Photo of Kumamoto ferry sea gulls being hand fed by my wife. (2009).
Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本県 Kumamoto-ken) is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Kyushu. The capital is the city of Kumamoto.
Historically the area was called Higo Province; and the province was renamed Kumamoto during the Meiji Restoration. The creation of prefectures was part of the abolition of the feudal system. The current Japanese orthography for Kumamoto literally means “bear root/origin”, or “origin of the bear”.
Kumamoto Prefecture is in the center of Kyūshū, the southernmost of the four major Japanese islands. It is bordered by the Ariake inland sea and the Amakusa archipelago to the west, Fukuoka Prefecture and Ōita Prefecture to the north, Miyazaki Prefecture to the east, and Kagoshima Prefecture to the south.
Mt. Aso (1592 m), an extensive active volcano, is in the east of Kumamoto Prefecture. This volcano is located at the center of the Aso caldera.
As of March 31, 2008, 21% of the total land area of the prefecture was designated as natural parks: the Aso Kujū and Unzen-Amakusa National Parks; Kyūshū Chūō Sanchi and Yaba-Hita-Hikosan Quasi-National Parks; and Ashikita Kaigan, Itsuki Gokanoshō, Kinpōzan, Misumi-Ōyano Umibe, Okukuma, Shōtaisan, and Yabe Shūhen Prefectural Natural Parks.