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The Best Things to do in Kumamoto in One Day

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Kumamoto is located on the west coast of Kyushu island. As the capital city of Kumamoto Prefecture, Kumamoto City has many historical temples and shrines, including one of the top three premier castles in Japan.

While many visitors use Kumamoto as a base for visiting Mount Aso as a day trip, Kumamoto has many exciting attractions, and you can see them all in one day.

So if you want to visit a castle, temples, museums, Japanese gardens and sample some of the best cuisines in Japan, then follow my Kumamoto itinerary!

 

 

Why Kumamoto is great for a solo female traveller

Kumamoto is not as busy at other major cities in Japan. There is a slower pace which is great for any solo traveller who wants to take their time and see things slowly.

All the major sites are linked by the efficient tram system, which makes solo travelling that much easier. See below for more information about the tram system.

And Kumamoto has food uniquely to the region, which makes dining solo a much better experience!

 

 

 

Before you go to Kumamoto

Before you go to Kumamoto, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of information, including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.

 

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Kumamoto Transportation

 

How to get to Kumamoto

Aso Kumamoto Airport is 17km from Kumamoto City. However, only domestic flights fly into the small airport. If you are flying internationally, you may have to fly into Fukuoka Airport, Kagoshima Airport or other major airports in Japan.

But if you are flying into Aso Kumamoto Airport, you can take an airport limousine bus directly into the city.

From Aso Kumamoto Airport to Kumamoto Station

 

 

If you are taking Japan Railway, you may be coming from cities north of Kumamoto like Fukuoka, or cities south of Kumamoto like Kagoshima. Here are a few sample routes below.

 

From Fukuoka to Kumamoto

  • Kyushu Shinkansen 

 

From Kagoshima to Kumamoto

  • Kyushu Shinkansen 

 

Rail Passes

You can use Japan Rail Pass and JR Kyushu Rail Pass for your journey to Kumamoto.

There are several kinds of JR Kyushu Rail Passes, but you have to purchase the passes before you leave for Japan. Check out the website and see if you can benefit from getting a rail pass for your travel in Kyushu.

 

 

 

How to get around Kumamoto City

My favourite way to see a new city is on foot because it allows you to see everything up close and stop whenever you want to.

But you may want to learn how to take the Kumamoto City Tram as it may be easier to get around the city. And much faster. The two tram systems can take you to major attractions like Kumamoto Castle, Suizen-ji Jojien Garden and many more places. Each ride costs ¥170 or buy the one day pass for ¥500 or use SUGOCA, the prepaid IC card for Kyushu.

But if you already have a Pasmo, Suica, ICOCA or other IC cards from different parts of Japan, just top up your card and use it for the tram and train.

 

 

 
It is convenient to stay in the city centre of Kumamoto, where you will find all the best restaurants and attractions.

It is convenient to stay in the city centre of Kumamoto, where you will find all the best restaurants and attractions.

Where to stay in Kumamoto

There are excellent accommodations near Kumamoto Station and in the centre of the city, which may be more convenient.

However, budget accommodation isn’t very cheap in Kumamoto. Expect to pay at least ¥2,700 per night for a bunk bed. But the bunk bed is very comfortable and clean.

 

Budget accommodation

  • Cost: up to ¥5,000 per day
  • Hotel The Gate Kumamoto
    • A hotel designed for business people. Get a single room (either an upper bunk or lower bunk) but with your own private area. The bathroom is super clean, and the space is tranquil, especially for a hostel type accommodation. Your “room” comes with a locker, and they clean your bed and change your towels daily. Located near Kumamoto Station.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Kiihotel Shimotori
    • If you want to stay in the centre of Kumamoto, then stay at Kiihotel Shimotori. Get a capsule bed and a shared bathroom for a budget price. Located on the main shopping street where you can close to all the retail stores and restaurants.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda

 

 

 

Mid-range accommodation

  • Cost: from ¥5,000 – 10,000 per day
  • Dormy Inn Kumamoto Natural Hot Spring
    • Get a double room with your private bathroom. A popular chain hotel in Japan. The best part about staying at Dormy Inn is the indoor and outdoor hot spring bath, sauna facilities. You can even get a massage at the hotel. Walking distance to the shopping street and tram.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Mitsui Garden Hotel Kumamoto
    • Get a semi-double bed in a standard room and your own private bathroom. Located close to the centre of the city and Karashima Park.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda

 

Airbnb accommodation

  • Cost: up to ¥4,000 per day
  • There are over 50+ Airbnb listings around Kumamoto train station and city centre.
  • But before you book your Airbnb accommodation, always read reviews and see all the fine print before booking.
  • And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.

