affordable flights? Check out our complete list of affordable hotels and resorts via Agoda or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

Want more updates about new tourist attractions in Kumamoto, Japan? Please follow #TeamOutofTown, on Facebook, and TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest for more travel ideas.

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