First constructed over 400 years ago, Kumamoto Castle rises up on a hill in downtown Kumamoto City and is widely considered one of the archipelago’s best three Castles.
The imposing castle tower, the Udo turret, which has existed since its construction, and the Honmaru Goten, which was restored to glory in 2008, are just a few of the unique attributes of Kumamoto castle.
*As a result of the 2016 Kyushu earthquake, Kumamoto Castle is undergoing restoration.
The most impressive of all is the stone wall known as “Musha-gaeshi,” or the “return of the warrior. The warped shape symbolizes the solidity of a medieval fortress. Stepping inside the castle, one cannot help but gasp at its heroic and bold presence.
You can also see detailed ingenuity in many places. You could walk around Kumamoto Castle all day long and never run out of things to do. Even if you are not a castle lover, this is a place you should visit at least once.
How Long Does It Take To See Kumamoto Castle?
To enjoy Kumamoto Castle, you need at least an hour. If you tour the main highlights of the castle normally, it will take you two hours. If you want to fully enjoy the castle, it will take half a day or even a whole day. The vast castle is 5.3 km in circumference. It covers an area of 980,000 square meters.
When Was Kumamoto Castle Built?
Kumamoto castle was first built over 400 years ago between the Azuchi-Momoyama and the early Edo periods by Kiyomasa Kato, who, along with Takatora Todo and Nobufusa Baba, was nicknamed the “god of civil engineering.”
Kumamoto Castle is a flat mountain castle with an impressive 18 turrets and 29 gates.
The buildings we recommend checking out are the “Udo Yagura” (turret), “Honmaru Goten” (main building), and large and small “tenshukaku” (castle tower). The Udo Yagura, which miraculously stood since the castle was first constructed, rises above the 20-meter-high stonewall, symbolizing the impregnable and impregnable nature of Kumamoto Castle. It is the biggest and most impressive turret in the castle and survived the Civil War and siege during the Meiji restoration.
While the Udo Yagura is steeped in history, the Honmaru Goten is the most popular of all the buildings restored under the Kumamoto Castle Restoration and Improvement Project that began in 1998. Upon entering the palace, visitors will find the Odaisho and the Ooha-ma (large hall), both of which feature huge pillars.
Enjoy Panoramic Views From The Kumamoto Castle Keep
If you go to the trouble of visiting Kumamoto Castle, you should definitely climb up to the castle tower. In the past, a fee was charged in addition to the castle entrance fee, but now it is free of charge. Inside the castle tower is a branch of the Kumamoto City Museum, which exhibits items related to the Kato and Hosokawa families, who were lords of the Kumamoto domain, as well as materials related to the Civil War.
The main keep has three stories, six floors, and one basement floor, and the minor keep has two stories, four floors, and one basement floor. It was destroyed by fire during the Civil War but was reconstructed in 1960.
As with many castles built in this period, the stairs leading up within the keep are steep, and the walk to the top floor is a bit strenuous,
On the top floor, you will be reworded by an observatory where you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of Kumamoto City, which will make you forget your fatigued limbs from the climb. If it’s a clear day, you can even see the mountains of Aso in the distance.
The Elegant Stonework of Kumamoto Jo
The stonewalls are indispensable when talking about Kumamoto Castle. The bold and elaborate construction, known as “Kiyomasa-style stonework,” is a living testimony to the grandeur of the castle. The stonewalls are beautifully constructed in layers and are truly befitting of a castle that is impregnable.
In particular, the two types of stone walls that were the setting for the historical drama “Taiga Drama” show at a glance that they were built in different periods of time. The gently sloping stone walls are from the Kato family period. On the other hand, the stone wall with a steep slope was built during the Hosokawa family’s reign. The more the period passed, the more precise the masonry became.
If you look carefully at the stonewalls in the castle, you will find dozens of stones stamped with engravings. Some believe that these are the marks of the chieftains of the stonemasons who actually built the stonewalls. Kumamoto Castle has a lot to offer, even in the smallest details.
Viewing Kumamoto Castle At Night
It is also recommended to visit Kumamoto Castle at night when the castle keep and Honmaru Goten are lit up until 23:00 every night. The view of the castle in the evening is almost like a painting. Some hotels in the neighborhood also offer a view of the castle from their guest rooms.
In addition, a 242-meter long wall is located right in front of the Kumamoto City Hall. It is the longest remaining castle wall in all of Japan. The restoration and improvement project is still in progress.
Some turrets and walls are still under restoration, and bit by bit Kumamoto Castle is being returned to the appearance it had in its heyday.
Which Is The Best Way To Enter the Kumamoto Castle Compound?
Visitors can enter Kumamoto Castle through four gates: “Hohoate-gomon”, “Hazekatamon”, “Sudoguchimon”, and “Akazunomon”. If entering from the parking lot, it’s best to enter through the Hazekatagomon gate. Your best shot is to enter through the Hazekatagomon and Sudoguchimon gates if you arrive by tram.
What should I wear when visiting?
Kumamoto Castle is a large castle, so you need to walk around. Especially when you go to the main castle keep from Hazukata-mon gate or Sudokuchimon gate, you will have to climb up many stone steps, so slap on some footwear that is easy to walk in.
Also, when you enter Udo Yagura, you will have to climb up steep, narrow stairs, so leave the big bags in a locker or back at the hotel.
How long will it take to see Kumamoto Castle?
A The minimum time required is 60 minutes, and the normal time is at least 2 hours. If you want to soak up the charm of Kumamoto Castle but are pressed for time, we recommend that you enter the castle through the Chekado Gate, then walk to the Udo Tower, Honmaru Goten, Tenshukaku Tower.
There’s also a great park with amazing old trees that is a popular picnic spot. So we recommend leaving some time to enjoy it or even grabbing a bento for lunch in the park.
Where is the recommended viewing spot to see the whole castle?
If you want to view or get a photo of Kumamoto Castle in its entirety, the 14th floor of the Kumamoto City Hall is a great choice.