Kumamoto Castle was built in 1607 by a warlord named Kato Kiyomasa. The castle, along with its first chatelaine, has been loved by local people ever since. Then in April, 2016, Kumamoto was struck by a massive M6.2 earthquake.
Thousands of buildings were damaged in the disaster, including Kumamoto Castle. Stone walls and turrets collapsed, roof tiles and shachihoko (fish-shaped) ornaments dropped from the roofs, and countless walls and roofs were severely damaged.
Despite these extensive damages, the castle itself remained upright. The sight gave devastated locals hopes and courage for recovery.
As of December 2017, the castle is under reconstruction works. Since it is a historic site, it requires painstaking and careful works. For instance, they have to put the fallen stones back to the walls in the exact order as they used to be. These stones were firstly removed from the site, then numbered and arranged in the order.
The Kumamoto mayor said in July, 2016 that they aimed to finish repairing the castle keep in three years, and the full reconstruction of the entire castle in 20 years.
Know Before You Go
There's a bus service available from JR Kumamoto Station, called "Kumamoto Castle Loop Bus" (Shiromegurin しろめぐりん). Since the construction work is ongoing, off-limits areas might change. Please check the official website before visiting. The castle and the surrounding area are currently closed off due to the damages, but there is a walking route to observe it and an observation point with a view of one of the collapsed turrets. The nearby Kato Shrine is a good place to watch the construction.