Hunting for mascots - and much more - in Kumamoto - Waku Waku

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Hunting for mascots - and much more - in Kumamoto

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Hunting for mascots - and much more - in Kumamoto

Japan is well known for its love of mascot characters, and Kumamon may be the most popular one of all.

Claire

Claire

Published on 16 Aug, 12:00

If you have heard of the city of Kumamoto, chances are you also know about its most famous character, the mascot Kumamon.

Kumamon has become famous the world over for his hilarious antics, with thousands of people viewing videos online featuring him falling over at awkward moments or getting into all sorts of trouble. He regularly tops polls of most popular mascots in Japan, so recently I set out to see if I could find him - and to discover what else his city of Kumamoto had to offer.

The trans seems to be the most convenient form of transport in Kumamoto, with the A-line running directly from the main train station to the city center, so I scanned my travel card and settled in for the ride.

Let's start at Kumamoto Castle!

Hunting for mascots - and much more - in Kumamoto

I hopped off just beside Kumamoto Castle in the city center and decided to start my sightseeing there. The walls of the castle were badly damaged in the 2016 earthquake and it was interesting to see the remnants of crumbled structures. There was also a quaint shrine at the foot of the castle walls where I took the chance to get a good fortune for the coming new year.

I picked up a fortune at the Kumamoto Castle Shrine
I picked up a fortune at the Kumamoto Castle Shrine

After visiting the shrine, I took a short walk to the place I had always wanted to visit.

Next destination - Kumamon Square, home of the famous Kumamon mascot character

It's possible to watch a performance by the well-known character each day - at 11.30am or 3pm depending on the day - but the number of people who can attend is limited to about 45 per show and decided by a lottery held each day. So I wrote my name on the ticket and crossed my fingers that it would be a lucky one.

Kumamon's office in Kumamon Square
Kumamon's office in Kumamon Square

I had some time to spare before finding out the results of the lottery so I decided to recharge my batteries with lunch. Cafe Book Bibliotheque was conveniently located just around the corner from the Kumamon Square area so I stopped in for a delicious deli plate lunch and a cup of coffee.

The food was so tasty, featuring lots of flavors I don't really see on menus in Japan - couscous with cauliflower, red cabbage, and chickpeas were included in the side salads with my lasagna main dish.

My delicious deli plate lunch in Kumamoto
My delicious deli plate lunch in Kumamoto

After paying the bill, I decided to stroll across the street to quickly check out a nearby historical site - the former home of Lafcadio Hearn, a famous writer with connections to my home country of Ireland. Hearn lived in Kumamoto, where he lectured at Kumamoto University, in 1891 and his home from that time is now in the center of the bustling city.

By then, it was time to find out the results of the lottery so back I went to Kumamon Square

The numbers of the lucky chosen ones were written on a whiteboard as the crowd waited in anticipation.

I scanned the list of numbers and...

Yes! My ticket was chosen!

I took my seat inside and waited for the arrival of the main attraction. At 3 PM exactly, Kumamon emerged and performed a 30-minute routine, featuring dancing, games, and skits, to the delight of young and old alike who watched him.

Kumamon was dressed for the Christmas season during this performance
Kumamon was dressed for the Christmas season during this performance

Of course, I had to visit the gift shop after the show to buy some souvenirs to take home as a memento of my trip - I stocked up with postcards, fridge magnets and chocolate snacks for my train journey home.

And speaking of trains, that was all I had time for in Kumamoto before my train was due to depart, so I made my way back to the station, happy with how much I managed to squeeze into my day trip to the city, and vowing to come back again someday.

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Claire

Claire

Irish girl living in Tokyo, enjoying the mountains and nature that Japan has to offer.

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