Kumamoto

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto (熊本) is the capital of Kumamoto prefecture on the island of Kyushu, Japan. It is notable for the impressive Kumamoto Castle

Understand

The city is home to about 730,000 people.

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).

Get in

By plane

Kumamoto has an airport, recently renamed the Aso-Kumamoto Airport, from which shuttle buses 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).

By train

Kumamoto Station, Shirakawa Gate

Kumamoto is a major stop on the Kyushu Shinkansen. Trains run several times per hour from Hakata station in Fukuoka (40-50 minutes, ¥4990) and Kagoshima (50-60 minutes, ¥6760). Hourly Sakura services connect Kumamoto to stations on the San'yo Shinkansen: Hiroshima is about 1 hr 45 min away (¥12970), Okayama 2 hr 30 min (¥16230) and Osaka 3 hr 20 min (¥18020). Faster Mizuho services also run during the morning and evening hours, but Japan Rail Pass holders cannot use Mizuho trains.

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 2 1/2 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 ferry

If 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 yen, 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.

Get around

A fairly extensive bus system and a simple two line tram system keeps Kumamoto City and some of its neighboring well connected. City day passes are valid on both the buses and trams.

By tram

One 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 bus

Buses 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 bike

Kumamoto is a comfortable city to ride around. For reference, it takes about 30 minutes by get to Kumamoto Gakuen University from Kamikumamoto.

See

Interior of Honmaru Goten palace, Kumamoto Castle
Suizenji Gardens
Honmyō-ji Temple at night
Inside former Hosokawa Gyōbutei

Do

Fujisakidai Baseball Stadium

Buy

Shimotōri shopping arcade

Eat

Specialities

Karashirenkon
Taipi-en at Kumamoto station

There are some unique traditional foods in Kumamoto.

Restaurants

Drink

Sleep

Budget

Being a large city, Kumamoto has its fair share of alternative sleeping options for the non-discerning traveler willing to camp out anywhere.

Mid-range

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.

There 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.

Splurge

Go next

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.

Routes through Kumamoto

Hakata Shin-Tamana  N  S  Shin-Yatsushiro Kagoshima
Hakata Tamana  N  S  Uto Kagoshima
END  W  E  Aso Oita
Fukuoka Yame  N  S  Matsubase Kagoshima


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, June 16, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.