The city suffered two powerful earthquakes in April 2016. While many attractions have re-opened, a few, including Kumamoto Castle, are still closed.
Kumamoto means "origin of the bear", and its nickname is Hi No Kuni (fire country), because of the nearby giant volcano (Mt. Aso) and Mori no Miyako (capital of the forest).
By planeThe Aso-Kumamoto Airport can be reached by shuttle buses that make a one-hour jaunt into the town (¥670). There are flights to and from Tokyo Haneda, Tokyo Narita, Osaka Itami, Kansai International, Chubu International, Matsuyama, Naha, Amakusa, Shizuoka, and Seoul.
If arriving at Fukuoka Airport, there is a highway express bus service (named Hinokuni-go) that will bring you to Kumamoto for ¥2000 and takes roughly 2 hours. Alternatively you can take the subway to Hakata Station and take the JR Kagoshima Line (see below).
From Tokyo, Kumamoto can be reached by train (a combination of Nozomi and either Sakura or Tsubame) in as little as 6 hours. Japan Rail Pass users can travel from Tokyo to Kumamoto in 7 hours using a combination of Hikari and Sakura trains.
Local trains from Fukuoka take 2½ hours to reach Kumamoto (change in Omuta) at a cost of ¥2,070.
In addition to the central station, JR operates a second at Kamikumamoto just to the north, near the Fujisakidai baseball ground. Streetcars into the city centre also connect from here.
By ferryIf you're coming from Nagasaki, the ferry may be preferable. One ferry route involves travelling via Shimabara. Take the JR line from Nagasaki city through to Isahaya then switch to the private Shimabara line. It is not JR but don't exit the ticket gate to get there, it is tucked away on Platform 0. You can buy your tickets from the drivers on the train. Two ferries depart towards Kumamoto from different ports along this line but the most convenient is likely the one from Shimabara Port direct to Kumamoto Port. Walking maps from the stations to the ports are scrawled at each train station. After a rather scenic 30-60 minute cruise, you'll have to take a bus to actually reach central Kumamoto city (about one hour).
Allow about 4 hours for all these connections unless you carefully plan it using one of the big transport books at JR Nagasaki's ticket counter. The entire trip should only set you back roughly ¥2500, most of which goes to the Shimabara train company despite being the shortest leg. English-language signage along this route is minimal. Incidentally, the final Kumamoto-bound ferries depart at 8PM daily, but one of the trains to Shimabara arrives a few minutes after that so don't get caught out.
A fairly extensive bus system and a simple two-line tram system keeps Kumamoto City and some of its neighboring towns well connected. City day passes are valid on the buses and trams.
By tramOne tram line runs from Kumamoto Station and the other from Kami-Kumamoto Station. They meet near the downtown area and run east to Kengun Machi. One trip costs ¥150.
By busBuses run fairly regularly from stops through Kumamoto City. Kotsu Center, the main bus terminal, is located near the downtown area (just nestled in the few blocks between Kumamoto castle and the nightlife districts) and is easily reached by taking the tram to the Kotsu Center-mae stop.
By bikeKumamoto is a comfortable city to ride around. For reference, it takes about 30 minutes by get to Kumamoto Gakuen University from Kamikumamoto.
Kumamoto CastleIt is one of the most beautiful castles in Japan, and the third largest. Kumamoto Castle was burned down during the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877; the current keep is a concrete reconstruction built during the 1960s, though some of the other buildings are originals, nevertheless, it is a must-see attraction which is effectively the heart of the city. During the cherry blossom season, the castle grounds are filled with hundreds of beautiful blossoms.
Suizenji GardensIt is a renowned Japanese traditional garden, considered one of the four best in Japan. You can walk around a lovely course of trees and mini hills (one of them representing Mount Fuji) covered in grass right in the middle of the city, and it feels like you're in the country side! Food stalls are also to be found in the immediate vicinity.
Shiki no Sato ParkHas its own natural hot springs and animal park.
Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts CenterExhibits the various traditional crafts for which Kumamoto is well-known. (Includes a gift shop)
Honmyo-ji TempleIt is one of the most famous temples in Kumamoto. Honmyoji was built in honor of Kato Kiyomasa, the builder of Kumamoto Castle. The temple is halfway up a hill at the same level as the castle. There is a long staircase lined with old candle stands to the temple. After the temple there is another staircase that leads to a park at the top of the hill that has a statue of Kato Kiyomasa and a nice viewpoint where you can see the castle towering over the city. In the daytime you can also see Mt. Aso in the background. In the last weekend in March they have the Nighttime Cherry Blossom Festival. Then they have live music and lit up cherry blossoms and candles all the way to the top of the hill.
Hosokawa GyōbuteiAnother picturesque place to visit. It's the family home of the Hosokawa Clan (whose descendant, Morihiro, became Prime Minister of Japan in the 1990s.)
Hanaokayama 花岡山Hanaokayama is a hill near Kumamoto Station. It looks over downtown and has a great night view. On a clear day you can see Mt. Aso towering behind the city. There is also a nice temple and a huge shrine gate (torii) on the top. You can go up by car, which most couples do, or hike about 15 minutes to the top.
Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine 藤崎宮This is the most famous shrine in the city. It is north of Kamitori and not too far from downtown. This is the most crowded shrine in the city every New Year's. It is also crowded for other festivals the most famous being the "Drunken Horse Festival" which is held every September.
Mt. KinpōAbout 11 km from downtown but when you get to the top you`ll be rewarded with a beautiful view over Kumamoto and Nagasaki. The view of the city lights is great and you can also see the peaks of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto and Mt. Unzen in Nagasaki. You can take a bus to the area but then you have to hike for about an hour to the top. On top there is a temple and a famous fence full of locks that couples have locked to a fence on the observation deck. There is no ropeway so you gotta hike or take a car.
Kumamoto City Hall 熊本市役所address: Tetorihoncho 手取り本町In the heart of downtown. If you go to the fourteenth floor there is a free view of the castle and downtown area.
Reigando (霊巌洞)Reigandō (霊巌洞, meaning "Spirit Rock Cave") is a cave that lies to the west of Kumamoto, Japan, that became a temporary home to legendary rōnin, Miyamoto Musashi. From 1643, Musashi spent many of his last months in the cave, meditating and writing his Book of Five Rings. The cave is accessed easily by bus from Kumamoto City and nearby Tamana.
Fujisakidai Baseball StadiumA good occasion to watch amateur baseball.
KamitōriOne of the two most popular and accessible shopping districts inside the city. It houses a wide variety shops and cafes, the rear entrance opens out onto an area where a large number of traditional Japanese restaurants are situated.
ShimotōriThe other and larger of the two districts, the selection of the shops is very much the same as Kamitori though naturally more comprehensive given the size. Many backstreet shopping areas offshoot from the sides of Shimatori, so if you're looking for something special be sure to remember that.
- Hikari no Mori (光の森) is a large shopping center. There are many shops including: Kinokuniya, Shinseido, Mujirushi, Starbucks café, and so on. It also contains a large cinema complex with 9 cinema theatres.
- Tsuruya- there are 6 "Tsuruya" department stores in Kumamoto city. They are "The Main building and the East building of Tsuruya", "New-S" and "WINGⅡ", "Comme ca store", "Nextage", and "Brooks Brothers". These buildings are located in "Shimotori" or "Kamitori".
- Kenmin Hyakkaten (県民百貨店)- Kenmin Hyakkaten (renamed from Kumamoto Hanshin)is a big department store and it is near the "Kumamoto castle" and next to Kumamoto bus terminal. Kenmin Hyakkaten sells goods of "Hanshin Tigers", a popular Japanese baseball team.
- Rice Terrace is a general shop at Kamitori. It is opened in November. You can buy any cute goods at a low price. There are bags, accessories, glasses and many goods.
Æon MallFormerly "Diamond City Clair Shopping Mall", it is the biggest shopping mall in Kumamoto and at the time of building the biggest mall in Kyushu. It has about 190 stores, a huge Warner Brothers Movie Theater, and a Food Mall with some good restaurants. It is on the far south side of the city and takes about 30-45 minutes to get there from downtown depending on how bad traffic is.
AUNE Kumamotoaddress: TorichosujiIt is in the heart of downtown at the Torichosuji Tram Stop.
