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KUMAMOTO
  • TOKYO
  • KUMAMOTO

WILDNESS & STILLNESS

Take a walk through a traditional Japanese garden at nature-rich Rikugi-en Garden, a strolling garden featuring manmade hills and a central pond, before heading off for a tour of Aso Volcano Crater, a uniquely Japanese natural locale with many different faces. See with your own eyes the grandeur and strength of nature.

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

Local government official website
https://kumamoto.guide/en/

TRAVELER

  • Traveled : November 2019 Ah-Fa Stephanie
    Freelance journalist
    Reside in France
  • Traveled : November 2019 Julien Loock
    Journalist
    Reside in Tokyo
    Home country: France

Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport

JAL Examine the directions from your country

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    JAL international flight: Economy class was very good with sufficient legroom. The meal was wonderful. The service was impeccable from the very helpful cabin attendants. The seat was comfortable. The large screen and the USB port, which allows you to charge your phone, were a real plus. The in-flight entertainment system had a full range of audio programs as well as new releases.

Haneda Airport

Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Day1

TOKYO

Rikugien Gardensmore

RECOMMENDED DESTINATIONS

Rikugien Gardens

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.

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Rikugien Garden: A small, but very beautiful park maintained with care offering a haven of tranquility right in the heart of the city. The leaves were just beginning to change into fall colors under a blue sky. The beauty of the park was very relaxing and pleasant.

  • Julien Loock

    Rikugien Garden: This garden, which is one of the nine historic gardens of Tokyo, is a must-see for visitors who love nature and Japanese landscape art. It's a masterpiece for garden lovers. The fall colors added a very pleasant note. The calm of the place allows visitors to stroll quietly and fully appreciate the landscape.

Train (JR)
20 minutes

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Lunch at Tsukishima Monja Moheji Ryogoku: The hearty monjayaki meal was served in a setting that transports you to a Sumo arena, especially with the many illustrations of sumotoris that adorn the restaurant's walls. The service was good. It's fun to watch the staff cook the monjayaki before your eyes.

  • Julien Loock

    Lunch at Tsukishima Monja Moheji Ryogoku: Until then, I had not really eaten monjayaki and I was very happy to be able to taste it at a specialized restaurant. There are many choices and the quality is there. The restaurant is warm and offers a Japanese setting to customers.

Sumida Hokusai Museummore

Sumida Hokusai Museum

Katsushika Hokusai, praised as a world-class artist, was born near Hokusai Dori in what is now known as Sumida Ward, and spent most of his 90-year life in the ward, leaving behind many excellent works.
In addition to showcasing Hokusai’s works, the museum conducts exhibitions and educational outreach projects with diverse themes that convey the relationship between Hokusai and Sumida in an easy-to-understand manner.

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Sumida Hokusai Museum: A museum with unique architecture. Most interesting of all was its modern and interactive side. Replicas of works from different Hokusai periods can be found in the permanent collection, while the playful and explanatory side of the touch screens enables visitors to better understand the ukiyo-e creation process. It was great to have everything explained in English.

  • Julien Loock

    Sumida Hokusai Museum: Hokusai was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist well known internationally. This museum pays perfect homage to him, featuring modern spaces and numerous works. The visitor can take advantage of the museum's interactivity to discover the works of Hokusai in detail.

Train
23 minutes

Tokyo City Viewmore

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View, situated in the heart of Tokyo, features an indoor observation gallery 250 meters above sea level and an outdoor Sky Deck 270 meters above sea level. It commands a view of landmarks such as Tokyo Tower and TOKYO SKYTREE, and on a clear day even Mt. Fuji. The Sky Deck is a special space open to the sky and breeze.

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Tokyo City View: Admire the magnificent view of Tokyo from the top of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, on the 52nd floor. Feel the wind directly on the open-air sky deck. I was able to enjoy the breathtaking view of Tokyo, which is exceptional at night. I highly recommend it.

