Kumamoto Castle is located in Kumamoto City, the capital city of Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu. It is regarded as one of the three best castles in Japan together with Himeji Castle and Nagoya Castle. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged by the earthquake of 2016. But while they are rebuilding the castle, it is still worth visiting the vicinity because of Josaien Kumamoto Castle Town. This travel guide will show you what to expect from a visit!
Josaien is an area close to the Kumamoto Castle. It is a complex of shops, a museum, and restaurants. Its official name is Sakura-no-Baba Josaien, ‘sakura’ meaning ‘cherry’. Though the castle is under restoration, you can enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms around the castle area. Baba means a place of horseback riding, so the area was once used for the castle’s horses. ‘Josai’ means ‘to showcase the castle’. This means you can gain more understanding of the castle and its history if you visit here.
The buildings in Josaien represent the castle town during the feudal time. This is why you will feel a bit like you time-traveled back to the samurai period!
Wakuwakuza is a museum where you can learn about Kumamoto Castle in many ways. There is a VR theater on the second floor where you can see 3D images of the castle before it got damaged by the earthquake. You can learn about the castle’s history, the role of the castle, defensive features, etc through the video.
On the first floor, there is a white outline of the castle which is a screen for projection mapping. It shows the moment of the earthquake. You will see how the castle construction was damaged through this beautiful show.
There are exhibitions and photo spots, and you are allowed to take pictures in the museum. There is a place where you can take pictures pretending that you are wearing samurai armor. You don’t have to actually wear it, but you just have to stand behind the setting while wearing a helmet.
Shops and Restaurants
There are 23 shops in Josaien where they sell all kinds of local products and souvenirs. The mascot character of Kumamoto Prefecture is Kumamon, a cute black bear. In Japan, many prefectures and cities have their own mascot characters and Kumamon may be the most popular one among them. You can find many products that feature Kumamon at the shops.
You can try the Kumamoto local food in the restaurants of Josaien. Taipinen is a typical noodle soup from Kumamoto in which glass noodles are served in a soup made with seafood, pork, and vegetables. The spicy lotus root dish is also very delicious.
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Access: From Kumamoto Station (JR Line), take a bus to the Sakurano Baba Josaien (桜の馬場城彩苑) stop or take a streetcar to the Kumamotojo-Shiyakushomae (熊本城・市役所前) stop
Entrance fee (Wakuwakuza): Adults (over 15) 300 yen / Children 100 yen
Hours (Wakuwakuza): 9 am – 5.30 pm