Venture out of Tokyo and Osaka : Highlights from 7 Prefectures of Kyushu (Part 1)

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Venture out of Tokyo and Osaka : Highlights from 7 Prefectures of Kyushu (Part 1)
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Kyushu is Japan’s third largest island and the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu). It comprises of seven prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Nagasaki and Kagoshima. The climate here is slightly warmer, with its own unique culture, history and nature resources.

Did you know?

Kyushu is rich in historical treasures and cultural heritage. It is one of the places where ancient Japanese civilizations were started.

As the center stage of Japanese mythology, Kyushu is where you can find the trails left by the kami (gods) who according to legend to have created Japan.

You can find palm trees, subtropical forests and sapphire blue sea in Kyushu. Its geographical features have rendered some very beautiful scenery unique only to the region.

Of course, Kyushu also has large modern cities, scrumptious food, abundant of produce and endless shopping opportunities. There is so much to see and explore.

And so in this article, we are going to present you some of the attractions in the each of the prefecture in Kyushu. We hope to give you a glimpse of what this southern part of Japan has to offer. When you come to Kyushu, don’t forget to incorporate some of these places into your itinerary!

Fukuoka (福岡)

Yatai food stalls in Hakata
Photo by Thomas Au / CC BY 2.0

In Fukuoka, the capital city is famous not just for its tonkotsu ramen (think Ippudo and Ichiran) but also for its yatai (屋台) which offer a unique dining atmosphere. These open-air food stalls serve up various foods from oden, ramen, yakitori to western cuisine, and can be found throughout the city centre. Visit Kushida Shrine (櫛田神社) famous for its yearly summer event, Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival. Shopping opportunities are abundant in the city, but you can choose to enjoy a pleasant walk at the Ohori Park (大濠公園) or the Maizuru Park (舞鶴公園) where the ruins of Fukuoka Castle can be seen.

Plum blossoms at Tenmangu Shrine
Photo by gtknj / CC BY 2.0

Make a day trip to Dazaifu. Learn about the history of Kyushu at the Kyushu National Museum (九州国立博物館). The Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (大宰府天満宮) dedicated to the god of learning and wisdom, Tenman Tenjin (天満天神) is popular among students as well as visitors. Another attraction of the shrine is plum trees; there are 6,000 of them blooming from late January to early March.

Saga (佐賀)

Beach in Karatsu, Saga
Photo by veroyama / CC BY 2.0

In Saga, head to Karatsu (唐津) city to visit the Karatsu Shrine as well as Karatsu Castle where you can take in the views of the city and Niji-no-Matsubara (虹の松原) – the rainbow-shaped pine grove that runs along the Karatsu Bay from the top floor. Don’t forget to climb up Mt. Kagami (鏡山), at the top there is a park and an observatory which offers even more marvelous views of the entire city, the bay, and the pine grove.

Yoshinogari Historical Park

Visit Yoshinogari remains at Yoshinogari Historical Park (吉野ヶ里歴史公園), an archaeological site where the civilization of pre-history Yayoi Period (300 BC to 300 AD) once thrived. Check out Takeo Onsen (武雄温泉), an ancient hot spring place with water that is soft and silky to the touch. The entrance gate is a symbol of Takeo itself and was built without the use of nails. Pottery fans can head up to Arita (有田) for Kyushu Ceramic Museum (九州陶磁文化館) and “Zwinger Palace” Arita Porcelain Park (有田ポーセリンパーク) for great exhibits of Arita porcelain wares.

Kumamoto (熊本)

Kumamoto Castle
Photo by 田中十洋 / CC BY 2.0

In Kumamoto, you can encounter important symbols of Kumamoto easily in the Kumamoto city – Kumamon (Kumamoto’s ambassador), Kumamoto Castle (one of Japan’s 3 best castles) and horse meat (from sashimi to even ice-cream!). Drop off at Kumamon Square not just for Kumamon but also for Kumamoto tourist information and local products. Walk the circular pathway at Suizenji Garden (水前寺成趣園) to appreciate the well-sculpted trees and graceful hills of this traditional Japanese garden.

Kusasenri in Aso, Kumamoto
Photo by 田中十洋 / CC BY 2.0

Take a trip to Aso (阿蘇), a small town where Mt. Aso (阿蘇山) and Kusasenri (草千里) are located. Here, the scenic views of prairie, grazing cows and horses, and volcano peaks are not to be missed. Enjoy the traditional, unspoiled onsen town atmosphere at Kurokawa Onsen (黒川温泉), which is easily explored on foot. Besides overnight stay at one of the ryokans, many of the baths in the area are also open to day trippers and visitors at a fee.

Nagasaki (長崎)

Peace Park in Nagasaki City
Photo by Hajime NAKANO / CC BY 2.0

In Nagasaki, the unique East meets West charm is a testament to its role as a trading port for hundreds of years. The capital city itself is worth a closer look for its historical and cultural heritage. Many places with Western and Chinese influences can be found around the city, including Japan’s oldest church Oura Catholic Church (大浦天主堂) and Japan’s oldest Chinatown, where you can savour a good bowl of champon (ちゃんぽん). Must-dos include a stroll at the Peace Park (平和公園) and a million-dollar night view at the summit of Mt. Inasa (稲佐山).

Night view from Mt. Inasa
Photo by mrhayata / CC BY-SA 2.0

Kujuku-shima in Sasebo, Nagasaki
Photo by gtknj / CC BY 2.0

Also, don’t miss the opportunity to see the impressive Gunkanjima (軍艦島) or Battleship Island which is a testament to the rise and fall of Japan’s coal mining industry. Venture out to Sasebo (佐世保) where there is the beautiful theme park Huis Ten Bosch (ハウステンボス) which is a theme park imitating a Dutch town, as well as the panoramic Kujuku-shima (九十九島, means ninety-nine islands) which actually consists of 208 islands. Appreciate the beauty of these islands closely at Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort (九十九島パールシーリゾート) or head to one of the observatories at Tenkaiho (展海峰), Yumiharidake (弓張岳) or Ishidake (石岳) to take in the spectacular views of the islands (the last one even featured in the movie The Last Samurai).

Click here to read Part 2 of the article.

Kyla HS
Kyla HS
A student, part-time translator and writer. I like anime, Jpop and Jrock in general but ultimately, I love to travel and often spend most of my expenses on food.


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