Foreign FoodsIf you just gotta have that foreign snack or macaroni and cheese, there are a few places you can go in town. There are two Don Quixotes, one on Nishi Ginza St. and the other in Kami-Kumamoto. They have a lot like Doritos, Dr. Pepper, and beef jerkey. In Kamitori, there is a Sony Plaza in the basement of the New-S Mall it also has many western snacks and lots of European chocolates. The Tsurya Dept. Store has some stuff in the second basement, but it is mostly expensive. Lastly, there is a small shop on the 6th floor of the Wing Gap building, that's where to buy macaroni and cheese and root beer among other things.
Shinshigai SunroadThis is the third major arcade downtown. It is billed as the widest arcade in Kyushu. It is known for karaoke, pachinko, and hotels. It connects with Shimotori Arcade and Shower Road (an uncovered shopping street).
PiacresThe only shopping arcade outside of downtown. Piacres is at the end of the tram line at Kengun Station（健軍電停）on the east side of the city.
- Karashirenkon辛子蓮根, deep-fried lotus root stuffed with mustard, is the most popular food for visitors. It's rarely found elsewhere in Japan.
- Ikinaridango is a famous sweet. This contains a slice of sweet potato and anko-bean paste. Visitors who come to Kumamoto buy it for a souvenir.
- The Dipper Dan nestled right next to Daiei is a popular ice cream and dessert parlor in Shimotori. Perhaps not as unique, but appears to be a local favorite.
- Ringo no Ki is a cafe at Shimotori in downtown. You can eat apple pie and some breads. Coffee and tea are especially recommended. The coffee is made from rare beans, and the tea tastes and smells like apples.
- Basashi馬刺し is raw horse meat.
- Taipi-en (太平燕), a noodle soup of Chinese origin.
phone: +81 96-383-2468address: 熊本市水前寺5丁目5-14One of the oldest and best sushi restaurant in Kumamoto. The rice for the sushi is made according to the traditional recipe of the owner's family. Besides first quality sushi here you can find many traditional dishes of Kumamoto (especially basashi, karashirenkon and hitomoji guruguru) and, during winter, mushizushi (literally "steamed sushi"; a famous original recipe of the restaurant) and a lot of great Japanese foods (both raw and cooked) and beverages (nihonshu, shochu, etc.) The place is very "Japanese", clean, and comfortable; staff is nice, friendly and considerate.
Kumamoto Ramen熊本ラーメンKumamoto ramen is very famous
Ni no ni 弐ノ弐There are two of them downtown. One is just off of Shimotori on one of the side streets south of Ginza St. The other is on Kami-no-ura St. 上乃裏通り which runs parallel to Namigizaka St. 並木坂通り a couple blocks to the east (Namigizaka is the continuation of Kamitori after the arcade roof ends). Ni no ni is very famous for the gyoza 餃子. Try the tan tan men 坦坦麺and Taipei Karaage 台北風唐揚げtoo. Most of the foods are under ¥500. So you can buy a few foods and have a beer for under ¥2000 easily.
Plaza del SolThe only Mexican restaurant in Kumamoto. There are actual Mexicans making the food so it is pretty good. The Mexican beer is great. It is just off of Shimotori south of Ginza. You will see a Mexican wooden figure in Shimotori pointing to the entrance. It can be expensive if you have more than a couple beers. Look to spend ¥2000-3000.
Yokobachi よこばちaddress: Kami-no-ura St. 上之裏通りThis is a great Japanese restaurant. You can get many traditional foods and some local stuff too. They have outdoor and indoor seating. In the spring and fall its great sitting outside under the stars. Menu is in Japanese only, but if you can say the names of some local specialties or typical izakaya dishes you might be okay. Everyone in Kumamoto knows this place so if you can't find it just ask someone。
Sri Lanka スリーランカaddress: Sannenzaka St. 三年坂通りThis place has some of the best curry in town. The curry is spicy but the taste is amazing, especially in the noodle curry. Some of the side dishes such as the Sri Lanka rolls are also good. You can try Sri Lanka beer if you want but it's an acquired taste. The lunch special is a bargain. You get curry, salad, tea, and dessert for only ¥750! This is just off of Shimotori and very close to Daiei Department Store.
Star of Indiaaddress: Sannenzaka St. 三年坂通りThis is the best Indian food in town, it is just behind the downtown Tsutaya and between Shimotori and Kagomachi-doori St.
