Hitoyoshi is a small town in the southern end of Kumamoto Prefecture and, despite the distance from my home, I’ve actually been there twice. They have a fairly good Doll Festival (though not as impressive as Yanagawa, in my opinion) and some lovely onsen.
Here’s what I found beneath my feet in Hitoyoshi:
The Kuma River runs right through Hitoyoshi and while it seems pretty tame around the center of the city, outside in the mountain passes, the rapids really get going. The entire river runs 115km, from the interior to the sea, but you can ride an 11km section of it north of the city. It’s billed as one of the three fastest streams in Japan and has Class 3/4 rapids. I haven’t actually tried it myself yet but it sounds worth checking out for adrenaline junkies.
The stone walls in the manhole cover are actually the walls of the old Hitoyoshi Castle site. Now THAT I have visited and frankly, it’s a bit of a let-down. The city has begun to reconstruct some of the lesser buildings from the old fortress, but there are no plans to rebuild the main keep. So for now, the sight is merely home to a large park area, with a grove of tall trees marking the spot of the old donjon.