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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

KUMAMOTO Hitoyoshi Cruise down Kumagawa River and soak up the history of this beautiful rural town

Cruise down Kumagawa River and soak up the history of this beautiful rural town

The Kumagawa River runs through the former castle town of Hitoyoshi, which until the mid-19th century was a bustling lumber port. Sometimes called Kyushu's "Little Kyoto," the town is nowadays known for its river boat cruises, Kyushu's largest limestone caves, local distillery, and castle ruins.

Don't Miss

  • Cruising along the Kumagawa River, a one-of-a-kind way to see the area
  • Aoi-Aso Jinja, an important Shinto shrine with beautiful thatched roofs
  • Visiting the ruins of Hitoyashi Castle, which combines Japanese and Western architectural features
  • Touring the Sengetsu Shuzo Distillery to sample locally brewed shochu

How to Get There

You can get to Hitoyoshi from Kumamoto Station by train on the Hisatsu Line.

Take the bullet train to Kumamoto Station, or fly directly from Tokyo Haneda to Aso-Kumamoto Airport, then take a bus from the airport to Kumamoto Station. It's one hour from Kumamoto to Hitoyoshi Station on JR Kagoshima-Hisatsu Line. The best way to travel into Hitoyoshi, however, is by riding a steam locomotive from Kumamoto Station, which is a truly unforgettable experience. There's only one round trip per day, so reservations are required in advance.

Ride the Kumagawa River

Old-fashioned wooden boat cruises on the Kumagawa River are the main draw for Japanese and international tourists to Hitoyoshi. With both slow, leisurely cruises and fast, adventure courses to choose from, a day on the river offers something for everyone. You can even get the white-knuckle experience with rafting options available in the summer.

Whenever you go, the river is a picturesque place to visit and a photogenic backdrop for holiday snaps.

A 300-million-year-old cave

On land, or underground, lies another of Hitoyoshi's main draws. The largest limestone cave in Kyushu, Kysendo Cave runs five kilometers long and is said to be over 300 million years old. A kilometer of the cave is open for public exploration, with 30-minutes required to take in one of the areas more unusual attributes.

A national treasure with unique features

Another noteworthy attraction in Hitoyoshi is Aoi-Aso Jinja, a Shinto shrine with unique thatched roofs reflecting its 1,200-year history. Five of the structures in the shrine (the main shrine, offering hall, oratory, corridor and gate) are listed as National Treasures of Japan.

The shrine complex is small, and won't take too much time to see, giving you plenty of time to continue your journey.

Local brews

Kyushu is renowned for its shochu, a spirit typically distilled from sweet potato, barley, rice or black sugar. Hitoyoshi is no exception; the town home is to 28 breweries, with Sengetsu Shuzo Distillery being one of the most famous. The liquor brewed here, "Kuma Shochu," makes for a great souvenir to take home.

The ruins of Hitoyoshi Castle

Another of the city's main attractions are the ruins of Hitoyoshi Castle. First built in 1198, the castle was governed by the same family for around 700 years. In 1872 the castle was dismantled, but recent reconstructions have turned this attraction from ruins into a more interesting place to visit. An interesting feature of Hitoyoshi Castle is the reconstructed walls which were built in the hanedashi method. This includes overhanging ramparts copied from European castle construction styles to protect the castle from fires. These hanedashi walls are extremely rare. There are two yagura (towers) and a reconstructed gate to see as well as the ancient castle walls.

The Kumagawa River acts as the outer moat of the castle, making it one of the more picturesque castles in the area, and the site ranks among Japan's top 100 castles. The grounds house a museum where you can learn about the castle's history and view its treasures and artifacts.

Exploring more of Hitoyoshi

Other top attractions in Hitoyoshi include the rail museum (popular with children), the Hitoyoshi onsen (hotsprings), a traditional samurai house called Bukekura, and local parks.

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