    Dinner at Bishoku Maimon Roppongi: The restaurant is very clean and chic. The service was impeccable, with sparkling wine served on the house upon arrival. There was a nice variety of dishes offered. They were aesthetically pleasing and all tasted very good.

  • Julien Loock

    Tokyo City View: The view from here is one of the best in Tokyo! The Mori Tower Observatory is a must-see during a visit to Tokyo. Check out the size of the city from a very high floor. It is striking. In addition, the glass windows are very large, which provides exceptional views. The plus: when going out onto the sky deck, visitors can enjoy a unique view of the entire Japanese capital. At night, it's even more beautiful!

    Dinner at Bishoku Maimon Roppongi: The restaurant offers a very friendly and intimate setting when there are several of you. The quality and quantity are good. The restaurant is located in Roppongi, a major draw for foreign visitors staying in this area.

Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Day2

KYUSHU(KUMAMOTO)

Haneda Airport

ANA (ANA Expericence JAPAN Fare) Show details

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    ANA domestic flight: It was a pleasant flight. The two-hour journey passed quickly. The flight was on-time, offered free beverage service in-flight, and had comfortable seats.

  • Julien Loock

    ANA domestic flight: ANA is a very professional airline. The flight was on-time, and the service very pleasant. It was a breeze getting from the security checkpoint to the gate. The planes are clean and modern, which makes the journey very pleasant.

Aso Kumamoto Airportmore

Aso Kumamoto Airport

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.

Bus
80 minutes

Helicopter
7 minutes

Viewing the Aso Volcano Cratermore

Viewing the Aso Volcano Crater

This magnificent caldera extends 24 km north-south and 18 km east-west, and craggy volcanic rock faces cover an area of 4 km around it. Aso Gogaku, the Five Peaks of Aso (Mt. Nekodake, Mt. Takadake, Mt. Nakadake, Mt. Eboshi and Mt. Kishima), soar upwards from the central part of the caldera; currently, Mt. Nakadake is continuously active, emitting white smoke. This caldera, located on Mt. Nakadake, is one of the largest in the world. This huge volcanic crater has a diameter of 600 meters, depth of 130 meters, and circumference of 4 km, and visitors can enjoy dynamic scenery and the “living” Mt. Aso here. When the volcano becomes particularly active, visitors cannot go near the crater.

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Visit to the crater of the Aso volcano: An incredible experience that I never thought I would have the chance to have. The roughly 7-minute helicopter flight passed by in a flash, but the weather was on our side and we were able to enjoy breathtaking views of Mt. Aso as well as the majestic natural surroundings.

    Lunch at Sanzoku Tabiji: A delicious and hearty lunch with a warm, friendly and family atmosphere. The regional speciality of takana rice and local miso soup, dagojiru, were delicious.

    Aso Volcane Museum / Kusasenri: The exhibits tell the history of the volcano. Displays are only in Japanese, but you can borrow an audio guide for free in four languages. Visitors can learn about volcano formation and experience the volcano through a live-feed camera in the crater on a big screen, among other attractions. The 15-minute video in the amphitheater is broadcast on five screens with subtitles in several languages. The museum is equipped with the latest technology to showcase the animals and grasslands of Aso via virtual reality.

    Shirakawa Suigen: A well-kept secret featuring the headwaters of the Shirakawa River and the sanctuary of Shirakawa Yoshimi Shrine, which enshrines a deity of water. The water tastes pure and delicious. It was very pleasant to drink. Many locals came to fill their own containers with water from the fountain. It was nice to spend a moment in time with these friendly locals.

  • Julien Loock

    Visit to the crater of the Aso volcano: The helicopter flight over Mt. Aso was truly a thrilling experience. The duration of the flight is only less than seven minutes, but every passenger will be amazed. The pilot is friendly and his flying skills appreciated. The view from the helicopter of the smoking crater was breathtaking. A truly unique experience I recommend!

