7 Must-Visit Kumamoto Tourist Spots Recovering from the 2016 Earthquake
Located in Kyushu, Kumamoto Prefecture has many popular tourist attractions such as Kurokawa Onsen (Kurokawa Hot Springs) in Aso and Kumamoto Castle. However, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck it in 2016, damaging many historical buildings. Consequently, the number of tourists dropped. However, it’s still an attractive place to visit, and the number of tourists are increasing. Continue reading to find out which must-see tourist spots are making a huge recovery, then add them to your travel itinerary!
Jan 25 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
1. Kumamoto Castle (Kumamoto Castle / City Hall)
Kumamoto Castle, known as the symbol of Kumamoto, suffered considerable damage in the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake. Restoration work of the castle still continues to this day and some spots are still off limits to the public due to safety concerns. That being said, the castle still maintains its magnificent look, so it is still a recommended spot to start your trip in Kumamoto.
The sakura (cherry blossoms) are fully bloomed around Kumamoto Castle from late March to early April. There are about 800 cherry blossom trees, and they create incredibly beautiful spring scenery. Even at night, the cherry blossoms are lit up, leaving people breathless by the fantastic night view.
2. Sakuranobaba Josaien (Kumamoto Castle / City Hall)
Sakuranobaba Josaien is an area filled with souvenir shops located near Kumamoto Castle. It's well known for its historical townscape that evokes the Edo period (1603 - 1867). There is a tourist information center and Wakuwakuza, an interactive museum where you can learn about the history and culture of Kumamoto. This is one of the must-visit places for first-time visitors to Kumamoto.
Sakuranokoji is a shopping arcade selling a variety of Kumamoto souvenirs. As Kumamoto is a well-known strawberry production area, its strawberry ice cream and shaved ice are quite popular, though unfortunately only available for a limited time. They are perfect when you’re up for a cold dessert during the hot season!
3. Nabegataki Falls (Aso)
Nabegataki Falls was formed by an eruption 90,000 years ago, and is currently one of the most spectacular spots in Kumamoto. The waterfall is 10m in height, which doesn’t sound tall, but it is 20m in width and looks like a beautiful water curtain. It is located on a soft bed of rock and soil, so its shape continues to change slowly.
You can even go behind the waterfall to enjoy the view from a different angle. It is recommended to wear slip-resistant shoes here, since the ground is wet and slippery. The waterfall is lit up around April every year, so you should definitely drop by if you’re in the area during that month!
4. Daikanbo Peak (Aso)
Daikanbo Peak is a mountain in Aso City, and from its observation point located at an altitude of 936m, you can get a view of the town and the five peaks of Aso. There is also a shop selling souvenirs at the observation point, so why not enjoy the panoramic view together with ice cream? The experience is something special!
You may be able to see a sea of clouds if you visit the peak from around sunrise to 9 AM. This sea of clouds emerges under certain conditions, such as when the time and weather are just perfect. Even if you don’t get to see it, visiting at sunrise is highly recommended for the beautiful sunrise view.
5. Suizenji Park (Suizenji Park)
Suizenji Park is a Japanese garden with a history of about 380 years that was designed to accentuate the beauty of the already existing land. One of the features it is known for is its pond water, which is actually the spring water of Aso. When walking around, you can enjoy the beautiful view of the garden from different angles. Regardless of the season, it always has something beautiful to offer.
Within the garden, there is a building called "Kokindenju-no-Ma" with a thatched roof. It is an Important Cultural Property designated by the prefecture, and there, you can have a seat and get a beautiful view of the garden while enjoying sweets and green tea (650 yen for a cushion seat, 550 yen for a chair seat).
6. Aso Nature Land (Aso)
Aso Nature Land organizes fun outdoor activities such as paragliding and hot-air balloon riding. Here, you can experience an extraordinary adventure in the beautiful nature of Aso. There will be professional instructors to give you guidance and support during your adventure, so don’t be afraid!
The hot-air balloon ride is only available in the morning when it's sunny and there's no wind. This 5-minute ride rises about 40m from the ground, which gives you an amazing view of the area. Definitely try it out for a very memorable and unforgettable experience!
7. Kurokawa Onsen (Aso)
Kurokawa Onsen is a hot spring town situated in a mountainous area of Kumamoto. It is home to many onsen inns, as well as an atmospheric townscape and buildings. Though you can stay overnight, even just enjoying the hot springs on a day trip could be fun. The Kurokawa Onsen Ryokan Association issues passes that allow you to try 3 different open-air baths in the area for just 1,300 yen per adult; an excellent deal for exploring the various hot springs here!
While enjoying the hot springs is a great pasttime, you can also walk and explore the town. Onsen eggs, which are cooked in hot springs, are sold at the entrance areas of many inns. It’s a great option for a light snack, especially after a hot spring bath.
Kumamoto has a lot more tourist attractions that are slowly recovering from the 2016 earthquake. Every visit helps support the earthquake recovery, so do pay Kumamoto Prefecture a visit the next time you come to Japan!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.