Kyushu is the third-largest island among the four main islands in Japan. The northern part of Kyushu consists of prefectures like Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Oita. Firstly, you must purchase JR North Kyushu Pass for either 3 or 5 days. The price for the 3 days pass is ¥8,500 and you are entitled to reserve seats up to 10 times. As for the 5 days pass, the price is ¥10,000 with 16 seat reservations.
Day 1 (Fukuoka)
Free shuttle bus to take you to the domestic terminal.
From the airport, there are three main transportations that can take you to Hakata Station. The first one is the train. From the international terminal, hop on a free shuttle bus which will take you to the domestic terminal. From there, board the train to Hakata station. The journey is six minutes and costs ¥260 yen.
Another alternative is to take Nishitetsu bus at the bus stop No.2 in front of the international terminal. The trip is around 15 minutes and costs ¥260 too. If you have an IC card (e.g; Suica, ICOCA), your journey will be much easier. Simply tap when you enter a bus or ticket gates and tap again once you reached your stop. Purchase the IC card at any ticket machines or ticket counters in railway stations.
ICOCA card (left) and JR North Kyushu Pass (right).
For taxi, the fare from the airport to Hakata usually costs around ¥1,300 more or less. Once you arrive at Hakata station, head to the JR Office to exchange your JR Pass and reserve seats. You can only exchange your JR pass here in Hakata station for Fukuoka. It opens from 7 AM to 11 PM. If you already book your accommodation, you can always put your luggage in the hotel so you don’t have to carry them around or spend your money on coin lockers.
Your first destination in Fukuoka is Mojiko, Kitakyushu’s port city. From Hakata station, the journey is around 45 minutes. You can buy bento box sold in front of JR Office called Ekibento to eat inside the train.
Among the attractions you can enjoy in Mojiko are Kyushu Railway Museum, Kaikyo Plaza, Old Mojiko Mitsui Club, and Chinese Eastern Railway Office.
The Kyushu Railway Museum is a very interesting place even if you are not into learning train’s history. The museum exhibits old Kyushu locomotive trains to sleeper trains. The main building is where you can read about history and play driving simulator.
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Kyushu Railway Museum
Address: 2-chome-3-29 Kiyotaki, Moji-ku, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka 801-0833
Operating Hours: 9:00AM–5:00PM
Admission Fee: ¥300 (Adults), ¥150 (Children 12 years and below), Free (Children 4 years and below)
Contact Number: 81 93-322-1006
Then, walk for 5 minutes to Kaikyo Plaza. Overlooking the port, you will find all sorts of snack/souvenir shops along the promenade.
Look out for two red buildings, the Chinese Eastern Railway Office and Old Moji Customs Building. These two stood in front of each other and has no entrance fee. Chinese Eastern Railway Office was built to commemorate the relationship between Kitakyushu and Dalian, China. Now it has been converted into a restaurant and a library. Built in 1912, Old Moji Customs Building is a café plus an art gallery.
Chinese Eastern Railway Office.
After you are done touring the area, head to Mojiko Station to travel back to Hakata Station. Before you end your day, have dinner inside PARCO, Tenjin. There is a Japanese seafood restaurant called Umi No Shokudo located on B1F. Choose any seafood meal sets and your preferred side dishes. For Muslims, you can ask the staff to prepare your meal with no mirin and sake.
Seafood set requested for Muslim traveller (¥980).
Day 2 (Fukuoka)
From your hotel, take the nearest train station and travel to Meinohama station. Once you reached the station, make your way to Meinohama bus stop. Take a bus that will take you directly to Meinohama Ferry Terminal. Your first destination is Nokonoshima Island Park.
Meinohama Ferry Passenger Terminal.
Purchase a round-trip ferry ticket costs ¥460 to get to the island. Make sure you are aware of the ferry’s timetable so you won’t miss the last ride. After you have arrived on the island, wait for a bus to take you to the flower park. Also, do take note on the bus schedule as it operates differently on weekdays and weekends.
Ferry round-trip tickets (left) and entrance tickets to the park (right).
The fee to enter Nokonoshima Island Park is ¥1,200 for adults. The park can be explored within a span of at least 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on the weather and activities you want to do. Everywhere you look, you will see beautiful beds of different kind of flowers from sunflowers, hydrangeas, plumed cockscomb, and scarlet sage. Inside the park, there are souvenir shops, a goat house, rabbit farm, and playground which you can easily go explore.
Colourful flowers as seen inside the park.
Other than that, you should also try Nokonoshima’s famous udon restaurant called Kochan Udon. The restaurant serves cheap yet tasty udon.
Udon with a poached egg (left) and udon with fish cake (right).
Nokonoshima Island Park
Address: Nishi-ku, Fukuoka 819-0000, Fukuoka Prefecture
Operating Hours: 9:00AM-5:30PM
Admission Fees: ¥1,200 (Adults aged 16 and above), ¥600 (Children aged 15 to 7), ¥400 (Children aged 3 to 6)
To exit the island, wait for the bus at the park’s entrance which will take you back to the ferry dock. Aboard the ferry, then take a bus to Hakata station. Your next destination is Dazaifu. To get to Dazaifu, hop on a train from Hakata station and stops at Nishitetsu-Futsukaichi. Switch to Dazaifu Line train and you will arrive there in 15 minutes.
The main street.
Dazaifu is popular for its Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. It is said that the god of academics, Sugawara no Michizane was enshrined here when he died in 903. From the station, walk pass through a shopping street before arriving at the shrine. Along the way, you will find many shops selling souvenirs and street snacks. Once there, you will spot a statue of an ox. It is believed that if you rub the statue, you will become smarter.
After that, you need to cross a three-arched red bridge which represents the past, present and future. There is a chozuya, (a washing area commonly found in shrines or temples) where you can rinse your mouth and wash hands before entering the main shrine. Walk passed a huge romon (gate) and head straight to the main hall to pray.
Before leaving Dazaifu, make sure you try some of their amazing street snacks such as Umegae mochi (sweet dumpling with red bean filling), fish cake (contains mentaiko, sausage, and cheese) and an ice-cream. Umegae mochi is one of the top best-selling snacks here and you can get it for ¥120 per piece. In addition, try to spot a shop that sells 25 flavours of ice-creams such as Okinawa brown sugar, white peach, acai, Dazaifu plum and more!
Umegae mochi (left) and Okinawan brown sugar ice-cream (right).
For Starbucks lover, one of Japan’s most unique Starbucks can be found here. Designed by Kengo Kuma, the store is designed using 2,000 wood beams arranged in a nonadjacent position. Interestingly, the woodwork doesn’t require any nails. Selling all sorts of merchandise here, make sure you grab those limited edition seasonal tumblers.
Inside the Starbucks store.
Apart from that, next to the Dazaifu station, there is a famous ramen restaurant with the speciality of ‘Passing exams’ ramen. Before you enter the shop, you need to place your order at the ticket machine. Ichiran Dazaifu Sando serves the pork broth ramen in a pentagon-shaped bowl which is quite unusual. The restaurant is always packed with customers, so expect a long queue.
Ramen served in a pentagon-shaped bowl.
Ichiran Dazaifu Sando
Address: 2 Chome-6-2 Saifu, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0117, Japan
Operating Hours: 9:00AM–7:00pm
Contact Number: +81 92-921-5117
Day 3 (Kumamoto)
A giant Kumamon’s head to greet you at the station.
From Hakata Station, take a Shinkansen to Kumamoto. The journey is around 40 minutes and makes sure that it is covered by your JR Pass. Don’t be surprised if you saw too many Kumamon because the bear is the official mascot for Kumamoto!
Go to Kumamoto Information Centre to purchase Kumamoto City Tram 1 Day Pass. It costs ¥500 and since tram is one of Kumamoto’s main public transportation, then this pass is definitely useful. As the name suggests, it can only be used for a day. You can repurchase it at the centre the next day. To use it, just show the pass to the driver before you exit the tram. The two main lines in Kumamoto are A (Red) and B (Blue). Tram works just like a bus, so don’t worry. Without the tram pass, the fee for each ride is ¥170.
One day Tram Pass.
Your first destination is a shopping street called Sakura-No-Baba Josaien. It is located next to Kumamoto Castle. From the station, take the A-Line tram and get off at Hanabatacho station. Walk for 5 minutes to reach the place.
The entrance to Sakura-No-Baba Josaien.
Most of the shops inside Josaien sell Kumamon and Kumamoto Castle’s souvenirs for a reasonable price. Also, your trip wouldn’t be perfect without indulging some of the famous local snacks. Some of the food to try here are lotus root cake, takoyaki and delicious Aso Milk. The lotus root cake is one of Kumamoto’s special snacks. Mixed with mustard, the snack tastes quite spicy like wasabi.
Lotus root cake (left) and Aso Milk (right).
Address: 1-1-1 Ninomaru, Chuo-ku, Kumamoto city
Operating Hours: 9:00AM–10:00PM
Contact Number: +81 96-288-5600
Closest Train Station: Hanabatacho station
In 2016, Kumamoto Castle was seriously damaged during an earthquake. Most of the interiors have collapsed and crumbled. As of today, the castle is not open for public viewing until it is fully restored. The main keep is set to open in 2021, while the rests might need 20 years to fully reconstruct.
Part of the castle that was damaged.
Walk for 12 minutes from Josaien to visit Kumamon Square, located inside Tetoria Kumamoto Building. Kumamon Square is the main hub for all Kumamon fans where you can shop for goods, visit Kumamon’s office and enjoy performances. You can learn everything that you need to know about the fluffy bear here.
Address: Tetoria Kumamoto Bldg.1F, 8-2 Tetorihoncho, Chuo-ku, Kumamoto City
Operating Hours: 10:00AM-7:00PM
Contact Number: +81 96-327-9066
Closest Train Station: Suidocho Station
Not far from the building, walk 350 meters to get to Kumamoto Contemporary Art Museum. The entrance to the museum is free, but there is a fee for a special art exhibition. Your trip to this museum will be more enjoyable if you come to see the special exhibition instead of the permanents since there isn’t much to do here. There are a souvenir shop and a large wooden replica of Kumamoto Castle by the entrance.
Wooden replica of Kumamoto Castle.
Kumamoto Contemporary Art Museum
Address: 2-3 Kamitoricho, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto, 860-0845, Japan
Operating Hours: 10:00AM–8:00PM
Contact Number: +81 96-278-7500
For Muslim travellers, you can find a Muslim-friendly restaurant called Rinki Ramen near Nishikokaimachi. Take a bus from Torichosuji and stop at Kokaibashi. Then, walk 250 meters to the restaurant. For Muslims, the owner will serve you ramen with eggs. But, for non-Muslims, you can opt for the pork ramen. With an additional ¥50, they will serve you ice-cream made from the fruit of the season.
Ramen with eggs and peach sorbet (¥750)
Address: 8-23 Nishikokaimachi, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto, 860-0853, Japan
Operating Hours: 11:30AM–3:00PM, 5:30PM–10:00PM
Contact Number: +81 96-346-2239
Heading back to the city, spend the day shopping for souvenirs and end your night by eating another round of Japanese food. Mi-Ne Sushi is a small Japanese restaurant that serves a delicious line of fresh sushi and rice bowls. Also, for Muslims, you can order fish sushi or rice bowl. The restaurant is located behind Kumamon Square, so you can just go back to Suidocho station to ride the tram.
Kamemashi Eel Rice Bowl (¥1,500).
Address: Carino 5 1F-BF, Ansei-machi, Chuo-ku 5-5, Kumamoto City
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-3:00PM (Lunch), 5:00PM-11:00PM (Dinner)
Contact Number: +81 96-324-4500