Fun in the mud
Kyushu's smallest prefecture is big on history, culture and natural beauty.
Saga is the smallest prefecture on the island of Kyushu, best known for its prized and pricey pottery.
Located between the lively Nagasaki and Fukuoka, Saga’s attractions are refreshingly rural. Visitors are drawn to the picturesque natural landscape and hot springs dotted around the prefecture, safe knowing they’re unlikely to run into large crowds of other tourists.
Nestled in the mountains and above the Ariake Sea lies Kashima City, home to several onsen, nature trails and agricultural experiences. The city’s most famous attraction is Yutoku Inari Shrine, one of the three largest Inari shrines in the country. Near the shrine’s entrance is Yutoku Monzen Shopping Street, which is especially vibrant during cherry blossom season.
Nature lovers and campers will enjoy the nearby Hiratani Valley. Here, streams flow with cool crystal clear water, and leaves are lush green in spring and vibrant shades of red in autumn.
For a blend of nature and human engineering, visit the Nakakoba Dam on the Kashima River. A nearby park features 5000 beautiful Japanese hydrangeas. Visit in June for the odd but spectacular Kashima Gatalympics. During the event, participants race across the Ariake Sea’s muddy tidal land.
After white kaolin clay was discovered in Arita in 1615, it marked the beginning of the region’s prosperous porcelain trade. The city’s museums and galleries are all pottery-related, and it hosts one of the largest ceramic fairs in Japan during Golden Week.
Tozan Shrine also celebrates Arita’s porcelain trade with features typically made of stone uniquely made of porcelain. Arita Porcelain Park celebrates the city’s history of porcelain trade with Europe. The park’s elegant garden and beautiful palace replicating Zwinger in Dresden are two of Arita’s best attractions.
For a more traditional setting, visit nearby Imari city and Okawachiyama, a secluded mountain village preserving Japanese craftsmanship with kilns and pottery workshops.
Karatsu Castle was one of Japan’s few castles built on a plan rather than a hill or mountain. It stands near the Karatsu Bay, which defenders used as a natural moat.
The original castle was demolished around 1871, but it has been carefully restored and converted into Kuratsu City’s local museum. In July, Karatsu Castle hosts the largest fireworks show in Kyushu.
Travel west to the Genkai Sea to view the magnificent Terraced Rice Fields of Hamanoura. From mid-April to May, the rice paddies are filled with water and radiate with shades of bright orange when the setting sun reflects off the water’s surface.
Plan your trip to Saga with the locations below!