The capital of Kumamoto Prefecture, Kumamoto City is located at the heart of the island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan. It is the 15th largest Japanese city and is well known for being the site of Kumamoto Castle, one of the finest castles in all of Japan.
The city of Kumamoto was established around the same time that the Kumamoto Castle was built by Kato Kiyomasa. After his death, both were awarded to the Hosokawa clan by Tokugawa Ieyasu, but were returned under the rule of the Emperor during the Meiji Restoration Period. During the Satsuma Rebellion, the city became a pivotal battlefield between the soldiers of the Meiji government and the last remaining samurai, who, after failing to take control of Kumamoto Castle, were pushed further north and eventually defeated.
In 1945, at the height of World War II, Kumamoto City was heavily damaged during an air raid but like the rest of the country, was able to rebuild itself and prosper towards the end of the 20th century.
Like the rest of Japan, Kumamoto City enjoys four distinct seasons, enjoying very warm subtropical temperatures at certain times of the year and having freezing temperatures in others. It also experiences heavy rainfall in June.
In ancient times, Kumamoto City thrived on rice cultivation, salt production, ironworks and sake production. Today, agriculture remains its main industry, which is mainly due to its abundant water supply, while the information technology and tourism sectors are also significant sources of income.
Apart from Kumamoto Castle, Kumamoto City boasts of the stunning 65-hectare Suizen-ji Gardens and the Hosokawa Residence, one of the best-preserved samurai mansions in the country. It is also home to the Shimada Museum of Art, which contains samurai artifacts, particularly those related to the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, as well as the Kumamoto Prefectural Art Museum which houses replicas of the elaborate kofuns that were excavated in the prefecture, and the Kumamoto Prefectural Traditional Crafts Center where visitors can learn more about the various Japanese crafts, including the Higo inlay, which Kumamoto is famous for, and the former residence of renowned Japanese writer Lafcadio Hearn.
There are also some pilgrimage sites in Kumamoto City, namely the Honmyo-ji Temple, which was built in honor of Kiyomasa and the Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine.
Mt. Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan and the town of Kuju, with its plentiful hot springs, including the famous Kurokawa Onsen, are also a short ride away.
In July, Kumamoto City celebrates the festival of its founder, Kato Kiyomasa, with children’s parades, while in September, it hosts the Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine Festival, also known as the Drunken Horse Festival because of the horses that are colorfully decorated, given alcohol and then paraded around the city. In October, the Kumamoto Castle festival is held on the castle grounds with cultural performances, concerts and archery exhibitions.
Kumamoto City is also the site for various public and private Japanese universities, the most famous of which is Kumamoto University, which is among the best in Japan.