Kumamoto is the prefecture that’s roughly in the center of Kyushu. The center of this prefecture is Kumamoto City, which not only houses Kumamoto Castle, but also acts as a sightseeing base that’s well-connected to other parts of the prefecture and the rest of the Kyushu region. While you can get around the city and sightsee with public transport like trams and buses, it’s better to use a rental car. Though Kumamoto Castle took a lot of damage from the big earthquake in April 2016, reconstruction of the giant castle tower’s exterior is currently underway and set to be completed by 2019.Home to one of the world’s most prominent calderas, Mt. Aso has many spots to visit for amazing scenery, such as Daikanbo Peak and Kusasenri. You’ll also get to see plenty of cows and horses out on the many farms around Aso. Why not grab some fresh milk, yogurt, or even a soft serve in-between sightseeing?Surrounded by roughly 120 large and small islands, Amakusa is considered a hot spot as it is soon to be registered as a World Heritage Site for containing several artifacts related to the hidden Christians of Nagasaki and Amakusa. Kyushu’s main island is connected to all the other islands by bridges, so you can access them via rental car or bus. Other than the beautiful sight of the curved sand ripples at Okoshiki Beach, which is along the way to the island from Kumamoto, you can also take in the stunning view of the various islands on the sea. There are also spots where you can savor fresh fish, sea urchin, and Japanese spiny lobster, as well as watch wild dolphins.Another spot that you absolutely need to visit is Kurokawa Onsen. Here, you’ll get to savor the food and open-air baths of various inns, which are located within peaceful valleys. If you purchase an entry pass for the baths, you’ll be able to dip your toes into several hot springs!You can find other hot springs across the prefecture, such as Aso Hot Springs, Tsuetate Onsen, Kikuchi Hot Springs, Yamaga Hot Springs, and Hitoyoshi Hot Springs. Visit and discover your favorite hot spring spot!For example, at Hitoyoshi, you can also stroll around the castle town or river raft down one of Japan’s fastest rivers, Kuma River. Travel there from Kumamoto using sightseeing trains like the limited express Isaburo or the SL Hitoyoshi, and you’ll get to take in all of the magnificent, vast nature from the train windows, as well as experience the workings and services of a unique train!Some famous Kumamoto dishes are Kumamoto ramen, which has a rich pork bone soup with garlic chips inside, horse sashimi, and lotus root with mustard. Another recommendation that you can only get here is taipien, which is a chicken bone soup packed with plenty of vegetables and glass noodles. It is also home to a wide variety of fruits: from watermelon and strawberries to citruses like mandarins and dekopon (sumo mandarins). If you come in the right season, make sure to give them a try! Shochu is usually made with wheat or potatoes, but Kuma shochu is actually made with rice, making it a must-try for alcohol lovers!For souvenirs, you can certainly purchase foods like ramen sets and candies, but it’s recommended to purchase goods that have illustrations of Kumamoto Prefecture’s mascot, Kumamon, instead!
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