 

 

 

 

Things to do in Kumamoto, Japan

Wondering what you should do in Kumamoto? Follow my one day Kumamoto itinerary and see the best sites!

All the Kumamoto attractions are pinned in the interactive map below. You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.

 

 

View of Kumamoto Castle complex, stone walls and moat from the perimeter of the castle premise.

View of Kumamoto Castle complex, stone walls and moat from the perimeter of the castle premise.

1. Visit Kumamoto Castle, one of the grandest castle in Japan

Built in the early 1600s, Kumamoto Castle is one of the best castles in Japan, along with Himeji Castle in Himeji, and Matsumoto Castle in Nagano. The main palace is six stories high while the smaller tower is four stories high. And 13 different structures on the premise are designated as important cultural properties.

Along with the main castle, also look for Kato Shrine, Kumamato-jo Inari Shrine, and the impressive Honmaru Goten Palace.

However, Kumamoto Castle suffered a lot of damages from the earthquake in 2016. The main towers and other buildings in the castle complex suffered severe damages; many walls crumbled and roofs collapsed.

Kumamoto Castle requires extensive repair and is closed to the public at the moment. During your visit, you may only see a small part of the damaged castle which be seen from the perimeter of the castle ground.

However, it may be opened during the Rugby World Cup (October 5 to 14, 2019) and then open on Sundays and national holidays after the event.

Before you go to Kumamoto, check online and see if Kumamoto Castle is opened to the public.

 

 

 

 

2. See a panoramic view of the city from Honmyo-ji Temple

Located on a hillside, Honmyo-ji Temple is one of the best temples in Kumamoto where you can see a great view of the city.

Take the tram to Honmyo-ji Temple and walk up a flight of stairs until you reach the Niomon Gate, a giant guardian gate made with concrete. The function of the large gate is similar to Nio statues, guardian statues protecting the temple from evil spirits and demons.

Also look for the Chuomon Gate (middle gate), the main temple, and walk all the way to the top to Honmyoji Park and see a gorgeous view of the city. At the top of the hill is Kato Kiyomasa‘s grave. He was a fierce warrior and was responsible for the rebuild of both Kumamoto Castle and Nagoya Castle.

 

 

Many tourists visit Sakuranobaba Johsaien Castle Town to buy unique souvenirs and sample Kumamoto cuisine

Many tourists visit Sakuranobaba Johsaien Castle Town to buy unique souvenirs and sample Kumamoto cuisine

3. Tour the Sakuranobaba Johsaien Castle Town

At the base of Kumamoto Castle is a popular tourist attraction called Sakuranobaba Johsaien Castle Town.

Newly opened in 2011, there is a shopping arcade with 23 shops selling souvenirs uniquely to Kumamoto, a tourist information centre, and an interactive historical display where you can learn about Kumamoto’s history. And if you are hungry, sample a few snacks where you can only find in Kumamoto.

 

 

 

Kumamoto Ramen: thick ramen noodles, tonkotsu broth, chashu, eggs, and kogashi garlic

Kumamoto Ramen: thick ramen noodles, tonkotsu broth, chashu, eggs, and kogashi garlic

4. Eat a bowl of Kumamoto Ramen for lunch

Kumamoto ramen uses thicker noodles, unlike Hakata ramen in Fukuoka. The broth is made with tonkotsu pork, similar to Hakata ramen but has hints of chicken broth in it as well.

What differentiates Kumamoto ramen from other types of ramen is the addition of kogashi garlic. The aromatic garlic flavour is injected into the broth as it is sprinkled on top of the ramen.

Try a bowl of Tamago-iri ramen ¥900 at Kokutei. The restaurant specializes in Kumamoto ramen since 1957. A bowl of Tamago-iri ramen includes two eggs, chashu (roast pork), black Chinese mushrooms, seaweed, kogashi garlic, green onions and of course, thick ramen noodles in tonkotsu broth.

