Kumamoto and Aso Travel Guide   熊本

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Volcanic Atmosphere

Halfway between Fukuoka and Kagoshima, of coast and of mountain, proud of its castle and its volcano, Kumamoto has the wind in its sails.

Nestled between the Ariake Inland Sea and the volcanic Aso massif, Kumamoto is often seen as a stopover town and does not attract crowds ... therefore it takes someone a little curious to settle down in Kumamoto and discover (in one or two days) the best places to visit in the Kuma-mon homeland, a new favorite Japanese mascot.

Kumamoto Castle is often presented as one of the finest in the country. Only its guard tower is period style (1607), but the old fortress of the Hosokawa samurai clan has been renovated and is worth a visit, especially in early spring to enjoy the cherry blossoms in its the park. The Hosokawa, who ruled the fief of Higo (the former name of Kumamoto prefecture), also left, on the other side of the park that is home to the castle, a magnificent aristocratic residence of the Edo era - the Kyû Hosokawa Gyôbu-tei - while the family tea pavilion is located further south in Suizen-ji Park.

The sword and the pen

Another samurai - probably the most famous in Japanese history - left traces in Kumamoto: Musashi Miyamoto, the author of the famous Book of Five Rings. He even said that this Bible of Japanese warriors was written here, in a grotto that is open to visitors of the Reigando.

And Miyamoto is not the only famous person from Kumamoto, where you can also visit the homes of novelists Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) and Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904). The former even succeeded the second to the chair of English literature at the University of Tokyo.

To the Aso-ult!

Strings of snowy peaks, sulfur, fumaroles, and secular traditions: it is hard to pass by without visiting Kumamoto's regional volcano, which like Fuji was given the honorary name of Aso-san ("respectable Mount Aso").

In summer and winter, its five peaks lend themselves to hiking (note you must be equipped) in a hauntingly beautiful caldera (giant volcanic crater), dotted with mountain lakes and meadows, and bright green from March to October . The Aso region is obviously the ideal location for luxurious thermal spas nestled in rugged valleys like Kurokawa or Tarutama .

And on the other side of the volcanic massif, which overflows to the east into the prefectures of Miyazaki and Oita, the village of Takachiho is the cradle of traditions and ancestral myths: the traditional kagura and Amaterasu dances, the sun goddess, which legend tells, is directly linked to the imperial family.