Rikugian. The beautiful Rikugien garden near Komagome station gives a good insight into the beauty of Japanese autumn. Built in the Edo period under the Tokugawa Shogunate, it is a traditional Japanese garden with an island of greenery in a pond, a hill with a beautiful view from above, many trees of different hues and varieties, including an imposing weeping cherry tree that delights visitors during the spring blossoms. It is possible to relax in the small traditional tea rooms and enjoy seasonal snacks while taking in the view. Smaller in size than the large Shinjuku Gyoen Park, the garden provides light in spring and autumn so that you can admire the warmly coloured trees at night
Historic district of Ryôgoku. Beyond the usual and very busy districts of Shinjuku, Shibuya or Harajuku, Tokyo has many other facets to offer. The Ryôgoku district is known for its national sumo stadium, the Kokugikan, where tournaments are held three times a year. It is possible to taste the typical sumo dish, chankonabe (stew of various meats, fish and vegetables), but also many other specialties such as monjayaki or okonomiyaki (a kind of cake prepared on a hot plate) in the Edo Noren restaurant complex just outside the JR Ryôgoku station. The neighborhood is also known to have been the place where the artist Katsushika Hokusai resided and lived all his life. The Sumida Hokusai Museum, open since November 2016, with its surprising architecture, pays homage to the master. On the 3rd floor, the permanent exhibition allows visitors to learn more about the process of printmaking and to discover many of the artist's works. From the sketches to the many stages of painting, through the carving of the boards, all the art of ukiyo-e is explained in English by means of numerous playful and educational touch screens.
The varied landscapes of the Kumamot region. Kumamoto Prefecture, located in the south of Kyushu Island, was the scene of major sporting events in 2019, including the Rugby World Cup and the Women's Handball World Cup. The multi-faceted region abounds with varied landscapes, abundant nature with its volcanic character, hot springs and culinary specialities galore. Indeed, the active volcano Aso forged the relief of the region and its surroundings following a huge eruption that took place about 9,000 years ago. It is possible to discover Mount Aso by hiking or by helicopter for a breathtaking view of the crater that gives off thick smoke daily but is an integral part of the Kumamoto landscape. The flight lasts just under ten minutes and also gives a glimpse of the forests, plains and valleys in the surrounding area. It is highly recommended to rent a car to be able to walk beyond Kumamoto city centre, as the prefecture is rich in lush greenery and national parks. It would be a shame to miss these wonderful landscapes!
Gastronomy. If it is common knowledge that people eat very well in Kyushu, Kumamoto prefecture is no exception to the rule. The region offers a beautiful diversity of local specialties such as ramen tonkotsu with a rich and fragrant broth, dangojiru, local miso soup with many vegetables and dango (a sticky rice paste like mochi) or very good quality beef to be enjoyed on the barbecue or in donburi. More surprisingly, the consumption of horse meat in sashimi (so raw!), basashi is considered a typical local dish. Kumamoto is also the region of the takana, pickled and fermented mustard leaves to be eaten as an accompaniment with plain rice, soup or sautéed rice. Another local specialty is karashi renkon, slices of lotus root whose holes have been filled with karashi (Japanese mustard) and then fried
Bike ride and Kurosawa Onsen. The many forests and national parks in the region not only offer a colourful spectacle throughout the seasons, but also the possibility of making several cycling trips, thanks to the cycle paths linking the forest paths to various tourist spots such as waterfalls or hamlets. It is possible to cycle to the Kurokawa Onsen Spa. This village known for its rotenburo (outdoor baths) and its many traditional luxury inns is sure to delight the senses. The charm of its small sloping streets, local craft shops and buildings with typical architecture dotted around the Kurokawa River, all enhanced by the autumnal colours of the leaves and trees, give the impression of being in a marvellous parenthesis far from everything and out of time. The ryôkan often offer a half-board option, with kaiseki meals that sublimate the local cuisine with refined and careful presentations. Another bonus of some hostels is the possibility to borrow yukata (light kimono mainly worn in summer or during festivals) to be able to stroll through the alleys in traditional dress. For those who do not wish to stay overnight, it is possible to take a day pass at 1,300 yen (valid for 6 months) allowing you to enjoy the baths of 3 different ryôkan.
By Stéphanie Ah-Fa
Promotion of Japan with Tokyo Convention and Visitors Bureau