    Lunch at Sanzoku Tabiji: It's always nice to have lunch at a typical Japanese place, where the locals eat. The setting is warm and very friendly. I was surrounded by families and regulars and this is what gives the restaurant an exotic feel. The food is delicious and plentiful, and I was able to try local dishes.

    Aso Volcane Museum / Kusasenri: This museum provides a better understanding of the volcano. The facilities are clear and the visit is rather pleasant. Voice guides in four languages ​​are offered to foreign visitors who do not understand Japanese so that they can enjoy the exhibition.

    Shirakawa Suigen: This visit was quite magical because of the colors of autumn. The shrine and the springs, in the middle of vibrant nature, offer a moment of rest and relaxation in an exotic Japanese setting. Being able to drink water directly from the source is a precious experience that we don't normally get to do.

Bus
15 minutes

Hotel shuttle (reservation required)
30 minutes

HOTEL GREENPIA MINAMIASO

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Dinner at the hotel: The outdoor hot spring and the scenery from the bedroom were wonderful. The buffet dinner was excellent, with many choices on offer. The unlimited drinks option was much appreciated.

    Room and service: My guestroom was very large with enough space for three beds in addition to a lounge area. It was very spacious, and I was able to relax quietly. The in-room hot spring bath is a plus for those who don't want to go to the common baths.

  • Julien Loock

    Dinner at the hotel: The menu is extensive, with a buffet and a large selection of drinks. You can taste akaushi beef, a kind of local wagyu beef, and grill it individually, which is a great culinary experience. The buffet also allows you to taste the dishes in desired quantity and brings many choices when you are with your family. All told, I had a good time. The restaurant's setting sticks with its green atmosphere.

    Room and service: This large hotel opposite Mt. Aso is a haven. The view from the guestrooms is magnificent, as is the hot spring. Staying at this hotel is very relaxing, as it's possible to take advantage of many services and amenities: hot spring, massage chairs, store, etc. The night was very quiet and the bedding very comfortable.

Day3

HOTEL GREENPIA MINAMIASO

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine: A very beautiful shrine located at the foot of Takamori-machi mountain in the Aso district. Numerous lanterns line the path, which further enhances the aura. The small hike leading to the back of the temple provides views of the surrounding forest from above while enjoying the fresh air. The slightly rainy day brought a mystical feel to the place.

    Lunch at Takamori Dengaku Hozonkai: This establishment features a traditional and authentic feel, with meals served at the irori fireplace, which has been used for several generations. The dishes were entirely new to me, but all were very good, served with a very rich miso sauce. The owner speaks very good English and we were able to observe how the sandboxes are prepared and cleaned. The great service made me a fan of the restaurant. It's a real treat you can't miss.

  • Julien Loock

    Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine: This shrine is a must-see. It's located in the middle of a lush forest. The hike along the tree-lined path is magical, and I felt the power of the place. There is also a "power spot," tucked up above, which overlooks the shrine and the surrounding valley. It's a fine example of Japanese heritage.

    Lunch at Takamori Dengaku Hozonkai: Exceptional is the word! First of all, the setting is magnificent. The old house has very pleasant rooms with tatami and wood. It felt like we were transported to another time. The house specialty, dengaku, is a unique dish of food covered with miso and cooked slowly over charcoal fire. It's a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. The service is very hospitable and the family who runs the place very friendly. It's a must-visit locale in Kumamoto to discover local cuisine in an exceptional setting.

Taxi
35 minutes

Bus
75 minutes

Cycling Experiencesmore

Cycling Experiences

See the views of Aso Kuju National Park as you travel around on a mountain bike (MBT).

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Cycling: The mountain bike ride was an amazing experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. The tour stops at various spots offering magnificent views of the landscape. It will remain in my memories for a long time. I just wish it had lasted longer!

  • Julien Loock

    Cycling: What a wonderful experience. Cycling in the heart of Mt. Aso was truly fantastic. The staff were very professional and friendly, the bikes efficient and comfortable, and the route really fun. We traveled many kilometers to reach Kurokawa onsen through marvelous landscapes, including mountains, villages, and waterfalls. The downhill route was quite easy and the pace was slow, which made it fun.

