From the early 17th century to the end of the 19th century, Kumamoto was prosperous as a castle town, at the centre of which was one of Japan’s most beautiful and practical castles – Kumamoto Castle. Be sure to wander the area while you visit Kumamoto for the Rugby World Cup 2019.
Built by the daimyo Kato Kiyomasa, who governed this region at the beginning of the 17th century, Kumamoto Castle has been designated as an Important Cultural Property for its stone walls featuring ‘musha-gaeshi,’ a special defense designed to prevent enemy attacks. Although it was damaged in the earthquake of April 2016, the castle remains a symbol of Kumamoto’s resilience, and its recovery.
If you are a lover of Japanese gardens, Suizenji Park is a must-see. This tsukiyama-styled Japanese garden replicates Mount Fuji, and the 53 post stations of the Tokaido – the road which connected Edo ( Tokyo ) with Kyoto during the Edo Period. Strolling along Suizenji’s circular path will guide guests through the highlights of this scenery.
Located in Mount Aso range, Aso Shrine is believed to have been built in 281 before the accession of the Emperor Jinmu – making it one of the oldest and most prominent shrines in Japan. This shrine has been designated among the Japan’s Important Cultural Properties, including Ichi-no-shinden, Ni-no-shinden, and Romon (tower gate). Unfortunately, Aso Shrine was heavily damaged in the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes – the Romon completely collapsed, however they strive to repair it fully as soon as possible.
Hitoyoshi, a 700-year-old castle town, boasts the ruins of Hitoyoshi Castle, and the ancient streets that surround them. Stroll around the castle town known as “Little Kyoto in Kyushu” to enjoy the nostalgic view, and sample some Japanese sake at the local brewery. Aoi-Aso Shrine is a branch shrine of Aso shrine where you can check out the gorgeous romon gate, which has been designated as a National treasure.
The Amakusa islands are widely known as a place where many Christians have historically lived – many of whom secretly kept their faith during the period when Christianity was banned in Japan. The Oe-Tenshudo church was built by Father Garnier, a French missionary, in 1933. Located nearby is Amakusa Rosary Museum, where you can learn the history of Christianity in this region.