Ever find yourself waiting around at a train station with a couple of hours to kill, wishing that there was a local attraction nearby you could check out while waiting for your train? Well in Kumamoto, you’re in luck. Just a ten or fifteen-minute walk away from the Kumamoto train station is a small nature park steeped in local history where you can enjoy a peaceful walk and soak up some traditional, natural beauty before boarding the modern, super-speedy Shinkansen on to your next destination.
So if you have some time to spare or just fancy heading in that direction, this is what you can expect to find at the Kitaoka Nature Park.
With Hanaoka Mountain looming up behind, the Kitaoka Nature Park is often in the shadow and can be a bit chilly so make sure you are well dressed for cooler weather – and well covered up in summer as this place is mosquito heaven.
The Hosokawa clan are famous in Kumamoto – in days gone by they owned pretty much every inch of the city, staking a claim over the famous Kumamoto Castle and owning a fancy mansion which has been preserved to this day in its original design – and within the park are several tombs for members of the Hosokawa family.
You can take a short walk around the grounds or choose to follow a longer path around the entire complex – watch your step if there have been recent storms – the bamboo topples easily and after a typhoon, it’s not unusual for the path to be littered with leaves and branches, or even whole trees.
The garden area near the entrance is particularly idyllic, even if the ponds are constantly void of water. The stone lanterns are a stunning feature, and the presence of moss all over the park adds a softer texture to the strong, hard lines of the abundant bamboo.
Open from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, entry is 200 yen for adults and high school students, and 100 yen for junior high school and younger. The Kitaoka Nature Park is by no means a top attraction in Kumamoto city, but it is quiet, peaceful and historically interesting – if you have the time, it’s worth a look.
Please be advised that as of 2016 this park is currently closed due to damage from an earthquake. It is due to be re-opened in 2019 or 2020.