Is Kumamoto overflowing with bears?!? Everybody loves Kumamon. <Travel Diary of an American Exchange Student: Part 5>

Is Kumamoto overflowing with bears?!? Everybody loves Kumamon. <Travel Diary of an American Exchange Student: Part 5>
One month after I visited Ehime Prefecture, I also visited Kumamoto Prefecture on the southernmost main island of Kyushu.

Ask a Japanese person what comes to mind when they think of Kumamoto Prefecture, and more than likely it will involve one or both of these two things: Kumamon, the beloved prefectural character/mascot/ambassador; or Kumamoto Castle. Although it may be something of a cliché, my short stay in Kumamoto indeed involved plenty of both the adorable Kumamon and the well-known Kumamoto Castle.

Kumamon-themed products could be found everywhere throughout the city, and it is not an exaggeration to say that almost everything on which one could print an image had the cuddly bear-creature on it. Pens, cups, towels, shirts, stickers, trash cans, even men’s boxers! It appeared on posters and signboards, menus and pamphlets. Of course I ended up bring back more than a few souvenirs.

And finally, the famous Kumamoto Castle is the city’s main sightseeing spot. The downtown area seems to have almost grown up around its perimeter. And all the roads here, it seems, lead to Kumamoto Castle. The castle itself sits on a very large site, fully fortified with moats, multilayered walls and turrets for defense, backed up against a tall cliff. If I had just walked through the castle alone I would have enjoyed myself, but we were lucky to find an English-speaking guide to show us around. It was easy to learn with such an enthusiastic, knowledgeable volunteer guide, as he explained some of the history, and how the walls were made in a unique way that is only found here. Visiting Kumamoto Castle was an unforgettable experience.

・Zachary Lazbasan (Zack)
・Time in Japan: 3 Years
A 24-year-old from California in the United States, Zachary has spent three years as an Japanese exchange student. It was during his studies of international relations that he decided to attend university in Japan, realizing that overseas he would have more contact with different cultures and social values.

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