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SMAC! Web Magazine

The Kumamoto Reporter #02 – Discover the Charms and Manga of Kumamoto

Take a trip around the beautiful prefecture of Kumamoto with the Kumamoto Reporter!

Welcome back, SMA community! Last time we talked about the home of our Artists Village: the Aso region and Takamori “Manga Town.” This time we’ll be stepping back and taking a birds-eye view of Kumamoto Prefecture and the manga artists that it’s home to!

Smack in the middle of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, Kumamoto prefecture is home to not only the captivating and rugged Aso region and countless other breathtaking natural wonders, but also Kumamoto city. Not too big, not too small, Kumamoto city has plenty to see and do, including a shopping street called “Kaminoura” that’s known throughout Kyushu for its stylish shops. Kumamoto is also one of the few cities in Japan where you can hop on a street car!

From downtown Kumamoto you can easily spot Kumamoto Castle, an imposing and sprawling castle known for its beautiful cherry blossoms and bustling castle square Sakuranobaba Josaien. Thanks to the work of legendary castle builder and feudal lord Kiyomasa Katō, Kumamoto Castle even withstood two earthquakes that shook Kumamoto in 2016. If you visit Kumamoto be sure to check out the explosive performance “Keiji’s Kabuki Adventure The Stage Play” right next to Kumamoto Castle to learn more about Kumamoto Castle’s beginnings and Kiyomasa!

North of Kumamoto city is Kikuchi city, famous for Kikuchi gorge. A stunning ravine with beautiful waterfalls, this natural wonder will make you stop in awe and keep you cool and refreshed during the summer. Close to Kikuchi is Yamaga city, known for its traditional theater called the “Yachiyoza” and Edo Period (1603-1868) style onsen “Sakurayu.” If you’re lucky, you can also see the incredible Yamaga Lantern Festival in the middle of August!

If you do take a trip to Kumamoto in the summer, the island of Amakusa is a must-visit. West of Kumamoto city, you can have a beach day at one of Amakusa’s many pristine beaches and sample delicious seafood or even the gigantic Amakusa Daio chicken. You can even go dolphin watching or see Yushima cat island!

Most people know about Japanese sake, but have you ever heard of Shochu? An alcoholic spirit that can be made from rice, sweet potato, barley, or black sugar, the southern part of Kumamoto called the Hitoyoshi/Kuma region is famous throughout Japan for brewing high quality Shochu specifically from rice. Hitoyoshi is also famous for Aoi Aso Shrine, a beautiful and rare shrine that combines Shinto and Buddhist symbolism which became a National Treasure of Japan. During your visit to Hitoyoshi you can even ride a rare steam powered train, soak in an onsen, or go rafting!

Hitoyoshi is also home to the manga artist Yuki Midorikawa, creator of the Shojo manga “Natsume’s Book of Friends.” This heartwarming tale follows the adventures of Natsume, a boy who can see Yokai, or Japanese spirits, and his cheeky companion and powerful Yokai “Nyanko-sensei.” In the manga you can see the beautiful Hitoyoshi countryside and real-life locations practically leap out of the pages. Yuki Midorikawa also created “Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light,” which happens to feature our Takamori “Manga Town’s” very own Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine.

Another prominent manga artist from Kumamoto is Hisashi Eguchi, best known for gag manga such as “Susume!! Pirates” and “Stop!! Hibari-kun!” Hisashi has been called a pop art innovator of manga and has stated that he was influenced by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Known for his skill of drawing female characters, his designs were even used in the anime “Perfect Blue” from Satoshi Kon.

Speaking of gag manga, Kumamoto-raised manga artist Kyosuke Usuta is famous for “Sexy Commando Gaiden,” an outrageous and wildly humorous martial arts manga that has been praised for its wit and satire. It’s also known for its strangely unique art style from the Muromachi Period (1333-1573).

Kumamoto is connected to manga artist legend Inoue Takehiko (“Slam Dunk,” “Vagabond,” “Real”), and also home to Muraeda Kenichi (“Kamen Rider”) and the creator of “ONE PIECE,” Eiichiro Oda!! Eiichiro Oda has maintained close ties with Kumamoto prefecture after the wild success of ONE PIECE, even collaborating and donating to build 9 statues of the Straw Hats Pirates all across the prefecture. Stay tuned in for the next article from the Kumamoto Reporter, where we’ll take an even closer look at the manga artists of Kumamoto and their incredible contributions to Kumamoto!

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about the hottest new manga development in Takamori, check out the new article from The Artists Village Insider for an exclusive look INSIDE the Artists Village!

SMA Editorial Dept.