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Kumamoto

Towards the end of the bullet train track in Kyushu sits Kumamoto. You may recognise this city's name as it is famed for having one of Japan’s official top 3 castles. Despite the devastating earthquake in April 2016 affecting this beautiful Edo-period (1603 - 1868) structure, leaving some parts in need of reconstruction and consequently limiting its opening hours, it’s arguably still worth a visit to see the remaining parts of the original building and its historic turrets.

Another draw of this city is its beauty in the spring, for it is one of Japan’s best cherry blossom ‘sakura’ viewing spots. There are said to be 800 cherry blossom trees planted around the grand castle’s grounds, plus, you can also find hundreds of them in the south hugging the Yatsushiro Sea coast. Also known as the Minamata Cherry Line, this is a particularly scenic area and makes for a stunning drive.

While you are here, we recommend taking a stroll in Suizenji Garden with its meticulously manicured foliage and arched stone bridges to get a taste of Japan’s splendid landscape gardens. For more cultural insights, visit the atmospheric hot spring ‘onsen’ town of Kurokawa nearby, which makes for a fascinating day trip.

If you are feeling adventurous, the dormant caldera of Mount Aso can also be reached from Kumamoto. Captured in the James Bond film ‘The Living Daylights’, this active volcano is heralded by some as the largest crater in the world and is certainly an arresting sight to behold in the flesh. The landmark is so impressive that Kumamoto is referred to as ‘Hi No Kuni’ by some, meaning ‘Fire Country’.

Thanks to its rich nature, Kumamoto is the ideal place to taste gourmet Japanese cuisine. A wealth of great-quality food is served here, from juicy fruits and vegetables to fine Wagyu beef and fresh seafood.

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