Kumamoto Travel Guide

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Kumamoto castle

Kumamoto castle

Matt Haswell

The third-largest city in Kyushu after Fukuoka and Kitakyushu, Kumamoto straddles the central plains of the island. While not a major tourist draw in its own right, it offers easy access to the ancient volcanic plateau of Aso-san to the east. The most famous sight in the city is Kumamoto-jo, which is the third-largest castle in Japan (after Osaka-jo and Nagoya-jo). Destroyed by fire in the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, the castle's current incarnation is a 1960 ferro-concrete reconstruction. Although the interior is distinctly modern and non-descript, the exterior of the donjon is quite picturesque and faithful to the original. The predominantly black wood makes for a unique design, of which only Okayama-jo and Matsumoto-jo share in common.

The second most important sight of Kumamoto is the beautiful garden of Suizenji-joju-en. Located in the southeastern suburbs, it ranks among Japan's finest traditional gardens and is a must for any visitor. Kumamoto's other sights are mostly low-key, but they include a former house of writer Lafcadio Hearn (known to the Japanese as Koizumi Yakumo) and the stunningly-restored samurai residence, Kyu-Hosokawa Gyobutei. The latter is a very good representation of traditional Japanese architecture.

Kumamoto's most famous culinary speciality is basashi - raw horse meat served with a garlic dipping sauce. Most restaurants in the center offer it on their menus.

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February 28, 2006 new by xerius (4 points)

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