Kumamoto Castle, one of the three great castles in Japan

Situated in Kumamoto Prefecture on Japan’s southern Kyushu island, Kumamoto Castle holds UNESCO recognition as a World Cultural Heritage Site. It’s one of the three great castles in Japan, alongside Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle. It was constructed over seven years starting in 1601.

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The castle faced extensive damage in the 2016 earthquake disaster, with nearly a third of its walls affected and 10 percent collapsing entirely. Despite these challenges, the castle’s main tower was restored in March 2021, symbolizing Kumamoto’s ongoing reconstruction efforts.

Kumamoto Castle boasts distinctive architecture with various buildings, staircases, and expansive gardens. We can explore exhibition halls to delve into the region’s rich history and cultural heritage. Moreover, the castle hosts numerous activities and events throughout the year, including art performances and traditional festivals, providing an immersive experience in Japanese history and culture.

The castle’s main attractions include:

This structure comprises two main and small towers. The top floor serves as an observatory, offering a panoramic 360-degree view of Kumamoto city. On clear days, we can even glimpse the Aso mountain range in the distance.

The impressive stone walls were meticulously crafted by skilled masons led by Kiyomasa Kato from Omi country (now Shiga Prefecture). Of note is the curved stone wall, also known as “忍び返し – Shinobi Gaeshi” or “武者返し – Samurai Gaeshi,” symbolizing the castle’s formidable defenses.

This tower, retaining its original appearance since construction, is an important cultural asset of Kumamoto Castle. It survived the Satsuma Rebellion and stands atop a 20-meter-high stone wall, symbolizing the castle’s invincibility.

Restored to its original state in 2008, this palace showcases exquisite features based on historical photos and documents. The highlight is the magnificent golden “Shokun-no-Ma” painting, depicting scenes from ancient life and displayed on the ceiling alongside 60 other paintings in a grid pattern.

An underground passage beneath Honmaru Goten palace, Kuragaritsuro is renowned for its unique design and is a notable feature of Kumamoto Castle.

Spring (March to May)

This period is perfect for experiencing the castle’s enchanting beauty amidst cherry blossoms in full bloom. The picturesque views and fresh spring air create a truly memorable visit.

Summer (June to August)

Summer is also an excellent time for sightseeing, with lush greenery surrounding the castle grounds. Visitors can engage in outdoor activities and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.

Autumn (September to November)

The autumn months bring a touch of romance with golden foliage, offering stunning vistas and a serene ambiance around the castle.

Winter (December to February)

Despite the colder weather, winter adds a unique charm with snow covering the castle grounds. The white landscape creates a picturesque scene, offering a different but equally captivating experience.

Year-Round Appeal

Regardless of the season, Kumamoto Castle remains a captivating destination worth exploring. Each season offers its own distinct beauty and charm, ensuring a memorable and enriching visit for travelers throughout the year.

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How to Get There

Depending on your location, there are a few convenient ways to reach Kumamoto Castle:

  1. Tram: Take the tram from JR Kumamoto Station to Kumamotojo-mae tram stop. The journey takes about 17 minutes and costs 170 yen.
  2. Walking: For those who enjoy a scenic stroll, it’s possible to walk from Kumamoto Station to the castle. The walk typically takes between 30 to 45 minutes.

Arriving early in the morning is recommended as the city gates open, usually greeted by two individuals dressed as royal guards, offering a unique and memorable experience for visitors, especially those who appreciate historical ambiance and cultural immersion.