Ah Kumamoto! I’ve been looking for this post for a long time.
On the 14 of April back in 2016 my heart sank with the news that the structure of Kumamoto castle had been compromised and that the local city would have to gather a large amount of money and would take a long time to restore Kumamoto Jo to its former state.
When I visited I had one extra day reserved for Kyuushu. I opened the map and said “I want to see a castle”. It was then that I read about Kumamoto jo and I thank the skies for this.
Kumamoto jo is the most impressive castle I’ve ever seen. I know its one of the top three in Japan, but for me, this dark enclosed gigantic castle is even more impressive than the delicate white high Himeji Jo. I dare say that if Himeji is the beautiful shinny lady on top of the hill, Kumamoto is the somber, sturdy, hidden behind high walls, boyish type. Such a powerful energy.
I took the train from Nagasaki to Kumamoto city, I remember the trip taking quite a while and me not having enough time there due to train combinations.
When I got there, I still had to take a tram to the castle. This is very unique for me, traveling solo, I normally would not bother with such a fast paced, several transportation connections, short trip, but you know… castles!
Kumamoto jo dates from 1467 when Ideta Hidenobu established its foundations. Since then the castle kept growing with many turrets and gates being added. It’s emblematic curved walls design and the water moats around helped protect it.
In the 20th century it underwent some restorations that rebuilt some areas destroyed in the Satsuma Rebellion, during the Bakumatsu.
Not much more I can say about this castle, I can just add, once more, that it’s a very impressive construction and one of the most beautiful Japanese historical places.
I am so so sad that it has been damaged and I hope that the symbol of Kumamoto city can once more stand tall and proud.
To get to Kumamoto from Nagasaki you need to get to Shin Tosu with the Limited Express Kamome and then the Shinkansen Sakura to Kumamoto station. The trip will take 2 hours and cost 80 dollars if you don’t have a Jrail pass.
From the main train station, you can take a tram, for 2 dollars which, in 10/15 minutes, will take you to the castle.
At that time, entrance fee was 5 dollars, however regrettably the castle is now closed until 2021 because many of it’s main structures have suffered massive damage.
Other points of interest in the city are the Hosokawa and Hearn residences near the castle. Hosokawa was a high ranked samurai family that ruled the area of Kumamoto and Hearn was a Greek author, one of the first Westerners to write about Japan. Also, both of these residences are now closed due to damage sustained after the earthquake.
The Suizenji Garden is a landscape garden which reproduces the 53 post stations of the Tokaido main road. For those who don’t know, Tokaido is the name of the old road between Kyoto and Tokyo that used to have several posts along the way, where travelers would rest. The garden was built by the Hosokawa family during the 17th century.
What would I do differently
I think I wrote this before, but two full weeks should be reserved for Kyuushu and definitely at least a whole day in Kumamoto. In my opinion a couple of hours here is definitely not enough, reserve a full day or just use Kumamoto as a base for other trips, but not Nagasaki, these are two separate areas.
Unfortunately there is no point in visiting now if you live far away and you want to specifically see the inner castle.
Also I regret not having time to see both of the residences and the garden, specifically the garden, I am really curious about the reproduction of the Tokaido road.
Also, regarding this trip, I have to say, sakura are beautiful, but sakura in the rain are the epitome of beauty. Such frailty falling victim of the rain and the floors covered in wet fallen flowers, is perfectly charming.
From Nagasaki I took a train to visit another of my favourite castles in Japan, Gifu castle!
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Thanks once more for reading, I hope you liked it and that you will keep joining for some more traveling.