Kumamoto (熊本) is deeply proud of its greatest landmark, Kumamoto-jō, the castle around which the city radiates. There's a tempting collection of restaurants, bars and shops in the busy arcades east of the castle. Kumamoto City is also the gateway to the popular Aso-san region, known for its cooler summer temperatures and for its impressive volcano. Kumamoto Prefecture also has its own rampantly popular mascot, Kumamon, soon to take its place alongside Kitty-chan and Pikachu in the kawaii culture hall of fame.
The Kumamoto area was hit by strong earthquakes on 14 and 16 April 2016, resulting in several deaths and causing severe damage to roads and buildings, including Kumamoto-jō. Full restoration of the castle is estimated to take decades.