Kumamoto 1-day itinerary (travel guide). © touristinjapan.com
Itineraries, Kyushu

Kumamoto 1-day itinerary

With a population of about 738’000, Kumamoto (熊本) is the main city in Kumamoto Prefecture, and the third largest in Kyushu, only surpassed by the cities of Fukuoka and Kitakyushu. Kumamoto’s most famous attraction is it’s castle which, until the tragic earthquake of 2016, was the most complete and original of the ancient castles in Japan. The city of Kumamoto is also known across the world for it’s charming mascot – Kumamon.

Hotels Kumamoto Tours & Experiences Kyushu JR Train Pass

Kumamoto is an amazing city to visit. While Kumamoto Castle is the main attraction here, despite the current construction work going on, there is a lot more to see and do in Kumamoto. With this itinerary, you will visit the beautiful Suizen-ji Garden, see a number of historic locations in the city, go to a free observation deck with stunning views of Kumamoto castle, explore Kumamoto Art Museum and roam around the bustling city centre, looking for Kumamon (city mascot) souvenirs to take home. At the bottom of the article you will find suggestions for hotels, tours, experiences and help with transport etc.

If you want to do more, then Kumamoto has several amazing day trip possibilities, like the active Aso volcano, Kurokawa onsen town and several beautiful hikes.

Map of 1-day itinerary

1-day itinerary Kumamoto (travel guide)

10:00Suizen-ji Jōju-en Garden
11:30Lafcadio Hearn’s Former Residence
12:00Kumamoto City Hall Observation Floor
12:30Sakura-no-baba Johsaien “Castle Town”
13:00Kumamoto Castle
14:00Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art
16:00Explore the central city

Itinerary Details

Suizenji Garden, Kumamoto. © touristinjapan.com

Suizenji Jojuen Garden

Suizenji Jojuen is a beautiful Japanese landscape garden. The garden, which is modeled over the 53 post stations of the historic Tokaido road, has a miniature replica of Mount Fuji amongst its attractions. The garden is laid out in a way where you hardly ever see other people when walking around the park. There are two shrines in the garden, and a lovely tea house.

Location: see map.

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Former residence of Lafcadio Hearn. © touristinjapan.com

Former Residence of Lafcadio Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn was a Greek/Irish writer who is well known for his texts about Japan. He lived in Japan for 14 years, from 1890 to 1904, when he died. He was so fascinated by Japan and Japanese culture, that he dived in fully by getting a Japanese name, getting married and generally followed a Japanese lifestyle. His books are famous for depicting Japan, through the eyes of a foreigner, in the 1890’s. It was a period where Japan had recently opened up to the outside world, and started it’s modernization. The book “Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan” is one of his famous works. He also wrote books about Japanese legends and folklore, like the famous “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things“. 

This is one of the houses he lived in, while residing in Japan. The house is renovated and in good condition. It’s a good oportunity to learn about Hearn, but also to have a look inside a late 1890’s Japanese home. Entrance is free of charge.

Location: see map.

 

Kumamoto City Hall Observation Deck. © touristinjapan.com

Kumamoto City Hall Observation Deck

This is a bit of a hidden gem in Kumamoto. The city hall, which is located just across the street from Kumamoto Castle, has a free observation deck on the 14th floor. While offering great views of the city, it also has one of the best views of Kumamoto Castle. This is especially interesting at the moment, where the castle is under reconstruction following the tragic 2016 earthquake. Most of the castle is closed off, so it’s hard to find better views than from atop the neighboring city hall.

Location: see map.

 

Sakura no Baba Castle Town, Kumamoto. © touristinjapan.com

Sakura-no-baba Josaien “Castle Town”

Sakura-no-baba Josaien “Castle Town” is a recently constructed tourist area, located just in front of Kumamoto Castle. A collection of old-style buildings contain specialty shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. Food is also sold on the street, and near the back of the area is a large stage where performances of different kinds take place throughout the day. You are likely to experience people dressed in traditional clothes, such as warriors, lords etc. The area was built to enhance the experience of visitors coming to see Kumamoto Castle.

Location: see map.

 

Kumamoto Castle. © touristinjapan.com

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle is one of the three best kept castles in Japan, along with Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle. The castle dates as far back as 1467, and no less than 13 of the castles buildings are designated important cultural properties by the Japanese government. Sadly, the castle was badly damaged by a very large earthquake which hit Kumamoto in 2016. Many buildings and stone foundations have collapsed, and the castle is now mostly closed off for visitors due to the reconstruction efforts. As of October 2019, and small walkway into the castle area has opened to the public. The fee for the entrance goes towards the reconstruction of the beautiful castle. 

