• TOKYO
  • KUMAMOTO

THE ABDITORY

New discoveries await in the nostalgic shopping district of Yanesen, where the atmosphere of Tokyo’s old Shitamachi remains. In Kumamoto is Japan’s foremost hot spring destination, Uchimaki Onsen, a hot spring paradise where you can experience springs of different water qualities. Discover its charm.

Official Tokyo Travel Guide
http://www.gotokyo.org/en/

Local government official website
http://kumanago.jp/en/

TRAVELER

  • Traveled : August, 2017 Margaux
    Reside in Paris, France
  • Traveled : August, 2017 Jordy Meow
    Reside in Tokyo
    Home country: FRENCH

Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport

JAL046 Examine the directions from your country

  • Margaux

    I enjoyed a splendid flight by Japan Airlines from Paris to Tokyo. The flight attendants was polite and amiable, and I were delicious meals Even in economy class with its wide seats, I slept soundly.

Haneda Airport

Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Day1

TOKYO

YanakaGinza(Shopping Street)/Nezu-jinja Shrinemore

RECOMMENDED DESTINATIONS

Collectively known as Yanesen, taking the first syllable of each of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi, these locations are filled with the atmosphere of the traditional shitamachi neighborhoods in Tokyo. YanakaGinza(Shopping Street) allows visitors to catch a glimpse of old Japan. Popular for its cherry blossoms, Yanaka-reien cemetery is one of the many perfect places for a stroll in any season. It was also a place well-loved by many literary masters. If you decide to cross the hill road and go through the mazelike alleyways, you will definitely encounter retro scenes of Tokyo as if you’ve gone on a time trip to the “good old days”. Why not escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolis and have a traditional Tokyo experience in Yanesen?

  • Margaux

    Lovely streets to wander around. It is lined with many charming cafes and shops! It is the perfect area for a stroll and having a cup of coffee after shopping. You will probably even be able to find splendid souvenirs!

    I found the atmosphere in the restaurant “Tenmasa” to be very pleasant, and thanks to the private rooms, I was able to enjoy a quietly meal. I particularly liked the crispy, tender, and delicious vegetable tempura placed on top of rice.

  • Jordy Meow

    I always love this area. As it was mostly unharmed during the firebombings in World War II, there are many buildings and temples from Edo Period. The residents of this area are also willing to keep its ancient atmosphere and hopefully this will be carried on over the years.

    Our first lunch at Tenmasa was really pleasant. It is a tempura shop with really friendly owners, and the tempura was delicious! It was ideal as a first lunch and relatively light.

JR Yamanote Line
Nishinippori Station→Komagome Station
5 minutes / 140 yen

Rikugien Gardensmore

These gardens were constructed by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu on land given to him in 1695 by Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the fifth shogun of the Edo bakufu. Yoshiyasu spent seven years constructing a garden with paths around artificial hills and a pond. As the land was part of the flat Musashino region, when building the gardens he had to dig a pond, create hills, and bring in water from the Senkawa water supply to fill the pond.

  • Margaux

    Located in the center of the city, this was a perfect place to stop for a rest. Do not hesitate to stop at the beautiful bridges, where you can see turtles and fish.
    It was an unforgettable experience as I enjoyed tea and sweets at the tea shop in the garden.

  • Jordy Meow

    Rikugien gardens are as old as the Nezu Shrine. It has actually 88 viewpoints which are based on popular Japanese poems. The sunshine casts beautiful shadows on the pine trees. Those gardens are beautiful but are even more enjoyable during autumn; some might find them even more breathtaking in winter when it's covered by a thick layer of snow.

Tokyo Metro Namboku Line
Komagome Station→Iidabashi Station
9 minutes / 170 yen

Kagurazakamore

Kagurazaka-dori is said to have taken its present form during the Edo period. Sakai Tadakatsu built his residence around Yarai given by Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1633. Kagurazaka took shape after developing the road to the castle for the Tairo (chief minister).
There are several shops that were founded in the Edo period, as well as more than 10 stores from the Meiji and Taisho periods. While the buildings may be difficult to find as they have been renovated, try to do by looking at the names and ambiance for clues.

  • Margaux

    This neighborhood is called the French quarter, because of its many European style restaurants serving French and other cuisines. It is an extremely lively district and absolutely worthwhile to stroll on these beautiful narrow streets enclosed by broad roadways.