Kurokawa Onsenmore

Kurokawa Onsen

The charms of Kurokawa Onsen are the buildings of the many ryokan with their old-fashioned elegance surrounding the Chikugo River, and the outdoor baths, overflowing with ingenuity, of the different ryokan and hotels. If you buy an Onsen-hopping Pass, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor baths at your leisure.

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Kurokawa Onsen: A beautiful place I would like to return to. The beautiful autumn colors dazzled the scenery and the small traditional alleys were full of charm. The local tradition of walking around a hot spring town in a yukata was delightful. The town provided a relaxing atmosphere with quaint views, which made me feel pleasant.

  • Julien Loock

    Kurokawa Onsen: Kurokawa onsen is a magical place. It's an onsen village located in the mountains and surrounded by forests and hot streams. The backdrop is an idyllic setting for wearing a yukata and just taking your time. It's a truly wonderful place. The streets are charming and the small shops very pleasant. Kurokawa onsen has an incredible charm.

Kurokawa Onsen Fumoto Ryokan

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Dinner at the inn (Kurokawa Onsen Fumoto Ryokan): Dinner was delicious. The kaiseki menu was fabulous with lots of small portions of different condiments, horse sashimi, and grilled beef on the platter. I also got to taste local beers. The breakfast was also delicious and plentiful.

    Room and service: My guestroom was spacious and even had a massage chair. There was no private bath, but a sink and private toilet were in the room. I enjoyed the many hot spring baths at this ryokan. The comfortable futon and choices of different yukata designs were very appreciated.

  • Julien Loock

    Dinner at the inn (Kurokawa Onsen Fumoto Ryokan): Dinner was delicious and very filling. The dishes are high quality and varied, all accompanied by a tasty local beer. For foreigners, tasting dishes dressed in yukata in a tatami room is a remarkable experience. Among the many local dishes, the wagyu was particularly divine. I also tasted horse sashimi, a great discovery.

    Room and service: What a ryokan! I've had the chance to sleep in several ryokans, but this one is really of an exceptional level. The building, in itself, is lovely and warm. The guestrooms are large and very pleasant with a massage chair. The quality of the futon is perfect. But the best part of this ryokan is the hot spring bath. In addition to the common baths surrounded by nature, guests can take advantage of several small private baths--perfect for visitors with friends or family. Each private bath has its own charm and it's fun to test them one by one. It's a wonderful place.

Day4

Kurokawa Onsen Fumoto Ryokan

Bus
160 minutes

10 minutes by foot

Kumamoto Castlemore

Kumamoto Castle

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.

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Kumamoto Castle: The castle is still being rebuilt after the earthquake. Entry into certain areas was prohibited, but I was able enjoy my time closer to the castle thanks to a special event on the day. I was able to see the castle tower from nearby, and I was impressed with the beautiful appearance and impressive presence.

    Lunch at Ginnan in Josaien: An all-you-can-eat buffet with many choices, including Japanese and other dishes. It offered a wide selection of Kumamoto specialties, such as Kumamoto ramen, lotus roots with karashi and rice with takana. There was a huge selection of fried foods as well as various international dishes. The dessert buffet was also very extensive. I was very pleased with the meal.

    Higo damascening experience: The Higo damascening experience, a traditional Kumamoto art, was a very nice workshop. I was able to learn the technique of "damascening", in which we embedded gold or silver into a metal base. I really liked the treated pendant of Kumamon, the official mascot of Kumamoto, that I got.

  • Julien Loock

    Kumamoto Castle: The images of the castle after the 2016 earthquake left an impression. Visiting the castle now allows you to understand the extent of the damage and to appreciate the restoration work being undertaken. The restoration, which is expected to take around 20 years, is impressive. It\s striking to see with your own eyes the collapsed walls and the extensive damages to the buildings. A visit also allows you to feel the strength of Japan's character when it comes to rebuilding.