Make sure you slurp the noodles as loud as you can. It is considered to be polite to slurp! It means the noodle is delicious!

 
 

 

 

5. Get zen at Suizen-ji Jojuen Garden

One of the main highlights of Kumamoto is the Suizen-ji Jojuen Garden.

The big Japanese garden with a beautiful lake was built in the 17th-century. Each tree, pond, and every other detail was carefully designed. The garden represents parts of the 53 stations of the Tokaido, a vital road from Edo to Kyoto. Part of the garden includes a miniature landscape of Mt. Fuji.

While you are there, enjoy Japanese tea at the teahouse.

Admission is ¥400.

 

 

 

 

6. See modern artwork by local artists at Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto (CAMK)

Since opening in 2002, the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto (CAMK) displays modern contemporary Japanese artwork and features artists from Kumamoto and Kyushu Island.

While the museum changes the exhibitions from time to time, there are permanent displays including the ceiling lighting artwork by James Turrell and glass installation artwork under the staircase by Yayoi Kusama (pictured above).

Check the CAMK website for information about the latest exhibition.

Admission is ¥1,000.

 

 

 

7. Try other Kumamoto food while dining solo

Just because you are travelling on your own, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try the local specialties. Eating solo is very common in Japan!

For dinner, try some of the local Kumamoto food, including:

  • Taipinyen – a large bowl of vermicelli in soup with lots of vegetables, with either pork or chicken broth, various toppings like crab meat, pork, mushrooms, egg, corn, etc. Taipinyen can only be found in Kumamoto. Kourantei Shimotori makes a delicious bowl of Taipinyen
  • Dagojiru – flat dumplings in a broth made of soy sauce and miso, served with daikon, carrots and vegetables.
  • Red Wagyu Donburi – a rice bowl topped with red wagyu beef raised in Aso, Kumamoto.
  • Basashi – tender pieces of raw horse meat sashimi, a popular Kumamoto regional dish.
  • Ikinari Dango – sweet dumplings with yams, red beans, and wrapped in thin dough made with wheat flour. They can be made on the spot and its a Kumamoto favourite!
  • Homare no Jindaiko – a gelatin snack with red bean paste from Hokkaido. The dessert treat is packaged in a tin container and is great as a souvenir.

 

 

Kumamon, the mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, seen in Shimotori Shopping Arcade.

Kumamon, the mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, seen in Shimotori Shopping Arcade.

8. Buy souvenirs at Shimotori Shopping Arcade

Your friends and family must be so jealous of your trip to Japan. So why not bring back a few souvenirs for them?

A great place to shop is the Shimotori Shopping Arcade, where you will find over 511 meters of the covered shopping street. It is the largest shopping arcade in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Many major Japanese cities have an old-style covered shopping street called shotengai. And in Kumamoto, you will find everything you want in these shopping arcades. Many Kumamoto souvenirs have the Kumamon, the mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, on the packaging. You will see Kumamon almost everywhere in Kumamoto!

There are also restaurants and bars in the shopping arcade. It is a great place to end your day in Kumamoto.

 

 

 

 

If you have an extra day in Kumamoto

 

Spend the day hiking through the trails of Mount Aso and see the active volcano up-close.

Spend the day hiking through the trails of Mount Aso and see the active volcano up-close.

Kumamoto day trip – Mount Aso

Mount Aso is an active volcano in Kumamoto Prefecture. At the highest peak, Mount Nakadake, it has one of the world’s largest caldera, a volcanic crater. The crater measures 25 kilometres and has a circumference of over 100 kilometres. Within the crater, it has emerald green hot water.

However, due to continuous volcanic activity, it may or may not be possible to see the crater up-close. Check the latest condition and see if it is possible to see the crater.

But even if you can’t see the crater, there are many hiking trails on the mountain. Plus you can ride horses during the warmer months at Kusasenro-ga-hama, which is just next to the Aso Volcano Museum.

All of these activities make the perfect day trip from Kumamoto. And you can visit Mount Aso without a car!

 

 

 

For more travel planning resources, check out my Amazon picks:

 

 

Where to go in Japan

Check out my guides to the best cities to visit in Japan, including:

 

 

 

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 16+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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