Kumamoto city goes by many names. Some call it fire country (Hi No Kuni), thanks to nearby Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan. Others refer to it as the forest capital (Mori No Miyako) because of all its trees. Travelers might remember it as "origin of the bear" - its literal translation - thanks to ubiquitous cartoon mascot, Kumamon, a multi-billion-dollar draw for the prefecture. Featuring Kyushu Island's lush, volcanic terrain and sub-tropical climate, Kumamoto blends stunning natural attributes with intriguing culture and historic attractions.

The most famous landmark of the city is the 400-year-old Kumamoto Castle, the third largest in Japan, and certainly one of its most beautiful - particularly during cherry blossom season. The hilltop Takeda Castle Town is another historical site of note, now just ruins but breathtaking nonetheless, earning the nickname "Japan's Machu Picchu." Nature-lovers also find plenty to be captivated by in Kumamoto, whether it's gorges, waterfalls, flower gardens or volcanoes on the itinerary. For those with time, Mount Aso - an hour and 40 minutes from Kumamoto - is a popular destination. Its vast caldera measures upwards of 75 miles and its central cone comprises five different peaks, an irresistible draw for the hiking enthusiast.


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Immerse yourself in history in the “Little Kyoto of Kyushu” – Bungo-Takeda – a faithful recreation of a Showa-era township. This ambient little showa machi has featured in a number of historical Japanese movies and dramas.

Harajiri no Taki Waterfall

Take a trip out to the countryside of Bungo Ono to see the 65-foot-tall, 400-foot-wide Harajiri waterfall. This impressive horseshoe-shaped cascade is unique in that it’s located in the middle of farmland, formed by a sudden flow of lava millennia ago. A suspension bridge over the river facilitates photo taking, while an ice-cream shop nearby provides refreshments.

Kuju Flower Garden

Visit Kuju Flower Garden, where more than 500 species of flowers carpet an area of nearly 50 acres. The vibrant colors of this picturesque park change with the seasons, as different species of flower come into bloom. Framed by conifers and with Mount Aso and Mount Kuju in the background, the gardens make for stunning photography.

Kunimi Hill Hike

Get a panoramic view over Kumamoto city and its surrounds. Kunimi in Japanese means “to view the realm,” and there’s no better way to take in the region than to ascend to this unbeatable vantage point. On a clear day, the views reach as far as Mount Aso.

Takachiho Gorge

Visit one of the most picturesque natural attractions in the region, Takachiho Gorge, a 90-minute drive from the city. This narrow chasm features sheer cliffs over which silvery waterfalls cascade. Hop in a rowboat and float down the aquamarine waters of the Gokase River to one of the gorge’s main features – the 55-foot-tall Minainotaki Waterfall.

Takachiho Shrine

Delve into local mythology at 1,200-year-old Takachiho Shrine. Japanese legend has it that the queen of the gods, Amaterasu, descended to Earth here. The shrine is home to sculptures from the 13th and 14th centuries, and is surrounded by towering yakusugi – ancient Japanese cedar trees more than 800 years old.

Takeda Castle

Explore the ruins of Takeda Castle – Japan’s Machu Picchu – and take in its beautiful surrounds. The castle may be reduced to stones, but the location itself – a hilltop setting with deep ravines and cloud-wreathed summits – is well worth the trip.

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