Very attractive location 1.5-2 hours drive West of Kumamoto Shi (the JR Misumi train line from Kumamoto terminate at Misumi East Port, and buses also run from the Kumamoto Kotsu Centre). Misumi West Port is located in a picturesque natural harbour at the gateway to the Amakusa islands, facing the Ariake Sea.
West Port was designed by a Dutch engineer and has an attractive mix of western colonial style and traditional Japanese buildings from the Meiji period - late 19th century. It is now a cultural heritage centre where East meets West, highlighting the planning and craftsmanship of the era - but no longer a working port, except for pleasure craft, as it is part of the Misumi Nishiko Park.
The port is backed by rocky hills covered in sub-tropical foliage and vegetation, and at the waters edge outside the fine stonework quay of the port is a sandy beach, often lined with anglers fishing from the shore, or families bathing and playing in the sea and on the beach. Rocky flora covered islands are just offshore, and one in particular has a conical shape like a pyramid in the sea.
In the port area is a tea room with a terrace overlooking the beach and sea, and set back from the port is the old colonial style hotel Urashimaya - now a museum. Lafcadio Hearn (aka Koizumi Yakumo) stayed here in the 1890's after a nightmare trip to Nagasaki. He mentions it in his writings as - "...built and furnished in Western style, - as much superior to the Nagasaki hotel as the sun is superior to a farthing candle".
The Old Port of Misumi has survived intact and its appearance is almost unchanged since the Meiji period, making it quite unique in the whole of Japan. Well worth the trip if you are in Kumamoto for some time, if as much to view the azure sea and islands, as to wandering through the old port, colonial buildings and traditional Japanese warehouses and administrative buildings.
Take a step back in time - it is now a tranquil and relaxing place, rather than the melée of yesteryear as a busy economic centre and major shipping port.
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