Kyushu, Japan’s third-largest and southernmost island, is a cultural collection of natural beauty, historic charm, spiritual connections, world-renowned sake breweries, and much more. The island’s seven prefectures, while unique in their destinations and offerings, are connected by an ever-present air of enchantment.
One of the most sacred locations on the island is the small town of Takachiho, Miyazaki, which is considered to be the birthplace of Japan. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the spiritual environment by boating along the waters of the Takachiho Gorge, visiting Kushifuru and Takachiho Shrines, and watching the daily Kagura dances.
The rustic charm of Kyushu continues throughout the island with its traditional architecture, making visitors feel as though they are stepping into the past. Visit Kitsuki in Oita prefecture, don a kimono, and stroll beside the well-preserved samurai houses; observe the 15th century Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto City; or take a riverboat cruise through the Edo-styled buildings of Yanagawa City in Fukuoka.
Complementary to the island’s charming buildings are its artisan glass and pottery. Kagoshima prefecture is home to Satsuma Kiriko glassware, which is famous for its rare glass cutting and coloring techniques, and Arita City in Saga prefecture is abundant in Arita yaki porcelain.
Nagasaki prefecture offers opportunities for learning with its Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, which house information on the Christian martyrs who were publicly crucified in 1597 and the WWII atomic bombing, respectively.
A unique area along the Nagasaki coastline is Kujukushima, which translates to “99 islands.” At sunset, the sun’s orange rays illuminate this collection of hundreds of small islands, creating a surreal view of nature. Travel southeast to Kumamoto prefecture where Mount Aso, an active volcano, stands. The mountain’s caldera is surprisingly populated by about 50,000 people, and the surrounding area is an excellent place for outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling.
Food and Drinks!
Kyushu has no shortage of delicious eats, with some popular ones including Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) in Kagoshima, Chicken Nanban (fried chicken with a vinegar-based sauce) in Miyazaki, and Sasebo burgers in Nagasaki. In Miyazaki and Saga prefectures, visitors should pair their food with some sake or beer. Saga has some of the best sake breweries in the world, while Miyazaki is home to Hideji Beer Brewery, which sells the internationally acclaimed Kurikuro, or dark chestnut ale.
While adventure-filled, the island is also home to some truly relaxing destinations. Oita prefecture has the largest number of hot springs in Japan, although some of them, including the famous “seven hells,” are too hot for guests to bathe in. In Ibusuki, Kagoshima, visitors can experience steam sand baths where staff will gently cover them in warm sand heated by hot spring water.
Apart from Kyushu’s abundance of destinations and activities, it is also a convenient place to travel as it is one of the best-connected travel hubs in Japan. The island has eight major commercial airports with domestic and international flights. While adventuring on the island, visitors can travel without worry with the Shinkansen, local train lines, affordable bus services, and easily accessible rental cars.
Do not pass up this often forgotten gem of Japan.
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