Kumamoto is famous for it’s castle dating back to the 17th century, which is why we made sure to stop there for one night on our way up the west coast of Kyushu towards Nagasaki.
Although Kumamoto is actually quite a large city (with over 738,000 residents), the castle is definitely the central attraction for the city and unfortunately upon arrival, we realised that you can’t go into the castle, because it was seriously damaged during the earthquake of 2016. However, we were still able to walk around the outside of the huge castle buildings and were impressed by how miraculously the castle had survived despite losing huge sections of it’s stone foundations. You can get a great view of Kumamoto castle, if you go up to the viewpoint at Kumamoto City Hall, which is free of charge and located on the top of what feels like an office block.
As we love cycling and read online that you can rent bikes from the International Center, which is also open late, we decided to cycle out of the city to Suizenji Garden, a Japanese landscape garden created in 1630.
On the way back, we cycled via a riverside path by Ezu lake, that we had been unable to find earlier in the day, as it’s quite hidden away. This was probably the highlight of the day, as the riverside path along the Kase river is a green oasis in the concrete jungle of Kumamoto, full of tropical plants and palm trees and is popular with families taking a break from the city.
Returning to our hotel, we enjoyed the luxurious and brand new onsen that included an outdoor area with three different hot pools, one of the best onsen we had in Japan so far! We were lucky that during the time we were there it was very quiet, so it was more or less a private experience. We ended the day eating delicious local Satsuma chicken washed down with Satsuma shochu.
Read more about our trip to Kyushu: