30 Things to Do in Kyushu Including Sightseeing, Gourmet Food and Shopping
The Kyushu Region of Japan is an area full of attractions with something for everyone, from tourist sites with fantastic scenery to unique and tasty gourmet dishes. Here are 30 recommended things to do in Kyushu!
Where is Kyushu?
Kyushu is one of the four main islands of Japan, and is located in the southwest of the country. The island of Kyushu and the smaller islands around it make up the Kyushu Region. It consists of seven prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki and Kagoshima.
If you are planning a trip to Kyushu, Fukuoka is a good place to base yourself, as it has good land, sea, and air transportations. It takes about 2 hours by plane to Fukuoka from Tokyo and about 5 hours on the Shinkansen bullet train. From Osaka, it is about 1 hour 15 minutes and 2.5 hours respectively.
Fukuoka in eastern Kyushu is the most populated prefecture in the region. It has flourished as the gateway to Kyushu and Asia from long ago. It is a nature-rich area with oceans, mountains and rivers, and offers a variety of activities throughout the year.
Stroll Around Mojiko Retro
Mojiko Retro is Kyushu's most popular tourist destination, attracting more than 2 million visitors every year. It's a town with a port that was established 120 years ago, and is home to a variety of historical buildings, such as JR Mojiko Station Building, which is the oldest wooden building in Kyushu, and the beautiful red brick Former Moji Customs Building. At Mojiko Retro, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll as the sea breeze blows through the historical streets. There is also an array of wonderful food to try here, such as the specialty Yaki Curry (rice topped with curry, egg and cheese and baked) and Fugu Monaka, a Japanese wagashi sweet in the shape of a blowfish.
Visit Kawachi Wisteria Garden in the Spring
Kawachi Wisteria Garden has approximately 1 million wisteria trees of 22 different varieties. In the spring, the 10,000 sq.m. grounds are covered by wisteria of different colors, from white and bluish purple to pink. In particular, the 100m wisteria tunnel is worth seeing, and is like something out of a fairy tale. The garden also has about 700 Japanese maple trees, and is famous as a place to enjoy the autumnal foliage in the fall.
Garden Schedule: Open from mid-April to mid-May and mid-November to early December
Fee for wisteria: 500 JPY - 1,500 JPY (varies depending on the season)
Fee for fall foliage: 300 JPY
*Free for visitors of high school age and younger
*Prior reservations are required depending on the season. Check their official website for details.
Pay Your Respects to the Deity for Academics at Dazaifu Tenmangu
Dazaifu Tenmangu is an ancient Shinto shrine with a history of over 1,000 years. It is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, the Shinto deity for academics, and is said to bring academic success. The highlight of this shrine is its magnificent main shrine. It is a historic structure that was built more than 400 years ago and is designated as an Important Cultural Property of the country. Be sure to note the Goshingyu statues of sacred bulls in various locations around the shrine grounds as well. It is said that you will acquire wisdom if you stroke their heads. Dazaifu Tenmangu is also known for its more than 6,000 plum trees of about 200 varieties that blossom between late January and mid-March.
Feel Like a Local at Tanga Ichiba
Tanga Ichiba is a market with a history going back more than 100 years. Known as "The Kitchen of Kitakyushu", there are a variety of different items for sale here. The market is known for the freshness of the seafood, which includes everything from high-class fish such as blowfish and sea bream to everyday fish like horse mackerel and sardine. A wonderful way to enjoy all that the market has to offer is the Daigaku-don bowl from Daigaku-do. You get a large bowl with some rice in it, and you walk around the market, topping the bowl of rice with items of your choice as you go. The end product is a unique dish made up of your favorite ingredients! If you want some of the toppings cooked, the Daigaku-do staff will take care of it for you.
See Hakata Dontaku
Hakata Dontaku is a festival held annually on May 3 and 4 in Fukuoka City. It is a traditional event with a history of about 830 years, and attracts more than 2 million people every year. On the day of the festival, there are parades of people dressed in a variety of different costumes striking wooden shamoji spoons together, as well as dance performances on stages and at squares around the city. For the finale on the 4th, there is a dance where anyone can join in, and the entire city is engulfed in a sense of excitement. There are English-language tours available.
Try Fukuoka Yatai
In Fukuoka, there are several different areas with a concentration of "yatai" (food stall) where you can enjoy unique food and drinks. The Nakasu Area (in front of the Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Building and near Reisen Park, Haruyoshi Bridge and Hakata Ekimae-dori) in particular is recommended. There are about 40 stalls serving a variety of different foods, such as ramen, yakitori, and oden. The best thing about the yatai is the conversations you can have with the owners and other customers. Make sure to chat with the locals if you get a chance!
Enjoy Hakata Ramen
Ramen is available throughout Japan, but the local ramen from Hakata area of Fukuoka City is particularly famous. It is characterized by a rich soup made of pork bone stock and super-fine noodles, and is hugely popular especially among younger generations. The "kaedama" system of eating the noodles and leaving the soup then getting a second helping of noodles to put in your soup is also Hakata-style. Use the kaedama system as much as you wantuntil you are completely full!
Saga Prefecture is located in the northeastern part of Kyushu and is bordered by the Genkai Sea to the north and Ariake Sea to the south. It has a relatively mild climate throughout the year and is rich in nature. It has long been famous for its ceramics such as Imari, Arita and Karatsu.
See the Cherry Blossoms and Fall Foliage at Mifuneyama Rakuen
Mifuneyama Rakuen, constructed in 1845, is a Kaiyushiki garden (style of garden that features a path around a pond) with an area of approximately 500,000 sq.m.. With Mt. Mifune, long considered a symbol of Takeo, in the background, you can admire the various flowers in the garden, such as cherry blossoms and rhododendrons in the spring and beautiful foliage in the fall. In particular, the garden lit up in the evening is one of the most beautiful sceneries of western Japan. It gives a subtle and elegant beauty to the place, both in the spring and fall.
Regular: 400 JPY/adult, 200 JPY/elementary school age and younger
*Prices change during high season (mid-March to early May and late November to early December). Check their official website for details.
Visit Ureshino Onsen
Ureshino Onsen is an onsen hot spring area with a history of about 1,200 years. It has one of the hottest hot springs in Kyushu, and is often called the "bihada-no-yu" (hot spring for beautiful skin) due to the smooth texture of the water. It is surrounded by one of Japan's leading tea-producing areas with gentle slopes covered with tea plantations. Relax in an onsen and enjoy the beautiful rural landscape in which a lone cherry tree, Nandoryo no Hyakunen-zakura, blossoms in the spring. The Onsen-yudofu, a tofu dish made with hot spring water, is a specialty of this area.
Purchase Imari and Arita Ware as Souvenirs
Saga Prefecture is known as the birthplace of Japanese ceramics and is particularly famous for its Imari ware and Arita ware, which had a great influence on European ceramics. Both types of ceramics are highly durable and functional, and are characterized by their beautiful white base and florid decorations. There is a wide range of items available, from everyday ware to art pieces. Some items can be purchased for about 1,000 JPY, so they are perfect as souvenirs.
See the Strange Rocks of Nanatsugama from a Ferry
Nanatsugama is the general term for the seven sea caves on the northern shore of Higashi Matsuura Peninsula. It is an unusual landscape of rocks with precise, pillar-shaped cracks (columnar joints) that were created when lava cooled and set, and is designated as a Natural Monument of Japan. The best way to see these unique natural features is from a ferry, which allows you to see them up close. If the waves are calm enough, you can even go inside the caves.
Ferry fare: 1,600 JPY/adult (junior high school age and older), 800 JPY/elementary school age
Nagasaki Prefecture is located at the northwestern tip of Kyushu and is surrounded by the ocean. It includes a total of 971 islands, the largest number of any prefecture in Japan, and includes the Goto Islands, Iki Island and Tsushima Island. It was the only place open to the world during the period of national isolation from the late 17th century, and has a unique culture with Western and Chinese influences.
Visit Huis Ten Bosch
Huis Ten Bosch is a theme park where a Medieval European townscape has been recreated. Seasonal flowers that bloom throughout the park and the world's largest illumination with 1.3 million light bulbs in the 1.52 million sq.m. park creates an extraordinary scenery. There are many attractions that utilize the latest technologies as well. This is a place with so much to see and do that one day may not be enough!
Sample prices: 1 DAY Passport 7,000 JPY/adult
Admission Only Ticket 4,500 JPY/adult
(c )Huis Ten Bosch/J-18277
(c )Huis Ten Bosch/J-18277
See Nagasaki Kunchi
Nagasaki Kunchi is a fantastic festival with a history of almost 400 years, and is held annually for three days from October 7 to 9 in Nagasaki City. Its highlight is the Hono Odori, a parade with a variety of performances. The glamorous and exotic performances are full of energy and thrills. Once the performances finish, they are often asked for encores with shouts of "mottekoi", an expression unique to this festival. Join in on the shouts and become part of the festival!
Try Nagasaki Champon
Nagasaki Champon is a famous dish from Nagasaki. It is a noodle dish with a Chinese-style soup, ingredients fried in lard then stewed, and special thick champon noodles. Its appeal is that it comes with plenty of toppings that include meat, seafood and vegetables. There is a wide variety of champon, from voluminous but reasonably priced ones to luxurious ones with high-end ingredients, and each shop has its own unique flavors and menus.
