I have fond memories of Kumamoto Castle as it was the first castle I ever visited in Japan. My memory is a bit hazy so forgive me if I leave out a few minor details. Located in Chuo-ku, Kumamoto it is easy to get to. Just exit at the Kumamoto Castle/City Hall Tram Stop and walk about 500 meters to get to the castle. Not a fan of walking? No worries! There is a shuttle bus that runs about every 10 minutes or so at the Jousaien bus stop. Did I mention it is free?
Before I continue here is some history about the castle based on the information given to me:
– It was built by the Daimyo Kato Kiyomasa, around the beginning of the 17th century. The previous castle was too small and the current castle took seven years to complete.
– The castle is on a hilltop and was well fortified against attackers.
– The grounds are about one square mile in area.
Now that you know the basics I shall give you my tour recommendations of what to see and do. First off, I highly recommend taking one of the four walking tours provided:
Mini tour – Not really a walking tour but a small guided tour with a staff member who might speak your language and tell you about the castle. When I was there they had French and Korean speaking staff there. Though I assume the languages may change based on who is working that day. The tour runs about fifteen to twenty minutes tops and it’s from the reception area to one of the turrets. If you are pressed for time then take this tour but I suggest you take one of the other tours listed below.
Basic tour – A leisurely 75 minute tour that shows the basic areas of the castle. The main areas you will see are the turret gates, the main castle and the grand hall.
Medium tour – A medium paced tour that runs close to two hours. It does involve a bit more walking and climbing steps, so if you are older or have a bad ankle (like me) you might be in for more activity than expected. Though I will say it is worth the extra walking if you can manage it as you will see the Plum Tree Garden area, the Great Ginko Tree, plus most of the areas in the basic tour as well.
Complete tour – A long tour that runs well over two hours. Expect to walk a lot and climb steps as well. You will see pretty much everything ranging from the various shrines on the castle grounds to the Yagura turrets to everything else in the above tours I listed. After the tour you will feel exhausted but far more knowledgeable about the castle.
The inside of the main castle is full of interesting historical items and recreations of how life was at the castle. It takes quite some time to see everything inside the castle as there are six floors so plan accordingly. Be warned, you are not allowed to take pictures in most of the interior castle areas of the castle (hence the lack of interior castle photos on this page). On the plus side you can take photos at the very top of the castle at the observation deck. On a clear sunny day you can see a long way and get some nice panoramic views of the city area. Another tip I have is if you are lucky enough to go during cherry blossom season the castle grounds are beautiful with the cherry blossom leaves falling. Also, if there is a show going on take the time to watch it as it’s not every day you can see a re-creation of a samurai battle.
Unfortunately, I was unable to tour everything as I failed to plan in advance and arrived at the castle in the mid afternoon. Since the castle closes at 18:00pm (it closes at 17:00 in the winter months). I was pressed for time. Don’t be like me and think you can rush through the castle and enjoy all there is to see. My advice is to get there around 10:00 and take your time and enjoy all the interesting things there are to see and do. In closing, I can truly say the overall experience and tour was well worth the 500 yen I spent.
|Address||1-1 Honmaru, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture 860-0002|
1-1 Honmaru, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture 860-0002
|Opening Hours||March to November: 8:30 to 18:00. November to February: 8:30 to 17:00|
|Price Range||500 yen and 200 yen for children|