Kumamoto Castle – Long Standing and Beautiful
Kumamoto Castle is one of the most famous and lively time capsules in Japan - and rightly so. Visit one of the longest standing castles and discover its rich history!
Kumamoto Prefecture is located in the south of Japan on Kyushu Island. It is famous for its nature, its stunning views and Kumamoto Castle.
Kumamoto Castle was constructed on the orders of civil engineer Kiyomasa Kato at the beginning of the 17th century. Construction work continued for seven years and the result was the grand castle we see today. It is a magnificent piece of architecture with an approximated area of 980,000 m2. Furthermore, within the castle grounds – spanning about 5.3km in circumference – there are 2 castle towers, 49 turrets, 18 turret gates and 29 castle gates.
Want more castles? Check our article on Japan Castles – the 15 Best Japanese Castles
About Kumamoto Castle
Kumamoto Castle is also known as Ginnan (gingko) Castle due to the large ginkgo tree in the park between the Large Castle Tower and the Honmaru Goten Palace. This huge ginkgo tree is said to have been planted by Kiyomasa Kato himself, who ordered that trees be planted on the castle grounds to provide fruits or nuts to inhabitants in the event of a siege. Kiyomasa Kato foresaw the upheaval that would shake the region during the 1877 Seinan Civil War, a war that would see many bloody battles fought at the castle.
Parts of the castle, including the Main Tower, were destroyed in 1877 but restored in 1960. The stone walls, however, have stood the test of time and remain original. Built to repel samurai and ninja, they have earned the title of “warrior repellent” (Mushagaeshi 武者返し).
Today, the castle is well known for the cherry blossoms and autumn foliage that each year create a wonderful contrast against the imposing castle. From around the end of March to the beginning of April around 800 cherry trees bloom into life, there pink and white petals creating a fantastic atmosphere around the castle complex. At night, illuminations throw light onto the castle and its surroundings, enhancing the magical views of the structure.
Further Info and Events
The 2016 earthquake in Kumamoto Prefecture caused extensive damage to the castle, requiring the city to step in to restore large parts. The restoration will most probably continue for several decades, the process of rebuilding the stone walls just as they were being a painstaking one. More information on the earthquake damage and the reconstruction can be found in the Japan Times article here.
There are several events throughout the year held at and around Kumamoto Castle. Some of the best ones are listed below – take a look:
Nighttime illuminations are especially popular in spring, granting everyone a pretty view of the cherry blossoms and the castle more generally. Illuminations are held throughout the year, however: Once in March/April for the cherry blossoms, once in summer around July/August and for Golden Week at the end of April.
See the official page here for more details on the event and access.
2. Omotenashi Samurai Team
In the latter half of July and August, be shown around the castle and learn its history from a group of samurai and castle dwellers. This band of costumed enthusiasts provide a unique insight into the castle’s rich history, are happy to pose for photos and also perform dances and other forms of entertainment from bygone eras. Interested? Find them around the castle’s gate.
For exact information and times, check the official page here for more details.
3. Moon Viewing Night
The moon viewing festival, or chushu no meigetsu in Japanese, is held at Kumamoto Castle somewhere around mid to late September. Aside from gazing at the moon, participate in an open-air tea ceremony and enjoy traditional Japanese music performances. It is a great event but be warned, it can be quite crowded with tourists and local visitors. The bulk of the events take place in the open space in front of the Main Castle Towers and O-Hiroma Main Hall of Honmaru Goten Palace.
For exact information and updates on the event date, check the official page here.
4. Oshiro Matsuri (spring and autumn)
The Oshiro Matsuri (お城祭り Castle Festival) is held bi-annually in spring and autumn at Kumamoto Castle. The festival takes place mainly around Ninomaru Park and the Honmaru Goten Palace on the castle grounds where you’ll find a whole host of special events and food stalls. The festival fun pervades the town, making it a great time of year to visit.
More on the Oshiro matsuri on the official page here.
Mon – Sun
March – November 08.30 am – 06.00 pm (last admission: 5.30 pm)
December – February 08.30 am – 05.00 pm (last admission: 4.30 pm)
closed 12/29th – 12/31st
adult 500 yen
child 200 yen (up to junior high school)
Find the best access to Kumamoto Castle from either of these two stations:
Kumamoto Shiyakusho Mae Station (8 min walk to the castle) – Kumamoto Shiden A and Kumamoto Shiden B trams stop here.
Fujisakigu Mae Station (11 min walk to the castle) – Kumamoto-Dentetsu Fujisaki Line.