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KUMAMOTO Prefecture

Area: 7,404 km2
Population: 1,801 million
Region: Kyushu
Capital: Kumamoto

photo by Yoshikazu TAKADA


Kumamoto Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Kyushu. The capital is the city of Kumamoto

KUMAMOTO CITY
The city's most famous landmark is Kumamoto Castle, a large and, in its day, extremely well fortified Japanese castle. The donjon (castle central keep) is a concrete reconstruction built in the 1970s, but several ancillary wooden buildings remain of the original castle.
Within the outer walls of Kumamoto Castle is the Hosokawa Gyobu-tei, the former residence of the Higo daimyo. This traditional wooden mansion has a fine Japanese garden located on its grounds.
Kumamoto is also home to Suizen-ji Jōju-en, a formal garden neighbouring Suizenji Temple approximately 3 kilometers southeast of Kumamoto Castle.
A notable shrine is Takahashi Inari Shrine.
The downtown area has a commercial district centred on two shopping arcades, the Shimotori and Kamitori, which extend for several city blocks. The main department stores are located here along with a vast number of smaller retailers, restaurants, and bars. Many local festivals are held in or near the arcades.
Cultural venues include the Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art and Kumamoto Prefectural Theater.
Kumamoto has a prefectural mascot, "Kumamon". Kumamon is a black bear with red cheeks.
WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO SEE
One of the prime attractions of the Kumamoto Prefecture is the Kurokawa onsen, one of Japan's most attractive hot spring towns, located in the middle of Kyushu about 20 kilometers north of Mount Aso. The town's streets are lined by ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) public bath houses, attractive shops and cafes, a small shrine and bridges that lead over the river directly to ryokan entrances. Walking through the town is particularly enjoyable in yukata (a light cotton kimono) and geta sandals provided by the ryokan you are staying at. Geta sandals are traditional Japanese footwear that resemble both clogs and flip-flops. They are a kind of sandal with an elevated wooden base held onto the foot with a fabric thong to keep the foot well above the ground.

Mount Aso is a large volcano located in the centre of Kyushu. The main crater can be accessed and viewed by tourist. Nearby is the Aso Shrine .The shrine has a pine tree that is believed to give good fortune for marriage.
GETTING THERE
By plane
Kumamoto has an airport, recently renamed the Aso-Kumamoto Airport, from which shuttle buses make a one-hour jaunt into the town. There are flights to and from Tokyo Haneda, Tokyo Narita, Osaka Itami, Kansai International, Chubu International, Matsuyama, Naha, Amakusa, Shizuoka, and Seoul.

By train
Kumamoto is a major stop on the Kyushu Shinkansen. Trains run several times per hour from Hakata station in Fukuoka and Kagoshima.
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 2.5 hours to reach Kumamoto.
CLIMATE/ TEMPERATURE
Kumamoto has a subtropical climate, with plenty of rain, hot summers and chilly winters. Rainfall is at its heaviest by far in June and July.
Winters are cool and wet with average daily highs reach 12-13°C between December and February, but nights are much colder, often barely above freezing.
Spring is a delight in Kumamoto. In March, average daily highs are around 15°C and the cherry blossoms are emerging. In April, average daily highs are 21°C, rising to 25°C in May.
Summers are hot and wet. June sees average temperatures of 28°C - rising to 33°C in August - but these are averages, and it is often hotter than this.
June and July are also the wettest months of the year. During these months, it rains on about half of the days, often in huge, sudden downpours and thunderstorms.
Autumn can be a very pleasant time to visit as the autumn foliage changes colour, and the rain eases. September is still very warm, with daily highs of 29°C, but this will have fallen to 18°C by November.
WHAT TO WEAR
During summer, you should be fine if you wear a short-sleeved shirt, t-shirt or a dress, however a long sleeved shirt is highly recommended if you choose to go near water or to the mountains.
In the winter, be sure to bring warm clothes such as winter coat or jacket, hat, scarf and gloves.
For the spring and autumn a light jacket or a sweater should keep you warm.
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