Second Sightaddress: Sakae St. 栄え通りThis building has various restaurants and places to have fun. The Swiss Bakery and Chinese restaurant are on the first floor. The second floor is a great Italian restaurant and the top two floors are themed karaoke rooms. You can sing in jail, on the beach, etc. When the weather is good Second Sight has a retractable wall that opens up and brings in the sun to the main lobby.
Yayoikenaddress: Shimotori, KamitoriThis place is open 24 hours and there are one in Shimotori and Kamitori. It is a great place to go when you have been out all night drinking and are sick of McD's. The tonkatsu is good and the rice is all you can eat.
Goro'sThis is the place with the best Turkish kebabs in Kyushu. Goro makes them fresh right in front of you from his van. Unfortunately it isn`t downtown. If you take the tram towards Kengun it is between the Miso Tenjin Mae and Shin Suizenji Stops. It is an orange van behind the Mitsubishi gas station. Goro speaks English and welcomes foreign guests. He also has a kebab restaurant downtown near Kaminoura St.
Nikumakiaddress: Ginza DooriNikumaki is a Kumamoto fad. It is an onigiri (rice ball) but instead of being wrapped with seaweed (nori) it is wrapped with meat(niku), you can add cheese too. it is awesome and pretty cheap. they are a good snack when you're drunk after midnight or you just gotta have that meat edit
Okada おかだaddress: 1F, Lofty Nishiginza-kan, 1-11-21, Shimotori, Kumamoto-shiExcellent seafood directly from local fishermen and from Hokkaido as well as a variety of local cuisine for amazingly reasonalble price! Good selection of Sake and Shochu, Japanese distilled spirit.
KōranteiThis Chinese restaurant offers among others the taipi-en (太平燕)
- Timeless is a cafe (not a chain) with an exceptionally nice old style atmosphere, usually playing jazz. It is on the right when you exit the Kamitori shopping mall. They have an international selection of coffees (though espresso could be added) and some European style cakes that are worth trying.
- Pronto is an Italian-style coffee shop located in (again) Shimotori. Aside from coffee, the selection includes various alcoholic beverages, pizza, and desserts.
- Sinh to is a stylish cafe looking down onto Shimotori street from the 2nd floor.
- Jeff's World Bar is a popular hang out with English speakers. This is the main expat bar in town. It is usually crowded on Friday and Saturday. It is located south of the Shimotori shopping area. It's about a block from the Daiei Department store. It's on the second floor, so you have to look up to see the sign.
- The Ginza district comprises many bars and clubs of the western style, it runs parallel to Shimotori, though be warned the area also houses some of the city's seedier attractions.
Rock Bar Daysaddress: Sakaba St. 酒場通りThis is the bar with 5000 CDs. Mainly rock and alternative music from the 1970s-90s. Beer is a little expensive for the quality at ¥600 a pop but you can tell them what you want to hear and they`ll play it. It is a little hard to find. Sakaba St. is just off of Shimotori. If you go down the side with the Sakaba St. gate about 100 meters, a sign will say DAYS in black and white. Its on the 3rd floor.
Club Djangoaddress: Fuji St.This is the main place for local rock, punk and metal. Sometimes touring bands from overseas play here. Fuji Street is just off of the Shinshigai Arcade 新市街. Club Django is underground so it is easy to pass by it without seeing it. It is almost directly across the street from the Comfort Inn Hotel.
Drum Be-９This is another place for local and national acts to be seen. Mainly rock and alternative music. It is three stories and three stages with music most nights of the week.
Club JailThe most happening club in town. Every weekend this place is pumpin' with Japanese homies and ladies wearing almost nothing. Sometimes special DJs will perform and so there might be a cover charge.
Shark AttackSmall foreigner bar just off of Kagomachi St. 鹿児町通り it's across from 7-Eleven on the 8th floor. The floor is covered in sand.
Bar SanctuaryThis is a four-storey bar with areas for dancing, pool, darts, karaoke, and just chillin'. It is just off of Shimotori and behind the Taigeki (Bowling Alley) Building. City Hall is also very close.
Shotengai 商店街In Japan new bars open and shut down every day. As long as you stay in the Shimotori/Kamitori/Shinshigai Arcade area you are bound to find something that looks interesting. There are thousands of places to go in that area.
