Kumamoto Castle is a stunning samurai fortress with spectacular rooms of tatami, wood and painted panels beneath its somber, soot-black exterior. Originally built in the 17th century, it's at its prettiest in spring, when hundreds of cherry trees around the moat are in bloom. It's under reconstruction after the 2016 earthquakes, but you can still view parts of the fortifications from around Ninomaru Square and Kato Shrine.
Dating back to 1632, Suizenji Garden is like a picture come to life. You'll find beautiful cherry trees, pines and elegant arched bridges over a central pond at this traditional Japanese garden. The grounds have been landscaped into small "hills." You'll also find a Shinto shrine and a mini Mt. Fuji to evoke the ancient Tokaido road that linked Kyoto with Edo (present-day Tokyo).