Monthly Archives: February 2016

Opening of Ashikita-Tsunagi Expressway

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On February 27th, the Tsunagi IC opened on the Minami-Kyushu Expressway. With this, the portion of the expressway from Ashikita to Tsunagi is open for travel. It is estimated that traveling between Yatsushiro and Tsunagi on the expressway will be about 44 minutes, a 26 minute reduction of travel time before the expressway was opened.

The new span of expressway stretches for 7.7 kilometers, with three tunnels and a bridge along the way. Traveling on the expressway in either direction between Hinagu and Tsunagi is free. The expressway is planned to extend all the way to Minamata, with the Minamata IC opening in 2018.

Misato leads the way in Kyushu footpath boom

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By Shinobu Takanashi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

MISATO, Kumamoto — Ambling along footpaths, a type of walkway that originated in Britain to enjoy scenery and old townscapes in rural areas, is becoming more popular in the Kyushu region.

Typically, footpaths have been created by local residents, who welcome other people to walk them.

Taking the lead in footpaths to commune with nature is Misato, a town in a mountainous area of Kumamoto Prefecture with a population of about 10,000. The town has 15 courses ranging from four to eight kilometers in length.

The scenery along the courses include tiered paddy fields, a stone bridge and a satoyama village forest. It takes two or three hours to complete each course.

(Read more at The Japan News)

Kumamoto’s Sister Cities

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Did you know Kumamoto Prefecture has 26 sister city/state relationships with places all over the world? You may be surprised to find out that your area has a relationship with a city abroad. The latest information about these relationships has been added to the website, you can find it on the side menu under Other Resources (or just click here).

St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Kumamoto

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The 第10回 熊本2016 セント・パトリックス・デイ・パレードKumamoto Ireland Association will be holding its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade (the 10th this year!) on Saturday, March 12 in downtown Kumamoto City. The parade routewill start in Kamitori and then go down the shopping streets through Shimotori and Shinshigai.

Anyone is welcome to march in the parade! The parade will start at 2:30 PM, but people interested in marching will begin to assemble at 2PM. There will also be a marching band playing Irish music along the route, as well as quite a number of cute and friendly dogs owned by members of the Kumamoto Ireland Association in attendance. It is free to march in the parade.

Following the parade, there will be a party at Jang Jang Go (at Second Sight) featuring live Irish music. It is 3500 yen to join the party.

For more information, please check out the Kumamoto Ireland Association website.

JET Programme Video Contest

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CLAIR is holding a JET Programme Video Contest to help mark the 30th anniversary of the JET Programme in 2006. Current and former participants can submit videos. The contest theme is: “Japan’s Local Communities as experienced by JET Programme Participants”. Award winning videos will receive tickets for free travel within Japan.

Update on February 9th: The submission period has been extended to March 10th and the online voting period has been extended to March 31st. Submissions will be accepted until February 10, while online voting is open from January 4 to February 29. Please visit the official contest website for more information. Good luck!

IC Card Use on Kumamoto Buses

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Starting March 23, you will now be able to use a wide variety of IC Cards on buses in Kumamoto. It is intended to help out of prefecture travelers get around easier, but should be useful for those who still have leftover money on IC cards from trips.

The IC cards that can be used include:
SUGOCA (the JR Kyushu one), nimoca, はやかけん, Suica, PASMO, manaca, TOICA, Kitaca, ICOCA, PiTaPa.

You will be able to use it on the following bus lines (already currently served by the Kumamon IC Card): Kyushu Sanko Bus, Sanko Bus, Kumamoto Bus, Kumamoto Toshi Bus, and Kumamoto Electric Railway.

You can read the official press release (in Japanese) here:…/Sankob…/pdf/ICCARD20160323-2.pdf

Hitoyoshi-Kuma Hinamatsuri

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ひなまつりパンフレット表紙The Hitoyoshi-Kuma Hinamatsuri (or Dolls’ Day) has begun and will run until Thursday, March 21. Hinamatsuri is the custom of displaying dolls representing the emperor, empress, and the royal court in traditional Heian period clothing. Families will also put out their own set of dolls in February and take them down immediately after the actual Hinamatsuri day, March 3rd. Superstition has it that leaving the dolls up past March 4th will result in a late marriage for the daughter of the family.

Luckily, the Hitoyoshi-Kuma Hinamatsuri will be putting their dolls up for much longer after Hinamatsuri is finished. You can find doll displays in locations all over the Hitoyoshi-Kuma area with a stamp rally for a chance to win Kuma shochu or free nights at a Hitoyoshi area onsen or hotel. There are also a variety of events happening in conjunction with the festival, so you can enjoy them while you go see the dolls.

You can find more information about the Hitoyoshi-Kuma Hinamatsuri and get a pdf of the official festival pamphlet on the Hitoyoshi-Kuma Union website.