Kumamoto is located in the centre of Kyushu, making it is easy to access other places by the bullet train in Japan’s southernmost main island. From the bullet train, visitors can access Kumamoto’s city centre by a nostalgic tramline, as well as various local lines. This convenient location makes it a decent idea to designate Kumamoto as the base of your Kyushu trip, while enjoying the sightseeing, as well as local gourmet, and shopping.
Kumamoto Castle was constructed in 1601 by the daimyo (or the best-known warlord) Kato Kiyomasa – who was not only a military commander but also a connoisseur of charismatic architecture. Kumamoto Castle is one of Japan’s most iconic castles, rich in history; unfortunately, the castle sustained great damage during the 2016 earthquake and entry to the main castle is currently prohibited. In spite of this, it is a must-see attraction and a symbol of recovery, effectively serving as the heart of the city.
In Kumamoto City, the two most popular districts for shopping and eating out are Kamitori shopping arcade, and Shimotori shopping arcade.
Here you will find countless sushi bars, ramen shops, izakaya, and other Japanese-styled restaurants and entertainment centres. You will also find several uniquely Japanese retail environments, such as discount pharmacies and electronics shops. Various souvenir shops and Japanese craft stores can be found throughout the length of Shimotori, selling Japanese fabrics and traditional ceramics that work just as well as tasteful household staples as they do souvenirs.
Kamitori has more of the “artistic” feeling – hosting the Contemporary Art Gallery, a sizeable instrument store, a whimsical vintage clothing boutique and several other unique shoe and clothing stores. It boasts several gems in shopping and dining, and serves as an artery to several trendy neighbourhoods that surround the arcade.
Although at first glance they may appear similar, Kamitori and Shimotori feature entertainment of differing, yet complimentary attitudes and paces. While your preference may vary by mood, the two arcades go together to make two parts of a whole. Operating hours vary from store to store, but for retail purposes, both Kamitori and Shimotori operate from about 9:00 – 21:00, with the exception of bars and restaurants.