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Japan Regional Information

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One of the world's largest caldera, Aso - Amakusa-Gokyo bridges and saw-toothed coast
Kumamoto is situated at the center of Kyushu Island in the western end of Japan. Mt. Aso-san stands in the east, the Chikuhi Mountains lie to the north, and the Kikuchi-gawa River, Kuma-gawa River and other rivers flow from the mountains to the northwestern area forming the Kumamoto Plain and Yashiro Plain along the coast of the Sea of Ariake. The Udo-hanto Peninsula juts out to the southwest, and the Amakusa Islands lie beyond the peninsula.

Kumamoto has two national parks, namely the Aso and Unzen-Amakusa, and two quasi-national parks, namely the Mt. Yabahita-hiko-san and the Kyushu Central Mountains. The total area of these natural parks occupies 20 percent of the prefecture. The Aso district has an active volcano, Mt. Aso-san, with one of the largest calderas in the world and many hot springs. The Amakusa district has the Amakusa-Gokyo, or five bridges, historic sites with tragic stories of the Christian martyrs, and scenic sites of the islands and saw-toothed coast. The central mountainous area attracts people with its valleys, virgin forests and beautiful mountain sights.

Other must-sees in Kumamoto include Kumamoto City with Kumamoto Castle noted for the stonewalls with musha-gaeshi, a special defense designed to prevent enemy attacks, and the Suizenji-joju-en Garden, hot springs and valleys in the basin of the Kikuchi-gawa River which empties into the Shimabara Bay, and the Hitoyoshi and Kuma area with abundant historical sites from the 12th to 14th century.

Getting there
An hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Kumamoto Airport. An hour from Osaka Itami Airport.

  • Amakusa
    Saw-toothed Coastline and 120 Islands - Hideaway for Japanese Christians
    Amakusa, located in a southwestern part of Kumamoto, consists of Shimo-jima and Kami-shima Islands, which are major islands in the area, and 120 other islands varied in size, which belong to Unzen-Amakusa National Park along with the Shimabara-hanto Peninsula in Nagasaki.

    The five bridges, collectively named Amakusa Gokyo which interlink with Misumi at the western end of the Uto-hanto Peninsula in Kumamoto and the Islands of O-yano-jima, Naga-ura-jima, O-ike-jima, Ike-jima, Mae-jima and Matsu-shima in Ue-jima, completed a route commonly called the Amakusa Pearl Line. It provides ideal spots for viewing the saw-toothed coastline of Amakusa and the small islands scattered across the sea. A sightseeing boat commanding views of the five bridges from the deck cruises past 30-odd islands of varied sizes that belong to the Matsu-shima Island group in about 40 minutes.

    In the Edo Period from the 17th century to the 19th century, many Japanese adherents of Christianity, which was banned in those years, lived in Amakusa. The Myotoku-ji Temple is one of the temples constructed at various places in Amakusa by the Shogun Iemitsu Tokugawa to suppress Christianity. The Christian faith, however, has been maintained to this day. The Oe-Tenshudo Church, Sakitsu-Tenshudo Church and other churches were built in the 20th century.

    Getting there
    An hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Kumamoto Airport. An hour from Osaka Itami Airport. Fifty minutes by bus from Kumamoto Airport to Kumamoto Station. Two hours and 20 minutes by bus from Kumamoto Station to Hondo (Amakusa).


  • Aso
    Caldera of Largest Class in the World - Active Volcano Roughly at Center of Kyushu
    Mt. Aso-san is located at the center of Aso-National Park in Kumamoto and Oita, which lies roughly at the center of Kyushu. The mountain is a typical complex volcano composed of an outer rim with a total circumferential length of 128 kilometers, a caldera with seven towns and villages inside it and five mountains (Aso Gotake) on the central plateau including the active Mt. Naka-dake.

    Many hot spring resorts including Tarutama, Jigoku, Aso and Yunotani Spas are located inside and outside Aso-National Park. The Aso Uchinomaki-onsen Hot Spring with more than 100 hot springs is the largest among them.

    The 1,506-meter-high summit of Mt. Naka-dake, one of the major volcanoes of the world, where the air is filled with the smell of sulfur can be reached by a ropeway. Tourists at the summit can take a close-range look at the dynamic fumes rising from the crater which extends about l kilometer north and south and about 400 meters east and west and has a perimeter about 4 kilometers long. Since it is an active volcano, shelter dugouts are provided around the crater. Pictures of the interior of the crater taken with two TV cameras at the crater can be seen, under the viewer's control with push buttons, in the Aso Volcano Museum. Kusasenri covered with volcanic ash is located on the northern mountainside of Mt. Eboshi-dake where many tourists can see cows and horses grazing in summer and enjoy skiing and skating in winter.

    Getting there
    An hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Kumamoto Airport. An hour from Osaka Itami Airport. Fifty minutes by bus from Kumamoto Airport to Kumamoto Station. An hour by a Limited Express from Kumamoto Station to Aso Station on the JR Houhi Line.


