The next part of our tour of Kyushu includes stops in Kumamoto and Kagoshima
The Seven Wonders of Kyushu: Part Two
This island has three World Cup venues, myriad attractions across its seven prefectures and a host of matsuri festival events. Take a tour of Kumamoto and Kagoshima…
For more travel information visit welcomekyushu.com/rugby2019
Mount Aso is an active volcano that has one of the largest calderas in the world. As well as viewing spots like Komezuka, Kusasenri and Shirakawa Suigen, Aso is also famous for Akaushi (Red beef).
It’s been almost three years since an earthquake hit Kumamoto and damaged the castle. Little by little, it’s being rebuilt and from October Kumamoto Castle will be partly open to the public, so you can see the renovated Main Tower close up.
You’ll find lots of places to dine and shop in Jyosaien, next to the castle, and take the tram from the city to Suizenji Park, a beautiful Japanese garden.
Just 80 minutes by car from the city of Kumamoto, you have a 98% chance of seeing dolphins. Take a boat trip from Amakusa, where you can watch around 200 wild dolphins.
To celebrate the World Cup, 40 festivals from the Kyushu region and Yamaguchi Prefecture have organised Matsuri in Kyushu on 28-29 September in Kumamoto City (matsuri.welcomekyushu.com). Enjoy a smorgasbord of the area’s top matsuri festivals and cuisine during this one-off weekend event. Think of it as a ‘best of’ all in one place and soak up all the local cultural traditions.
At the Kumamoto Castle Festival (12-13 October) there are martial art displays and at night bamboo lanterns cast reflections in the water.
The Namino Kagura Festival – a dancing event – takes place on 5 October. You can watch performances at the open-air stage of Michinoeki Namino Kaguraen.
The big entertainment areas are around the Kamitori and Shimotori shopping arcades. If you want to discover more of Kumamoto, head to backstreets like Kaminoura or Shower. The izakayas in traditional kominka houses are well worth a visit, as are the local beer halls.
If you want a luxurious meal, head to a ryotei (upmarket restaurant). For more budget-friendly options, try Kumamoto ramen, Akaushi donburi or karashi renkon (mustard lotus roots) over beers and the renowned Kuma Shochu.
WORLD CUP MATCHES
Sun 6 Oct – France v Tonga
Sun 13 Oct – Wales v Uruguay
FOR MORE ON KYUSHU…
The first steps on our tour of Kyushu…
The historic samurai town of Izumi is a preserved district in Japan and you can take an ox-cart ride through the streets. It’s 30 minutes from Kumamoto by train and the Izumi-Fumoto History Museum displays the weapons and armour used by old warriors.
In Kagoshima Bay you’ll find Sakurajima, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and the symbol of Kagoshima. You can take a ferry to the island, where you can hike,
have a foot bath or enjoy the onsens.
Senganen Garden, founded in 1658, is a landscaped garden on the coast north of Kagoshima – and the scenery is boosted with a backdrop of Sakurajima and Kagoshima Bay. The garden itself includes ponds, streams, shrines and a bamboo grove. You can also try on samurai armour.
To commemorate the act of a clan leader who broke through enemy lines in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, castle warriors began travelling to Myoenji Temple to pay their respects. The ceremony, Myoenjimairi, is now one of the three biggest festivals in Kagoshima. It takes place on 26-27 October.
Take a journey back in time with the festival’s Warriors’ Procession, a parade where people dress in samurai costumes, and the Saibun Sojo, an address to the gods.
The Ibusuki Onsen Festival (26-27 September) has a long history that started after World War Two. Citizens worship at the Yunogongen Shrine to give thanks for the onsen and to pray it will last forever. Enjoy hanya odori dancing and fireworks.
The Izumi Machi Terrace Festival holds the Guinness World Record for the largest display of lanterns in one venue (55,434), set in 2016. This year’s festival runs from 1-3 November and features a bamboo lantern competition. Taiwan’s Dragon Lantern – 15m long and 6m high – will also be on display.