Kumamoto Prefecture is in the middle of Kyushu. It is characterized by beautiful scenery that includes mountains and seas, such as Mt. Aso in the east, which has one of the largest calderas in the world, and Amakusa in the west, made up of several islands, big and small.
Kumamoto Castle is a Must-See!
If you go to Kumamoto, Kumamoto Castle, which is beloved by locals as a symbol of the city, is not to be missed. It is known as one of Japan's three great castles, with a majestic Tenshukaku (main castle tower), consisting of a large Tenshu and a small Tenshu. The solid stone walls built to prevent intrusion by ninja is an interesting feature of the castle. Parts of the castle are closed to the public due to damage by the 2016 earthquake, but its dignified appearance can be enjoyed from Ninomaru Square among other locations.
Visit Koizumi Yakumo (Lafcadio Hearn) Residence
Koizumi Yakumo (born Lafcadio Hearn, 1850 - 1904) was a Greek-born writer. He is famous for his numerous stories based on Japanese folklore as well as for his role in introducing Japanese culture to the world. Koizumi spent three years in Kumamoto, and this is the first house he lived in during his stay. It is a wooden house that was built more than 100 years ago. There are exhibits on display, including documents relating to Yakumo.
Enjoy Hot Springs at Kurokawa Onsen
Kurokawa Onsen is a nature-rich onsen hot spring town that has many retro ryokan inns. Each hot spring inn has their own unique open-air baths, so it is a wonderful place if you want to try a variety of baths. You can purchase an Onsen-Hopping Pass for 1,300 JPY (incl. tax) at one of the inns or at the Ryokan Association, which allows you to visit three open-air baths of your choice at a discount. In the winter, the area has an event called Yu-akari, where it is lit up with more than 1,000 bamboo lanterns after sunset. The lanterns, together with the atmospheric townscape, create a wonderfully mystic scenery.
Shopping and Eating in Josaien
Josaien is a tourist complex in Kumamoto City, with a shopping arcade called Sakurano Komichi featuring Kumamoto specialties. The arcade is recommended not only for buying souvenirs, but also for trying various local specialties such as Ikinari Dango, a unique Kumamoto sweet of sliced sweet potato and bean paste wrapped in mochi and steamed. The complex also has Wakuwaku-za, where you can learn about Kumamoto Castle from multiple perspectives, and a Tourist Information Center, where you can pick up pamphlets and maps in English, Korean and Chinese. This is a spot you won't want to miss if you are visiting Kumamoto.
Eat Some Kumamoto Ramen!
Kumamoto's regional ramen, Kumamoto Ramen, features a soup made with chicken bone and pork bone stock that is milder than that of Hakata Ramen, and chewy noodles. What makes Kumamoto Ramen stand out from the rest is the care with which the garlic in it is prepared. To enhance its aroma, the garlic is cooked in a variety of different ways, such as deep frying in fat or broiling. The toppings, such as wood ear mushrooms and mustard greens, are also unique.
Oita Prefecture is located in northeastern Kyushu. As the top onsen prefecture of Japan, it has the most sources and volume of onsen hot springs in the country. Beppu Onsen and Yufuin Onsen are particularly famous tourist destinations.
See Mt. Yufu
Mt. Yufu is an active volcano that is 1,583m tall. With a majestic appearance featuring two peaks, it has long been the object of worship and the subject of many legends and tales. The best place to see this awe-inspiring mountain is the Jagoshi Observatory from which you can see Mt. Yufu together with the entire Yufuin basin. The mystic scenery when the morning mists envelop the mountain is particularly beautiful, making it a popular spot for photographers.
Relax in Beppu Onsen
Beppu Onsen is Japan's largest onsen hot spring area. It has approximately 2,300 sources of hot springs, which accounts for about 10% of all hot springs sources in the country, around 170 public baths and approximately 1,000 inns. There is also a wide variety of hot spring types so you can enjoy trying different ones. This is the perfect holiday destination if you are looking to relax in onsen hot springs. In addition to the hot springs, there are a number of wonderfully scenic spots in the area. You can see unique scenery here that cannot be found anywhere else, such as Umi Jigoku, with its mystic cobalt blue water and Tatsumaki Jigoku, a geyser with hot water gushing out.
Visit Yufuin Onsen
This onsen area is third in the country in terms of the volume of hot spring water and second in the number of hot spring sources. It has many famous historic Japanese-style ryokan inns scattered among the farmlands at the foot of Mt. Yufu. It's the perfect place if you want to relax in the hot springs amidst the peaceful countryside. The area is also famous for the dreamy morning mist that envelopes the entire basin from fall to winter. Lake Kinrin is also a beautiful spot that you won't want to miss. It is said that there is a hot spring at the bottom of the lake, and you can see steam coming off the lake's surface in the early morning in the winter.
