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Region
Kyushu
Island
Kyushu
Largest City
Kumamoto
Population
1,859,451

Kumamoto

Smoke on the water

Between the smoking crater of Mount Aso in the east and the isolated islands of Amakusa in the west, Kumamoto has plenty to keep you enthralled.

Kumamoto’s diverse attractions are best explored with a car. You can start at Mount Aso for a hike around the active volcanic peaks before heading for a tour of the traditional baths at Kurokawa Onsen, or a cool down in Kikuchi valley which boasts some of the best waters in Japan for immune-boosting ‘forest bathing’. Just across the water from Nagasaki prefecture is the bustling prefectural capital of Kumamoto city. Keep travelling south to reach the Amakusa islands, where Christians went underground, and to spot wild dolphins in Shimabara Bay.

With its accessible dining and lively nightlife, Kumamoto city is a great base for exploring the rest of the region. Don’t head off before paying a visit to Kumamoto castle; it’s huge grounds are also a popular cherry blossom viewing spot if your timing is right.

An hour from Kumamoto city, Mount Aso is the largest active caldera in the world spanning over 100 kilometers with rural villages and rice fields in between. Eruptions are fairly regular, but you can climb to the peak of Naka-dake to peer into the smoking crater when conditions are safe – check the volcanic updates before you go.

Kurokawa Onsen is a picturesque hot spring town packed full of traditional ryokan (inns) with private baths as well as outdoor public baths that you can tour with a discounted pass. Kikuchi valley is famous as one of Japan’s 44 ‘forest bathing’ sites reputed to have healing powers. Whatever the health benefits, both settings are like something out of a dream.

The numerous museums and churches on the remote Amakusa islands provide information on the persecution of Christians when the religion was banned by the ruling Shogunate. Worshippers are known as the ‘hidden Christians’, disguising their faith by concealing icons in Buddhist images and changing their prayers to sound like Buddhist chants. Around the islands, it’s also possible to glimpse dolphins and go diving – cruise companies offer tours.

Places to visit

Laputa Road (Laputa-no-michi)

Drive your own Castle in the Sky on this spectacular stretch of mountain road.

Traditional onsen village, Kurokawa, Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan

Kurokawa Onsen

Hop on a bath tour in your traditional onsen get-up.


Takamori Senbonzakura (Sakura Road)

A thousand recommendations for this local sakura spot.

Lake at the active volcano - Mount Aso at Kumamoto, Japan

Mount Aso

The largest active volcano in Japan is as unmissable as you'd expect.

Other Destinations in Kyushu

Dazaifu shrine in Fukuoka prefecture

Fukuoka

Fukuoka prefecture isn't just about partying - but it's a good place to start.

Kagoshima, Japan with Sakurajima Volcano.

Kagoshima

Traditional, tropical; mystical, magical, Kagoshima is nothing short of extraordinary.

Takachiho gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture

Miyazaki

Miyazaki is a mountainous and mango-growing prefecture to rival Okinawa in the tropical paradise stakes.

View over Mount Unzen Hot Spring - Shimabara, Nagasaki Prefecture Japan

Nagasaki

Looking out to the East, Nagasaki prefecture has long been the gateway between the outside world and Japan.

Beppu, in Oita prefecture, Japan's onsen town

Oita

Bathe in hell (in a good way) in onsen-filled Oita.

Ishigaki island lagoon in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

Okinawa

White sand beaches and crystal blue waters, jungles and rare wildcats, centuries of unique native traditions, the birthplace of karate - this is Japan’s very own tropical island paradise.

Rice fields looking out to sea in Saga Prefecture, Japan

Saga

Saga is the smallest prefecture on the island of Kyushu best known for its prized, and pricey, pottery.