Western Kumamoto is dominated by Mount Kinbo, a now-extinct volcano, but there is still plenty on offer. Whether you enjoy spending time in nature, are interested in ancient Japanese culture, or are looking ways to keep fit throughout the year, you’ll find numerous things to do and see in this part of the prefecture.
The main activity in Western Kumamoto has to be to climb the summit of Mount Kinbo. There are several hiking routes to the peak of this caldera-type volcano, from which you’ll have fantastic views of Kumamoto city. There are also routes available for cyclists — although you should expect a challenging ride. The good thing is all the routes have signs along the way to keep you from getting lost.
Right on the coast is Kawachiaso Shrine. It’s easy to access because it lies on the road that connects Kumamoto with Tamana. In addition to the ancient structures (some of which date back to 715), you’ll have stunning views of the Ariake Sea and nearby orange orchards. However, what draws many visitors to the shrine is the chance to collect goshuin stamps, which change monthly.
A short drive from Kawachiaso Shrine is Unganzenji Temple. Although it’s only small, it’s one of the best-known temples in the area. The highlight of the complex is Reigando Cave, famous for being the site where Miyamoto Musashi wrote The Book of Five Rings. It’s worth exploring the whole complex — the greenery of the foliage and moss-covered stones make for a tranquil atmosphere.
Located across a short bridge is the small island of Shinminato. There’s not a huge amount to see here — there’s a park and a bird-watching area, both of which are relaxing spots. More importantly, you can take the ferry on the island to cross the bay to Shimbara. The journey takes only a hour and brings you to another volcano: Mount Unzen, which is active.
You can camp near the slopes of Mount Kinbo at Kusamakurasanso Camping Ground. When the skies are clear, you can see across the Ariake Sea all the way to Mount Unzen. In the evening, it’s an excellent spot to watch the sunset. Even though you’ll be camping, you’ll be staying in comfort — there’s a modern washroom, free WiFi, and a vending machine. A highlight, though, is the onsen at Kusamakura Spa, which you can use for as long as you want. The open-air hot springs are also available to day visitors who are not staying at the campsite.
The largest public swimming pool in the prefecture is Aqua Dome Kumamoto. During the warm months, you can go lane swimming and practice diving. There are also regular water polo events. In the winter, though, the pool becomes a huge skating rink.
All of the above places are easy to reach from Kumamoto city. They’re ideal for a day trip, especially if you want to see a scenic side of the prefecture or get some exercise, whether through hiking, swimming, or skating.