    Lunch at Ginnan in Josaien: The buffet is very extensive, varied and appetizing. Each patron chooses their meal and refills as they wish. There are Japanese and international dishes.

    Higo damascening experience: This traditional craft consists of metalwork made mainly in Kumamoto. This activity was held in an old Japanese house, renovated into a studio and shop. The setting is therefore very pleasant and warm. The artist is very good at teaching and attentive. It was over before I knew it, but it allowed me to try out a very meticulous art and appreciate its level of difficulty.

10 minutes by foot

Airport limousine bus
60 minutes

Aso Kumamoto Airport

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    Dinner at the airport restaurant or take-out meal box on the plane: Despite its small size, Kumamoto Airport offered a lot of bento choices. I hadn't finished digesting lunch and since the flight was near, I preferred to have a light take-out meal rather than going to one of the restaurants at the airport.

  • Julien Loock

    Dinner at the airport restaurant or take-out meal box for the plane: The airport is small, but the shops offered some interesting items.

JAL (JAL Japan Explorer Pass) Show details

Haneda Airport

  • Ah-Fa Stephanie

    It was an incredible trip. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate. Tokyo and Kumamoto are two regions I had visited before, but this visit allowed me to rediscover the charms of both. The helicopter tour and the bike ride were precious experiences and will remain cherished memories. The hot spring village of Kurokawa dazzled me with the beauty and authenticity of its hot springs and streets. The meals served were always delicious and plentiful. I slept well at the nice hotels and inns. I was always well received wherever I went. Despite my many trips to Japan before, this one will likely remain my favorite for some time to come. Thanks again!

  • Julien Loock

    Again, I found this trip to be extremely well organized.
    The tour of Tokyo left us discovering another face of the capital, off the beaten track and away from major tourist centers. The choice of Rikugien is excellent because it allows visitors to discover one of the most beautiful historic gardens in the city, especially in autumn with the fall foliage. Visiting Ryogoku, the Sumo district, is also very interesting because it offers tourists the opportunity to discover an older, quieter and very cultural Tokyo, with among others the Sumida Hokusai Museum and its beautiful architecture. Tasting monjayaki is also a very interesting experience because this particular Japanese dish is not well known to foreign tourists.
    I was able to discover the beautiful prefecture of Kumamoto. The program was perfect. We were able to take our time during each activity and thus enjoy the region. It's a prefecture with many tourism assets. Kurokawa onsen is a gem that will certainly amaze international visitors. I also appreciated the choice of restaurants which offered a nice taste tour of the region. It was really a great trip!

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHER TRAVELERS

The visit to Tokyo was fun because it allowed me to travel to places still relatively unknown to other visitors to Japan. Walking through the Ryogoku district, one can appreciate the culture of Sumo wrestling and traditional lifestyles that have been passed down for generations. The area features the Sumo museum and a rich sense of nostalgia rooted in the community. The view of Tokyo from the top of Mori Tower was also magnificent. The Kumamoto region was fascinating with its rich natural landscapes including Mt. Aso. Thanks to the timing of the trip, the quaint hot spring resort town treated me to the spectacle of autumn foliage. I discovered a place where I would absolutely like to return. The local specialties were delicious and came in a variety of choices.

Ah-Fa Stephanie
Freelance journalist
Reside in France
  • Hobby

    Travel, anime, manga

  • Number of visits to Japan

    7 times

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHER TRAVELERS

This itinerary was a perfect blend of culture, gastronomy, nature and tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Japan. It showed me several faces of the Japanese Archipelago, allowing me to fully understand its history, culture and lifestyle. All the meals spoke volumes about Japan's amazing cuisine and allowed me to discover unfamiliar dishes. The activities, meanwhile, were extremely varied. My favorites were the helicopter tour over Mt. Aso, cycling and Kurokawa Onsen.

Julien Loock
Journalist
Reside in Tokyo
Home country: France
  • Hobby

    Culture and gourmet

  • Length of stay in Tokyo

    3 years

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