    Girogiro is a fantastic restaurant. You can watch your dishes being prepared over the counter, and the special monthly course allows you to enjoy a variety of dishes one by one. So if you want a counter seat, I recommend that you go early or reserve one. Each course is beautifully displayed on its plate. Every dish from the side dishes to the desert was refined and as I tried each one I felt as if a spell had been cast over me.

  • Jordy Meow

    Kagurazaka is an upper class area in the heart of Tokyo, close to Iidabashi, with lots of restaurants, dwellings of geishas loitering around and… French people! Hence, Kagurazaka is sometimes called the Little France of Tokyo. The French Institute can be found there but most French people used to live in this area for its international French school.

    Guiloguilo was an amazing dining experience. It's all omakase (only one-menu reviewed monthly) and even it is based on traditional Japanese food, and it is executed and served beautifuly. This restaurant is a very special and perfect introduction to kaiseiki (traditional multi-course Japanese dinner) without being too much of a shock, especially for a freshly arrived foreigner. I have been living in Japan for 10 years but I wish I knew this restaurant earlier.

Namboku Line
Iidabashi Station → Todaimae Station
About 5 minutes / 170 yen

From Todaimae Station on the Namboku Line
About 15 minutes on foot

Ryokan Sawanoya

  • Margaux

    The Sawanoya Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn. In this family run lodging house, guests are greeted just like they are family members, creating a very relaxed mood. Although in the center of the city, it is in a quiet residential neighborhood that is the perfect place for a relaxed and peaceful stay. Each guest room is extremely comfortable and provides floor mattresses, air-conditioning and tea, and a key point is the private baths that allow guests to relax in overwhelming stillness.

  • Jordy Meow

    The Ryokan Sawanoya is located in the center of Nezu. You are welcomed by locals and hosted as if you were locals. This is a traditional inn but also a very affordable one, especially considering that it is in Tokyo. The bathroom inside is private and for foreigners not used to Japan or traveling in couple, that can be a nice advantage. Don't forget to get a beer after the bath and don't hesitate to wander in the streets of Nezu. This is a magical experience.

Day2

KYUSHU(KUMAMOTO)

Haneda Airport

JAL(Japan Explorer Pass) Show details

  • Margaux

    ”Soraben” is a type of box lunch sold at the airport so that you eat their contents whenever you like. These kinds of lunch boxes are available at places such as railway stations and in airports. I tried out rice topped off with salmon and with salmon roe. It was fresh and delicious, and the perfect light snack.

    Japanese airports are very easy for foreigners to use, and provide thorough guidance to every traveler as they arrive. When I visited Japan, I could travel all over the country using its domestic air services. JAL flights are always on time, and every section from first class to economy class is comfortable.

  • Jordy Meow

    I usually never get excited about boarding planes but the trip to Kumamoto is not only a very short one but we also decided to try out breakfast aboard with a "soraben." Bento is the traditional home-packed meal you usually bring for lunch when you work in Japan, "ekiben" is the one I usually get when I take the shinkansen (eki means station) so I was surprised that a soraben also exists (sora means sky). At Haneda, there is a large choice of them and as we were going south, I decided to try a soraben from Hokkaido, with ikura (salmon roe), uni (sea urchin) and crab, for a total of less than ¥1,000. The flight was perfect this way.

    All the flights with JAL were extremely comfortable. There is much more space in those planes than in the ones I've experienced before. We arrived at Kumamoto Airport very excited by the fact the weather was great and everything looked so green from the plane. We stayed in Kumamoto Airport for a little while waiting for a bus towards the Aso area, buying presents and trying a few local dishes and sweets.

Aso Kumamoto Airportmore

Situated 20km east of Kumamoto City, Aso Kumamoto Airport sits atop the Takayubaru Plateau on the western side of the Aso outer rim mountains. The airport lies within the municipalities of Mashiki (Kamimashiki District), Kikuyo (Kikuchi District), Ozu (Kikuchi District), and Nishihara Village (Aso District). There are few houses around the airport – instead you’ll find many farms, golf courses, and natural forests. With the smoky Aso volcano visible to the east, and faraway Mt. Unzen visible to the west, Kumamoto Airport occupies a truly scenic location in beautiful Kumamoto Prefecture.

Kyushu Sanko bus Yamabiko-go
Aso Kumamoto Airport→Aso Station
About 70 minutes / 980 yen

Kyushu Sanko bus
Aso Ekimae→Daikanbo Iriguchi
About 35 minutes / 550 yen

Walk
25 minutes

Daikanbomore

It is one of the peaks on the northern outer rim mountains northeast of Uchinomaki Onsen. Once known as ”Tomigahana,” it was renamed Daikanbo after Uchinomaki mayor Kojima made a request to the great writer Tokutomi Soho in 1922. The view of Aso Gogaku and the Kuju mountain is fantastic, and the view of the mountains when they emerge from a sea of clouds is par excellence. Aso Gogaku from here is called ”Nehanzo” because of its appearance of a Buddha in repose. From the observation deck, you can see the cityscape of Aso, pick up some souvenirs, and have a bite to eat. It is also a spot for star gazing.

  • Margaux

    I will probably never forget how moved I was by the sight of the paddy fields and dry farm fields as I passed through the suburbs of Kumamoto. I was delighted as I watched the never-ending greenery passing by my bus window as I traveled.

    When my bus reached the peak of a mountain, I breathlessly gazed on sublime scenery. I viewed the towns of Aso and their vast farm fields, and saw five mountain peaks that resemble the shape of a sleeping Buddha.

    Mt. Aso is one of the world’s largest caldera and includes many craters. Formerly a crater, Kusasenrigahama is located close to the volcano and volcano museum and is the best place to view the scenery from among the mountains. On clear days, visitors can try out horseback riding to enjoy its verdant surroundings.

  • Jordy Meow

    We drove towards the volcano of Aso and appreciated the difference between the sweet hilly grasslands at the bottom and the rocky volcanic shapes at the top. The ascension to the volcano is currently closed, but you can enjoy a walk or a horse ride in the plain of Kusa-Senrigahama.

    As Aso-Daikanbo is the highest peak around, this is the best spot to enjoy the largest caldera in the world! There were many photographers and tourists on the spot.

    Kusa-Senrigahama are grasslands at the foot of Mount Aso. As it was not possible to visit the mountain due to eruptions, the Kusa-Senrigahama allowed us to get a bit closer. For those who have a lot of time, it's the perfect place to have a stroll or to ride horses.

Kyushu Sanko-Bus
Daikanbo Iriguchi→Uchinomaki Onsen Iriguchi
Etwa 20 Minuten / 380 Yen

Walk
5 minutes

Uchinomaki Onsen
more

RECOMMENDED DESTINATIONS

The city of Aso is renown for its top-quality hot springs with abundant water. Among them is Uchinomaki Onsen, the classic hot spring town with more than 20 hotels and inns. It is famous as a hot spring resort where great writers and others have stayed. The spring water is clear and a little hot, but drinkable. It is a must-see spot when sightseeing in Aso, and many travelers use it place as a base for their sightseeing. A tour of public baths called ”Machiyu” is particularly popular. There are 6 ”Machiyu” baths which locals use for relaxation.

  • Margaux

    In Japan, many people visit hot springs. Normal hot springs cannot be privately booked by a single group and bathers must be naked to enter the baths (men and women bathe in separate sections.) This is considered perfectly natural by the Japanese so it does not bother them. Here, you can enjoy a very unique and splendid hot spring experience that I heartily recommend you try out when you feel tired.

    The town of Aso features a splendid shopping district with a French bakery, restaurants and bars.

  • Jordy Meow

    The rotenburo (outdoor bath) on the roof of the hotel is perfect: it offers views of a big part of the caldera. Rice fields lovers will be totally amazed! We went back at night and I stayed one hour there to enjoy the stars and could even see the milky way.

    There is an old and magical atmosphere in the Uchinomaki Shopping Street. The day we went, most of the shops were closed and it was really quiet. This fact really added interesting vibes of mystery. This gigantic chair felt like it was there on a purpose, looking at us. Or maybe looking towards the shrine, so we went there to have a look. We couldn't find any answer, but only felt overwhelmed by the atmosphere. We also visited a bakery in which we had delicious ice cream.

Day3

Uchinomaki Onsen
(Aso Plaza Hotel)

Kyushu Odan bus
Uchimaki (Kadoman Mae)→Kumamoto Kotsu Center
About 2 hours / 1,700 yen

Walk
10 minutes

Kumamoto Castlemore

Kumamoto Castle, one of Japan's three great castles, was started by Kato Kiyomasa in 1601, with the construction lasting seven years. The castle is also known as Ginnanjo (Ginkgo Castle). It is a truly grand and magnificent castle of approximately 980,000 m2, and within the castle grounds, which have a circumference of about 5.3 km (as originally built), there are three towers, 49 turrets, 18 turret gates, and 29 castle gates. The unique castle structure makes use of ishigaki stone walls and natural landforms that give it its beautiful curves. Katsu Kaishu once stated, “there are no other castles like this castle,” praising its intimidating size and height.
During the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, the castle demonstrated its value as an impregnable fortress by fending off the Satsuma army led by Saigo Takamori for 50 days, but a mysterious fire the day before the main attack left only 12 towers including the Uto Turret standing. The present castle tower was rebuilt by Kumamoto City in 1960 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Kato Kiyomasa and the 70th anniversary of the municipality. It is famous as a cherry blossom spot, with 600 Yamazakura, Higo, and Yoshino cherry trees that attract more than 100,000 people when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The park is open at night where they reflect off the lit up castle. The cherry blossoms bloom from late March to early April. The Honmaru Goten, completed in 2008, further adds to the castle’s allure.

  • Margaux

    This is a historical building in Kumamoto City, but the giant earthquakes of 2016 destroyed most of it. Despite this, it is still worthwhile going to see it when you visit Kumamoto City. It is now possible to watch the castle reconstruction work. There is a delightful museum on the grounds where you can learn about the history of the site.

    This restaurant is in a small market at the entrance to the castle. It is a large place with private rooms equipped with air-conditioners. The chicken used to make this soup is top quality and really delicious. This is the perfect place to end your tour of Kumamoto castle.

  • Jordy Meow

    The Kumamoto Earthquake of 2016 hit the castle pretty hard. I actually didn't realize it until I went this time. The castle is planning to open again in 2019 if everything goes well. Until then, we can walk around it. Surprisingly, it is the structure that was never ever renovated nor rebuilt that withstood the effects of the earthquake the best.

    After a visit of Kumamoto Castle, we stopped by the restaurant called Ginnan in Josai-en (an area at the entrance of Kumamoto Castle). It was a Kumamoto traditional meal with a chicken soup and local fresh vegetables. Thought it looked pretty simple, all the ingredients and food were really delicious.

Kumamoto City Tram
Kumamoto Castle / City Hall→Kumamoto Station
About 20 minutes / 170 yen

JR Misumi Line
Kumamoto Station→Misumi Station
52 minutes / 740 yen

  • Margaux

    Being able to return by train on schedule was an astonishing experience. The interior of the train is elegant and refined. The view from the train windows is beautiful, particularly where it nears the seashore. Trying out the drinks sold by the bar is worthwhile.

  • Jordy Meow

    This relatively new train is an upgrade of an old and elegant one. The interiors are really comfy and we had a blast. The "A" means Amakusa, which is the final destination of this train and where we were going next. We ordered whisky highballs, took photos, and watched the landscapes and seascapes passing by while listening to jazz music. The A-Train is a wonderful experience!

Walk
5 minutes

Amakusa Takarajima Line (boat)
Misumi Port→Matsushima Port
About 17 minutes / 900 yen

Dolphin watching (sea cruise)more

Approximately 200 dolphins inhabit the northern part of Futae Bay, called the Hayasaki Seto straight, where you can see them up close in the wild. Dolphins have a easygoing character and their curiosity makes them very friendly as they wait for the sounds of fishing boat engines before coming closer.

  • Margaux

    I am sure that nobody, no matter how old they are, forget the astonishment they feel during this unique experience. After enjoying the scenery while traveling for about 45 minutes in the boat, I suddenly noticed that we were surrounded by dolphines. The dolphines played and jumped around the boat. At the same time as I was able to safely see about 200 dolphines that live in this region, it was a valuable experience to see this many dolphines.

  • Jordy Meow

    With the fresh summer breeze and under a blue sky, we headed towards the spot where the dolphins are supposed to be, one hour away from the shore. Once we arrived, we got so excited: there were many dolphins there swimming around the boats, and jumping around happily! It was a delight and a little bit of a challenge to take nice photos of them. As the sun started to set, we headed back towards the port extremely satisfied.

Hotel's courtesy car

Amakusa Nagisatei

  • Margaux

    At this hotel located by the sea, you can get relaxed in the middle of nature.
    On terraces attached to each of its spacious fully equipped guest rooms, guests can enjoy drinks and the hot spring. They can also relax in the hotel’s common bath.
    Its evening meals of seafood dishes served in its rooms are refined and delicious.

  • Jordy Meow

    This Ryokan goes beyond the boundaries of the word amazing! My room had a private onsen and a terrace that felt like it was right on the sea. From there, I could see islands and both sunset and sunrise.