Miyazaki Prefecture is located in southeastern Kyushu. It has a warm climate that gives it a tropical feel, and has a thriving agricultural industry. With many spots associated with myths as recorded in Japan's oldest historic text, Kojiki, the prefecture is considered to be the "home of mythology".
Pay Your Respects at Udo Jingu
Udo Jingu is a Shinto shrine located at the tip of Cape Udozaki. The path to the shrine is built along the cliff, and the crimson gate and fences, blue ocean and green trees create a vibrantly contrasting scene. The main shrine building is inside a cave at the side of a sheer cliff. With the rocky wall as the backdrop, the richly colored building has a solemn atmosphere. The magical Kameishi stone on the beach in front of the shrine is also a must see. It is said that your wishes will come true if you can throw a ball called Undama into a dent on the stone's surface (men must throw it left-handed and women right-handed).
See the Waterfall at Takachiho Gorge
Takachiho Gorge is a valley with 7km of sheer cliffs that are 80m high on average. It is a famous tourist destination with beautiful scenery that attracts many photographers. In particular, the famous waterfall, Manai Falls, is stunning. It is a 17m waterfall that rushes down a columnar joint cliff. Rent a boat and row close to it to feel the sheer power of the waterfall. The mystic sight of the waterfall lit up at night (summers only) is also worth seeing.
Enjoy Chicken Nanban
Chicken Nanban is a famous regional dish of Miyazaki Prefecture. It is chicken karaage (deep-fried chicken) marinated in a sweet and sour sauce, and is a popular menu item at restaurants and in bento boxes. Although it is usually served with tartar sauce around the country, Chicken Nanban without the tartar sauce is available in Miyazaki. Why not try them both to see which type you prefer?
Kagoshima Prefecture is located in southern Kyushu and consists of a part of the main Kyushu Island and numerous islands to the south. There is much to see in this prefecture, including Yakushima, which is a World Heritage Site, an active volcano called Sakurajima and the Tanegashima Space Center.
Visit Chiran Peace Museum
Chiran was the location of a military base for kamikaze attack pilots at the end of World War II. The suicide attack strategy on enemy ships lead to the loss of many young lives. The Chiran Peace Museum was established to help understand the need for everlasting peace and to ensure such tragedy is never repeated. It exhibits the world's only remaining Army Type 4 Fighter, "Hayate" and the belongings and suicide notes of 1,036 suicide pilots who lost their lives.
Admission Fees: 500 JPY/adult, 300 JPY/child (elementary and junior high school age)
Sakurajima is an island off the coast of Kagoshima City. It is a volcanic island that has been active from ancient times to present day and is popular for its imposing presence on the ocean. You can actually go to the island on a ferry. Enjoy the fantastic scenery created by the volcano at the Yunodaira Observatory or take a walk along the Lava Nagisa Walkway built on a lava bed.
Ferry Fare: 160 JPY/adult, 80 JPY/child (age 1 to elementary school age)
Enjoy Suna-mushi Sandbaths at Ibusuki Onsen
Ibusuki Onsen is an area where you can experience a unique bathing style called "suna-mushiburo", where you are buried in sand and, essentially, steamed. The sand on the beach is warmed by the underground onsen hot spring water and is said to help with nerve and muscle pain. It is even thought to have beautifying effects. It is a great way to relax, surrounded by the sound of the waves and the smell of the ocean.
Yamagawa Sunamushi Onsen Sunayusato - Sayuri -(http://www.ibusuki.or.jp/spa/sunamushi/sayuri/): 820 JPY/adult (junior high school age and older), 460 JPY/child (elementary school age and younger)
Enjoy Kurobuta Pork Dishes
Kagoshima Kurobuta is a pork brand that is popular throughout the country. The pork is from Berkshire pigs that are fed sweet potatoes and raised with care under strict quality control. The meat is tender and has a light aftertaste. Compared to other pork, it has a large amount of amino acids which give the meat umami flavors and sweetness. The best way to enjoy it is as shabu-shabu, where you cook the thinly sliced meat by simply passing it through hot water. This is a great way to savor the true flavors of Kurobuta.
Visit the Outlying Islands
Kagoshima Prefecture has many outlying islands, such as Amami Oshima and Tanegashima, which can be accessed by ferries and airplanes. Among them, Yoron Island, a small island surrounded by coral reefs and an emerald green ocean, is highly recommended. The island is a tropical paradise with beaches of dazzling, white sand and brightly colored flowers such as hibiscuses. It is so beautiful that it is sometimes referred to as the "Pearl of the Orient".
Kyushu is a diverse region with a variety of different places to see and foods to try. Be sure to visit and experience all that this wonderful area has to offer.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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