Good Time Charlie`saddress: Ginza St. 銀座通りThis bar is one of a kind. It is owned by Charlie Nagatani, the most famous country musician in Asia. From the 1960s-90s he played many times at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. His band has shows every night of the week at the bar. They serve Coors beer here. Its not very cheap but its worth experiencing Japanese cowboys at least once. The bar is on Ginza St. across from the Karaoke-kan カラオケ館 building on the 5th floor
Hideout Bar Eighty Oneaddress: Shiromichoudoori, 城見 Building 2FSmall bar very close to Jeff's World Bar. Sometimes many foreigners.
Precious Kumamotoaddress: Tetorihoncho 4-12, Fain Bldg. 5FPrecious is nice because its a free dance club and its open as late as you're there. Some nights it crowded and other nights its empty. They also have a pool table.
Crossroad`saddress: Nishi Ginza DooriAn international bar. it has a nice atmosphere and sometimes can be crowded. It's in the Fujiichi Building on the 7th floor right across the hall from Club Jail.
Cowboy Baraddress: Nishi Ginza DooriOne hour of all-you-can-drink for ¥1000. Its right across the street from the big Don Quixote store downtown
Cowgirl Baraddress: Pools Court RdSame owners as Cowboy Bar have one with only women serving on Pool`s Court Road, which is just one road over from Nishi Ginza.
Retro Cowboy Baraddress: Nishi Ginza DooriAnother one owned by the Cowboy Bar folks. It's just down the street from Cowboy Bar but its in the basement so its easy to pass by. a little more expensive than the other cowboy bars but more things to do like free karaoke and darts.
address: Kamitori, Kumamoto CityAnother place to see live music in the city. Its a former movie theater transformed into a big live house. Many rock shows and DJ parties occur here. Many national touring bands and local bands can be seen here.
Being a large city, Kumamoto has its fair share of alternative sleeping options for the non-discerning traveler willing to camp out anywhere.
Media Cafe PopeyeIncludes standard stuff like free drinks but also less common perks such as free ice-cream, free toothbrushes, free razors and free shower usage (with free towel rental) and A coin-operated washing machine. Non-smokers should take a non-smoking booth on the 2F floor beside the drinks machines as it can get pretty thick and gross upstairs on 3F. There's only two flat non-smoking cubicles on the 2F floor, but the recliner chairs they have here are comfy enough to sleep in.
There are a tonne of business hotels scattered around the city with most clustered either near the JR central station, or in the nightlife district in and around Sun Road, Fuji and Ginza. Some even have outlets at both. Follow the neon signs.
There are a couple of further business hotels located in and around the central bus terminal (about two blocks from the nightlife district) including a hotel upstairs in the bus plaza itself, and a Dormy Inn directly opposite.
Toyoko InnThere are several around Kumamoto and are conveniently located. The rooms are small but have everything, including free internet. The staff are courteous and helpful and tolerant of English-speaking guests. Breakfast was good. It is great value. You can book on the internet but can only book a certain time in advance. Suido cho one is well-placed for tourists to Kumamoto.
phone: +81 963 54-2111address: 2 Higashi-AmidajichoThis hotel is where Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, stay during his visit here.
Travelers would probably not want to spend too long in the city, and may prefer to enjoy the wide range of natural surroundings within easy reach of the city.
- Aso highland area, with an immense caldera, numerous hot spring resorts, fine hiking courses, and an active volcano to look down into.
- Amakusa, a chain of islands off the west coast of Kumamoto, and not far from the south coast of Nagasaki (to which ferries run regularly).
- Hitoyoshi which is famous for hot springs.
- Takamori is also interesting for Yuusui tunnel.
- Yatsushiro is famous for igusa, the material used to make tatami mats.
- Uki is comprised of the former towns of Matsubase, Misumi, Ogawa, Shiranuhi, and Toyono.
- Misato is famous with 3333 stone steps, the longest set in Japan.
- Siki no Sato Park has hot springs and kangaroos. What more can you ask for?
- Shimabara/Mt. Unzen, Nagasaki- you can take the express ferry from Kumamoto Port and be there in 30 minutes. You can see Shimabara Castle and the onsens of Mt. Unzen.
- Takachiho in adjacent Miyazaki Prefecture is easily accessed by bus from Kumamoto. Services run once in the morning and once in the evening every day.