Day4

Amakusa Nagisatei

Matsushima → Hondoko
35 minutes / 1,300 yen

  • Margaux

    During a half-hour cruise on the beautiful white boat, you can partake of elegant, fresh, and refined sweets as you watch the beautiful white sandy beach from their benches.
    You can also enjoy longer cruises including lunch.

    This sushi shop stands unobtrusively on a narrow street, but you must visit it. Some people have designated it as one of Japan’s top three sushi shops. Sushi eaten while looking over the fish displayed in the full view of the sushi chefs is an unbeatable delight. The sushi made by the chefs on your order will seem to melt in your mouth. Its sea urchin eggs are really tasty.

    The Amakusa Christian Academy established by Amakusa City is a place to learn about the history of Christianity in Japan. During one short visit you can encounter a variety of historical documents and learn the truth about past events.

  • Jordy Meow

    The sweets cruise ship is extremely elegant and classy and I would have enjoyed the cruise even without anything other than admiring the scenery and the beautiful bridges we got to see. However, the sweets were excellent and light at the same time. I would definitely come back here!

    Amakusa, being far away from big cities, I was not expecting to go to a really nice restaurant there. But Yako Sushi prove me wrong. Not only were the two sushi chefs really friendly, but the quality of the sushi really surprised me. It started with delicious uni (sea urchin) with the rice that was slighlty warm. The whole thing just melted on my tongue as soon as it touched. The most unbelievable thing is that all the sushi gave me the same feeling, they were all so tender and tasty. I didn't know half of the fish I got to taste and I would love to go again to study the ingredients and enjoy it one more time. It is said that someone have ranked this sushi restaurant as one of the top 3 in Japan.

    When we explored Amakusa, we didn't get the feeling that the area has any particular importance historical significance. It is way too quiet and far from the city that it didn't come to our mind that there could have been a major battle here that every Japanese person knows about. We learned at the Amakusa Christian Museum about the first steps of Catholicism in Japan, their rebellion against the shogunate and the difficult life the believers had to endure.

[Amakusa Airport Shuttle Bus]
Hondo Bus Center (No. 3) → Amakusa Airport
15 minutes / 340 yen

Amakusa Airportmore

Amakusa Airport is located in the uplands of Amakusa Shimojima in the center of the Amakusa Islands, surrounded by the beautiful blue ocean in Unzen-Amakusa National Park. The airport is part of the sightseeing experience as a dramatic trip unfolds on a clear day with Shimabara Peninsula and Kumamoto City in the distance.
Amakusa Airport is a monument that sends information on Amakusa's wealth of nature and the warmth of its people. Amakusa Airlines' Dash 8 aircraft illustrated with mother and child dolphins.
The control station rising from the center of Amakusa Airport has a terminal tower style, and sends out quick and accurate information to aircraft to ensure their safety and efficiency, with its mission to make sure that all trips in the air are even safer.

JAL(Japan Explorer Pass) Show details

Fukuoka Airport

JAL(Japan Explorer Pass) Show details

Haneda Airport

  • Margaux

    I urge overseas tourists visiting Japan to travel to Kumamoto where they can take part in various activities, see the local scenery, and enjoy mysterious experiences. A visit to both Tokyo and Kumamoto is probably the best way to study the splendid culture of Japan.

  • Jordy Meow

    I had a wonderful trip with very good company (our two guides were really friendly and we had a lot of fun). Visiting only large cities in Japan is definitely not enough, there are so many things to do in the countryside that it is important to pick a specific area, such as Kumamoto, and spend a few days there, rather than quickly hopping to too many places and missing the experience of the real Japan.

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHER TRAVELERS

In Japan, I made many (re)discoveries through traditional culture and modern culture. I was particularly impressed by the grand natural scenery and delicious Japanese cuisine I experienced in Kumamoto.

Margaux
Influencer
Reside in Paris, France
  • Hobby

    Fashion, food, travel

  • Number of visits to Japan

    Once several years ago

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHER TRAVELERS

I was looking forward to that tour as I love Kumamoto area and shitamachi in Tokyo so basically, it is everything I love!

Jordy Meow
SOFTWARE ENGINEER / PHOTOGRAPHER
Reside in Tokyo
Home country: FRENCH
  • Hobby

    PHOTOGRAPHY / MUSIC / FOOD / ONSEN / JAPAN COUNTRYSIDE

  • Length of stay in Tokyo

    10 years

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