Kumamoto is situated in the center of Kyushu at the western end of Japan. Mt. Aso-san stands in the east and the Chikuhi Mountains lie to the north, while the Shira-kawa River, the Kuma-gawa River, and other rivers flow from the mountains to the western part of the lower current area, forming the Kumamoto Plain and Yashiro Plain. The Uto-hanto Peninsula juts out to the southwest from the Kyushu mainland, and the Amakusa Islands lie beyond the peninsula. Kumamoto has two national parks, namely Aso-Kuju and Unzen-Amakusa, and two quasi-national parks, namely Mt. Yabahita-hiko-san and the Kyushu Central Mountains. The total area of these natural parks occupies 20 percent of the prefecture. The Aso district has an active volcano, Mt. Aso-san, with one of the largest calderas in the world and many hot springs. The Amakusa district has the Amakusa-Gokyo (five bridges), historic sites with tragic stories of Christian martyrs, and scenic sites of the islands and a saw-toothed coast. The central mountainous area attracts people with its valleys, virgin forests, and beautiful mountain sights.
Other must-sees in Kumamoto include Kumamoto City with Kumamoto Castle noted for its stonewalls with 'musha-gaeshi,' a special defense designed to prevent enemy attacks, and the Suizenji-joju-en Garden, hot spring villages and valleys in the basin of the Kikuchi-gawa River, which empties into Shimabara Bay, and the Hitoyoshi and Kuma area with abundant historical sites from the 12th to 14th centuries