It is still possible to see parts of the castle from the outside. A good spot is at Kato Shrine, which has a good view of the main tower. Alternatively, go to the 14th floor observation deck in the City Hall.

Location: see map.

 

Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art. © touristinjapan.com

Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art

Kumamoto has a large number of interesting museums of both history and art. The Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art has changing exhibitions throughout the year – always of very high quality. The exhibits generally focus on art in Japanese history or on Japanese artists. 

If you travel with kids, then the Kumamoto City Museum might be a better choice due to it’s more kids friendly exhibits. 
Please note that the nearby Hosokawa Mansion Museum is closed for reconstruction as of 2019.

Location: see map.

🔗 Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art official website

🔗 Kumamoto City Museum official website

🔗 Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto

 

Central Kumamoto. © touristinjapan.com

Central Kumamoto Shopping, Dining and Entertainment

Kumamoto has a fairly large, and very lively city center. The center is comprised of multiple covered shopping arcades, full of shops, restaurants, bars, cafe’s and souvenir shops. It’s a bit of a labyrinth, but it is the perfect place to find your Kumamon souvenirs. Kumamon is the mascot of Kumamoto, and he is the most popular mascot in all of Japan. 

Just at the edge of the shopping area is the massive, and newly constructed (2019) Sakura Machi shopping center. It contains an enormous amount of shops and restaurants, and is another great place to get some shopping done. On the top of the building is a big open roof-top garden. Sakura Machi is conveniently combined with the central bus terminal.

Location: see map.

 

Planning your stay in Kumamoto

Hotels and accommodation

Hotel Nikko Kumamoto
☆☆☆☆
Nice and comfortable hotel right in the heart of Kumamoto. Walking distance to Kumamoto Castle.
Reserve with booking.com
Reserve with Agoda
Mitsui Garden Hotel Kumamoto
☆☆☆
Well located and comfortable hotel, centrally located in Kumamoto. Walking distance of city center.
Reserve with booking.com
Reserve with Agoda
Dormy Inn Kumamoto
☆☆☆
Affordable and comfortable hotel, centrally located in Kumamoto. Walking distance of city center.
Reserve with booking.com
Reserve with Agoda
KⅡHOTEL Shimotori
Backpackers Hostel located in the middle of the shopping arcades. Perfect for budget dorm stays,
Reserve with booking.com
Reserve with Agoda

Tours, tickets and experiences

Kumamoto city and prefecture is full of amazing experiences, especially related nature and history. Booking a couple of experiences or tours could enhance your experience further and let you dive deeper into Kumamoto. Below is a selection of tours and experiences which you may find interesting.

Internet on the go

Having an internet connection can help you a great deal when navigating the streets of a new city. Booking Pocket Wi-Fi or getting a Japanese SIM-card for your phone can be a great way to help yourself out of a tricky situation or help you get the most out of your day.

Book portable WiFi

Transport in Kumamoto

Kumamoto has a charming tram system, consisting of two lines, the A-line and the B-line. The trams are highly useful for moving around between the city’s attractions. A ride has a fixed cost of ¥170, but a day pass can be purchased from the tram driver at a cost of ¥500. A combined day pass for tram and busses, the so called ” Wakuwaku 1day pass“, can be purchased for between ¥700-2000 depending on the coverage area. Purchase the Wakuwaku pass from the driver or at the tourist information at Kumamoto Station.

Map of Kumamoto Tram Network. Map by Hisagi. CC BY-SA 3.0.
Map of Kumamoto Tram Network. Map by Hisagi. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Getting to Kumamoto

By train

Kumamoto is located on the Kyushu Shinkansen Line, the high-speed rail line on which the bullet trains run through Kyushu. Therefore Kumamoto can easily and quickly be reached from most major cities in Japan. From Fukuoka it takes 30-40 minutes (tickets), from Hiroshima 1 hour 50 minutes (tickets), from Osaka 3 hours and from Tokyo in just under 6 hours.

Fukuoka – Kumamoto Ticket  Hiroshima – Kumamoto Ticket Kyushu JR Train Pass Japan Rail Pass

By air

Kumamoto Airport (KMJ) is located a 1 hour bus ride away from Kumamoto Station. The airport is connected to Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Naha and Amakusa. Flights can be affordable compared to the train if you travel long distances, say from Tokyo or Osaka.

Book flights to Kumamoto

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