  • Hitoyoshi
    Castle Town Once Prosperous As River Port - Down Fast Stream of Kuma-gawa River and Tour of Limestone Cave
    Hitoyoshi is the major city in the Hitoyoshi Basin in a northern part of Kumamoto, surrounded by the Kyushu Mountains. Down to sometime in the latter half of the 19th century, there was a busy port along Kuma-gawa River running through the town of Hitoyoshi where lumber was collected and distributed.

    Hitoyoshi, a castle town with 700 years' history, boasts the ruins of the Hitoyoshi Castle, residence of the Sagara family who governed the area, the Aoi-Aso-jinja Shrine dedicated to the tutelary deity for the Hitoyoshi and Kuma areas, and the Hitoyosh-onsen Hot Spring. The Hitoyoshi-onsen is the collective name for 30-odd hot springs including the Sagara-onsen Hot Spring, all of which are supplied with hot water from sources around Hitoyoshi Station and in the basin of Kuma-gawa River. A bathing pass allows a tourist to bathe at selected three out of the seven hotels and inns.

    A limestone cave with a total length of 4.8 kilometers, named Kyusen-do, is situated near Hitoyoshi. Visitors can go deeper into the cave, wearing a helmet with a light on it. Tourists can take a ride on a boat maneuvered by a master poler down the Kuma-gawa River, one of the three fast streams in Japan. They can choose from two alternative courses - the Clean Stream Course for a leisurely cruise from the Hitoyoshi Departure Point to Watari and the Fast Current Course for a fast ride past strange-shape rocks from the Watari Departure Point to Kyusen-do.

    Getting there
    An hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Kumamoto Airport. An hour from Osaka Itami Airport. Fifty minutes by bus from Kumamoto Airport to Kumamoto Station. An hour and 30 minutes from Kumamoto Station to Hitoyoshi Station by an Express Train on the JR Main Kagoshima Line-Hisatsu Line.


  • Kikuchi-Keikoku Ravine
    Fresh Water Flows in Ravine Amid Woods - Subsoil Water from Mt. Asogairin-zan
    The Kikuchi-Keikoku Ravine, located in a northern part of Kumamoto, extends 4 kilometers near the origin of Kikuchi-gawa River. Kikuchi was named after the Kikuchi baronial family prosperous in the late12th century to the late 14th century. The major occupations of the residents of Kikuchi are farming and forestry. Cool water originating in the subsoil water from Mt. Asogairin-zan was designated as one of best waters in Japan, flows in the city even in summer. The water temperature is around 13 degrees centigrade even in summer.

    Waterfalls, deep ponds and huge rocks on or along the path of the clean stream lie in the midst of dense woods. Among the local scenic spots are the Kakemaku-no-taki Falls, Reimei-no-taki Falls, Momiji-ga-se, Ryu-ga-buchi, Tengu-taki Falls and Yonju-sanman-taki Falls. More than fifty varieties of wild birds can be spotted in Yacho-no-mori (Wild Bird Park) and Shinrin-koen (Forest Park). The Kyushu Shizen-yuhodo, a nature promenade, extends along the river in the valley. The valley looks especially beautiful amid the fresh green leaves of trees in spring and in the midst of their red and yellow leaves in autumn. The Kikuchi-onsen Hot Spring noted for its beautiful cherry blossoms in spring, which is an ideal base for sightseeing in Aso or Unzen, is located in the basin of the Kikuchi-gawa River.

    Getting there
    An hour 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Kumamoto Airport. An hour from Osaka Itami Airport. Fifty minutes by bus from Kumamoto Airport to Kumamoto Station. An hour 40 minutes from Kumamoto Station to Kikuchi Plaza bus stop of the Kyushu Sangyo Kotsu Bus and then to Kikuchi-Keikoku.


  • Kumamoto City
    Castle Town Reputed for Its Woods and Fresh Water - Famous Writers' Old Residences
    Kumamoto, situated roughly at the center of Kumamoto Prefecture, is the administrative and economic center of the prefecture. From the early 17th century to the end of the 19th century, it was prosperous as a castle town. Shira-kawa River and its branches run through the downtown area around the Kumamoto Castle. Therefore the city is called "City of Woods and Fresh Water".

    The most part of the Kumamoto Castle, which was designated as a National Historical Site, was burned down in a war in the late 19th century. Its castle tower was rebuilt about 40 years ago. Personal belongings of its lords in different generations, armaments of olden days, etc. are displayed inside the castle tower. Suizenji Park with a teahouse removed from Katsura Rikyu Palace in Kyoto is located to the southeast of the castle. With a pond and turf mounds, this park is a popular place for relaxation for people of Kumamoto.

    The city also boasts "Koizumi Yakumo's House" - where a novelist Lafcadio Hearn (known as "Yakumo Koizumi" in Japan) who came to Japan and taught English in the late 19th century resided, and the residence of Soseki Natsume, a famous Japanese writer active from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, converted into the Soseki Natsume Memorial Museum. Traditional craft products such as traditional handicraft toys, gold work pieces, pottery and porcelain, woodwork pieces and bamboo work pieces are exhibited and sold at the Kumamoto Traditional Crafts Center.

    Getting there
    About 1 hour and 30 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Kumamoto Airport. About 1 hour from Osaka Itami Airport. About 50 minutes by bus from Kumamoto Airport to Kumamoto Station.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.


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