Japan's southern paradise
Kyushu is one of Japan’s four main islands and by far it’s most underrated.
Visually Kyushu is paradise on earth; a lush green rolling landscape of fertile valleys, smoking volcanoes, waterfalls and ancient cedar forests nurtured by a subtropical climate. Kyushu is known as ‘onsen island’ and there are many hot spring towns to stop into while you’re travelling around. It’s coastlines are populated by sea turtles and dolphins, and frequented by surfers looking for big waves, while the regions’ smaller islands hold the key to discovering more about the early stages of Japanese civilization.
Most visitors will access Kyushu via Fukuoka and its well-connected airport, which has flights to various destinations domestically as well as throughout Asia and, increasingly, Europe.
Located on the northern part of the island, the prefecture’s capital of Fukuoka city is the island’s largest city and a vibrant multicultural hub. Attractions within the city are easily within reach due to the highly connected public transportation system. Some of the most popular attractions include the Fukuoka Castle Ruins or Maizuru Castle which is a top cherry blossom viewing spot in the spring and Ohori Park which is a popular weekend destination for locals to unwind in. The areas of Tenjin and Nakasu are home to the famous Fukuoka Yatai which are food stalls that line the streets and have been a tradition dating all the way back to the Meiji Period.
Nagasaki has emerged from its tragic history to become a thriving port once again. Throughout the streets of the prefectural capital visitors can still see the influence Portuguese and Dutch architecture on a handful of the buildings. To get around, tourists can hop on trams that stop at many of the major tourist attractions. One of the most highly visited spots in the city would be the Nagasaki Peace Park which continues to commemorate the lives lost during the war and to signify the importance of peace. About 20km off shore, tours to the abandoned Gunkanjima (Hashima Island) remain popular among local tourists. For a half day trip within the prefecture Huis Ten Bosch is a Dutch theme park in Sasebo city that has a wide array of European inspired motifs like tulip fields, windmills and canal rides.
The capital of onsen is Beppu in Oita prefecture, where you can sink into hot water baths, mud baths, sand or steam baths – the town looks as though it’s continuously on fire from the steam rising over the buildings. A visit to the Hells of Beppu is probably one of the most exciting attractions within the city. Jigoku or hells are hot springs that are mainly for viewing rather than bathing in. Each “hell” has its own special feature from its color to the ability to erupt a geyser. Located within the same prefecture, Yufuin is a dreamy onsen town filled with traditional inns and cafes that lead toward Lake Kinrin-ko.
Considered one of the best castles in Japan is centrally located Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto City. Elsewhere in the city is Suizenji Garden a peaceful oasis modeled after the Edo-era road that connected the roads between Tokyo and Kyoto. Kurokawa Onsen let’s visitors stroll around in their yukata (bath robe) on a bath tour, sinking into as many outdoor tubs throughout town as they please. Mount Aso offers challenging trails to its peak during hiking season.
Located to the southern most part of the region, the islands of Okinawa are sometimes considered a part of Kyushu and can be easily reached by ferry though flying is more popular. Landing in Naha visitors tend to spend their time strolling the streets of Kokusai Dori (International Street) and sampling the local delicacies, touring the area surrounding the Shurijo Castle and going for a quick dip at Naminoue Beach the nearest beach from the city. Miyakojima is another popular destination in Okinawa and is home to the white sand beaches of Aragusuku Beach and Yonaha-Maehama Beach, not to mention top tier scuba diving spots. Spend a day relaxing at the beaches on either side of the island.
Kagoshima is located in the southern most part of Kyushu island. The capital city is located right beside Sakurajima an active volcano that occasionally showers the city with ash and is also a popular hiking spot. Kagoshima city has several museums and shrines as well as serves as a transportation hub to reach areas like Okinawa. Local delicacies to the prefecture are a combination of savory pork dishes to fresh seafood.
For a less touristy tropical island experience, head to the mango-filled mountains of Miyazaki. The rugged landscape and endless shoreline will keep tourists busy with packed itineraries. Down the coastline Udo Jingu stands out for its love fortunes and breathtaking seaside views. To the mountains Takachiho Shrine offers religious dance performances called kagura which are unique to the region. Nearby, explore the majestic Takachiho Gorge on rental boats to spend an afternoon immersed in nature.
The smallest prefecture in the Kyushu region is home to world class pottery. The town of Arita is known most for its porcelain production and pottery. Attractions within Arita include Tozan Shrine that displays unique porcelain motifs. Yutoku Inari Shrine is of the three largest Inari shrines in the country that is located in Kashima City and offers sprawling views of the town below.
The Seven Stars in Kyushu is a luxury cruise train that provides short tours across the island for a small fortune.
Buy the JR Kyushu pass to save on transportation. If you are traveling around southern Japan and you are a temporary visitor, choose from the following validity periods of three, five and seven days.