Kumamoto 熊本: Kumamon, Kumamoto Castle and Suizenji Garden

By Cubie - June 15, 2019

First item on my to-do list was to sort out my bus tickets for the coming days, so my first stop was to the Kumamoto Kōtsū Center Bus Terminal (熊本交通センター). After sorting out the tickets, I crossed over to Sun Road Shinshigai Shopping Arcade to find my lunch destination. The hostel host recommended 2 ramen shops - Akanoren and Kokutei. According to her, both serve local flavour ramen. She likes Akanoren and Kokutei is a very famous shop. I headed towards Akanoren but it wasn't open, looks like only open from dinner to late. So Kokutei it is.

Kokutei Ramen (黑亭)
Getting here by tram: Hanabatacho (9)

I went to the branch on Shimotori Arcade, a long shopping strip that goes on for a few blocks. Kokutei at this branch is located at the basement. Ordering and paying via a vending machine and passing the tab to a service staff.

No prize in guessing which one I ordered - Tamagoiri ramen, ¥900. I opted for two fresh egg yolks, or you could also swapped it for soft boiled egg.

Hello cholesterol!

Getting here by tram: Suidocho (12)

KUMAMON Square is located in Tetoria Kumamoto Building (East Building of Tsuruya Department Store). This is where you can meet the square's sales manager, Kumamon. There is a timetable posted up on their website of Kumamon's whereabouts. He is usually available in his office at 3.00PM. Just so happened that by the time I finished lunch and strolled there, it was still pretty early. I didn't want to hover around till 3PM or backtracked when I was circling Kumamoto Castle, so I missed meeting Kumamon. Don't be like me, go see him ok!

Sales manager out of office
I continue my stroll along the shopping strip and picked up some snacks on my way towards Kumamon Castle.

There was some sort of market and I spotted fresh ichigo daifuku on sale. There were options of red or white bean. I chose the one with red bean. I was a fair bit away from the stall when I had a bite, it was so good that I was still nearby, I would've bought another one right way.

Ichigo daifuku, ¥170
To console myself because I didn't have a second daifuku, I bought another snack. This is a version of taiyaki but in the form of kumamon, maybe it is called kumamon-yaki? I bought the one with seasonal filling of red bean with mochi. It is like oshiruko but dried version! It wasn't too sweet so was good but could be because of the small portion.

Kumamon-yaki, ¥170

Kumamoto Castle (熊本城, Kumamoto-jō)
Getting here by tram: Kumamoto Castle/City Hall (10)

Kumamoto Castle is one of the three famous castles in Japan's top 3. The other two are Nagoya Castle and Osaka Castle. Unfortunately, the castle was seriously damaged in the Kyushu earthquake in 2016. I stayed 2 nights in Kumamoto, 15th and 16th April, exactly 3 years after the earthquake.  Currently the inner grounds remain closed to public but it is still possible to circle the castle from outside.

Katō Shrine (加藤神社, Katō-jinja)
Getting here by tram: 9 minutes walk from Kumamoto Castle/City Hall (10)
Entrance fee: Nil

Katō Shrine is where Kato Kiyomasa, lord of Kumamoto in the late-14th to early 15th centuries is enshrined. This feudal lord designed Kumamoto Castle which was constructed in the early 1600s.

Sakura-no-baba Johsaien (桜の馬場 城彩苑)

The name means cherry blossom riding grounds and is located at the bottom of Kumamoto Castle. There's a cultural centre "Wakuwaku-za" located here, as well as many restaurants and souvenir shops along Sakuranokoji Shopping Arcade.

As the day was still early when I left the Kumamoto Castle grounds and I had a 1-day tram pass, I made my way to Suizenji Jojuen Park.

Suizenji Garden (水前寺成趣園, Suizenji Jōjuen)
Getting here by tram: Suizenji Park (18)
Entrance fee: ¥400

This spacious Japanese style landscape garden was built by the Hosokawa family in the 17th centry, over 3 successive feudal lords and took about 80 years to complete. Jojuen was said to be named after a character in a poem written by Tao Yuanming. The fresh springs in the garden flows from Mt. Aso via underground currents.

The layout of the garden represents the 53 stations of old Tokaido highway from Kyoto to Tokyo. One of the most recognisable landscape of the garden is the miniature Mount Fuji.

Suizenji is also a favourite spot for cherry blossom viewing but by the time I was there, the petals were on the ground barred a few. A bit like I stepped to the ground after Byakuya had his bankai. [insert hashtag dramatic]

After that I returned to Shimotori Arcade for dinner. In my midst of contemplating of what to eat, I was too late to grab discounted cooked meals at the basement of a supermarket. I ended up grabbing a cream cheese teriyaki burger from MOS Burger, ¥390 before returning to the hostel to check-in.

Side note: Detective Conan, episode 720-721 (Kumamoto part episode 721)

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  1. Very nice! I didn't realize Suizenji is so pretty ... now it's on my list of to-dos for Kumamoto.

  2. It was a good stroll too. Maybe because I went later in the evening, there were not a lot of people as well.