Kumamoto has recently made headlines all over the world. Unfortunately, this time it was not because of its beauty and history but because of a natural disaster. In April, Kumamoto was hit, not just once, but twice by an earthquake that measured in at a magnitude of 7 or higher. Even for some time after, aftershocks both big and small continued to rattle the island of Kyushu. The damage, as you can imagine, was significant- highways wiped out, landslides everywhere, homes shaken to the ground, and historical and cultural sites ruined. Among frequented shrines by the locals, sadly Kumamoto Castle was also one of these beloved historical sites that was damaged by the quakes. I can’t imagine how long it will take the Japanese to be able to restore the crumbled pieces of this structure, but I pray that it will all come together one day soon.
There are many cities in Japan that we have been fortunate enough to visit multiple times during our stay here. Yet, we have only managed to make it to Kumamoto once, and it really couldn’t have been at a better time- literally just weeks before the quakes hit. We arrived in this lively city during the peak of sakura (cherry blossom) season, so the city was lined with clumps of bright pink and white everywhere. During the morning hours we explored the magnificent Kumamoto Castle and its breathtaking scenery over the sakura-filled city landscape.
Uto Turret: The only original multi-layered turret remaining on the grounds of Kumamoto Castle. Uto Turret has three exterior layers and an interior with five floors and a basement. The turret is mainly composed of pine wood. As many as 46,000 tiles in total are used on the roof. It underwent repair in 1985 and was reopened to the public in October 1989.
Goro’s Stone: Kiyama Danjo, the father of Yokote Goro, was killed in battle against Kato Kiyomasa in the Amakusa riot in 1589. Goro determined to avenge his father’s death by Kiyomasa, disguised himself as one of the construction workers and entered Kumamoto Castle, but was caught and buried alive in a well. He is said to have been a man of enormous strength and carried this 1,800 kilograms of stone over his shoulder to the construction site!
Kuragari-Tsuro (Passage of Darkness): The Honmaru Palace was uniquely constructed over two stonewalls creating a basement passage. As this passage was dark even during the daytime, it got the name “Kuragari-Tsuro” or Passage of Darkness.
Niyo-no-Ishigaki (Stone Wall of Two Styles): This stone wall foundation uses two different construction techniques as can be seen in the way the stones are laid and by the slope of the wall. Referred to as Niyo-no-Ishigaki, the more gently sloping section to the right dates from the original construction while the more steeply sloping section to the left was a later extension. Differences in the shapes of the stones and their method of laying are a valuable record of the changes in masonry techniques from the original laying of same-size stones to the laying of rectangular stones in half-shift alignment.
Iidamaru Five-Story Turret: Kumamoto Castle is believed to have had 49 turrets originally (18 turret gates and 29 castle gates). Among these were six 5-story turrets. The Iidamaru Five-Story Turret was name after Iida Kakubei, who was in charge of this turret. Replica completed, March 2005.
After exploring the sakura covered grounds of Kumamoto Castle, we went for a pleasant stroll around Suizenji Jojuen Garden. We still couldn’t believe how spectacular the weather was that day. It made for some stunning garden photos!
The Suizenji Jojuen Garden represents the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road. The fresh springs in the garden release clean, cold water, which flows there from Mt. Aso via underground currents. In 1636 Tadatoshi, the third Lord of Hosokawa, began its construction as a tea retreat. He also built a temple here for Priest Gentaku (a former Priest of Rakanji) and it was called Suizenji. This beautiful Momoyama style garden evolved during the fourth and fifth Lords. In all, it took about 80 years to complete!
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!