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 located in the center of Q-shu (Kyushu), 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 Oita 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, the most famous caldera in Japan.