Best Things to Do in Kyushu
A Journey through Kyushu: Unveiling the Southern Treasures of Japan
What pop’s to mind when you hear the word “Kyushu” in Japan? Is it the delicious local food? Or maybe the various famous hot springs?
Kyushu, Japan’s captivating southern island, is a paradise brimming with unique experiences and enchanting beauty. If you’re a curious traveler seeking diverse adventures, Kyushu has it all.
From historical treasures like ancient samurai castles and Shinto shrines to breathtaking natural wonders such as active volcanoes and stunning beaches, this region offers a kaleidoscope of delights.
And don’t forget Okinawa, a tropical gem with vibrant coral reefs, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality.
Whether you crave culinary delights, cultural immersion, or serene relaxation, Kyushu beckons you with open arms, promising an unforgettable journey through the heart of Japan’s allure.
Kyushu, Japan’s southwestern island, is a captivating region that seamlessly blends history, culture, and stunning landscapes. Home to diverse attractions, it offers a rich historical background with ancient samurai history and majestic castles.
Visitors can explore the active volcanoes of Mount Aso, relax in the therapeutic hot springs of Beppu, and revel in the natural beauty of Yakushima’s lush forests. Kyushu boasts mouthwatering delicacies like tonkotsu ramen and fresh seafood.
Additionally, don’t miss the chance to visit Okinawa, a tropical paradise with vibrant coral reefs, unique Ryukyuan culture, and a warm, hospitable atmosphere.
1. Take a dip in some of the great Hot Springs
Kyushu is well known as Japan’s hot spring paradise. Kyushu’s abundant geothermal activity makes it a hotbed for rejuvenating onsen experiences.
Beppu Onsen (別府温泉) in Oita prefecture boasts various types of hot springs, including “Hells of Beppu,” renowned for their colorful and unique landscapes. Yufuin Onsen (湯布院), also situated in Oita, offers picturesque scenery and tranquil relaxation.
If you go a little to the southwest, in Kumamoto prefecture, Kurokawa Onsen (黒川温泉) enchants with its traditional and secluded ryokans nestled in nature.
And at the southmost point of the Kyushu mainland, you will find Ibusuki Onsen (指宿温泉) in Kagoshima prefecture. Ibusuki offers a unique sand bathing experience by the sea.
Indulging in these healing waters not only soothes the body but also allows you to immerse yourself in Japan’s rich cultural heritage, making hot springs an immensely popular and unforgettable activity in Kyushu.
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2. Hike through ancient forests at Yakushima
Next on our list, is Yakushima (屋久島), a captivating island in Kagoshima! Known for its lush ancient forests, Yakushima is a UNESCO World Heritage site, drawing nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.
The island’s mystical landscapes, including the Jomon Sugi cedar tree, evoke a sense of wonder and tranquility. Hiking trails, such as the Shiratani Unsuikyo and Yakusugi Land, offer unparalleled opportunities to connect with nature.
It is also popular for being the inspiration for the Ghibli film “Princess Mononoke”. You will see the similarities as you walk through the amazing nature scenes.
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3. Visit the Hidden Christian Sites in Nagasaki
Nagasaki prefecture boasts significant Christian sites that offer a unique cultural experience. With a history of religious persecution, these locations hold great historical importance.
Oura Cathedral (大浦天主堂), a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a stunning example of Western-style architecture and served as a secret Christian gathering place during the Edo period. Visitors are drawn to its beauty and poignant past. Other sites like the Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument honor the Christian legacy in Japan.
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4. Wander through the Shrines and Temples
Kyushu is home to a rich tapestry of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, offering a spiritual journey through history and culture.
Usa Jingu (宇佐神宮) in Oita is a revered Shinto shrine with ancient roots, attracting pilgrims and history enthusiasts alike. In Fukuoka, Tochoji (東長寺) and Shofukuji (聖福寺) captivate with their majestic architecture and serene atmosphere. There is also Miyazaki Jingu (宮崎神宮) in Miyazaki and Yutoku Inari Shrine (祐徳稲荷神社) in Saga. These sacred sites are popular for their significance in Japanese religious traditions, allowing visitors to witness traditional rituals, immerse in peaceful surroundings, and gain insights into the spiritual essence of Kyushu.
▶ Usa Jingu official website: http://www.usajinguu.com/
▶ Tochoji official website: https://www.tochoji.jp/
▶ Shofukuji official website: http://shofukuji.or.jp/wp/
▶ Miyazaki Jingu official website: https://miyazakijingu.or.jp/
5. Discover the artistry of Arita porcelain
Arita porcelain (有田焼), hailing from Saga, is a cherished and historically significant part of the region’s culture.
Dating back to the 17th century, it holds a reputation as Japan’s first porcelain, treasured for its delicate craftsmanship and exquisite designs. Visitors are drawn to Arita’s workshops and galleries, where they can witness master artisans at work, creating these intricate pieces. The artistry and heritage of Arita porcelain attract art enthusiasts and collectors, while it’s timeless beauty and functional use in daily life make it a prized souvenir for travelers.
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6. Attend some of the lively festivals
Kyushu’s cultural festivals are vibrant celebrations that showcase the region’s rich heritage and lively spirit.
The Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival (博多祇園山笠) in Fukuoka features breathtaking floats and dynamic races, reflecting the locals’ pride in their traditions. The Yame Lantern Festival (八女のまつり) highlights the intricate craftsmanship of paper lanterns in Yame, illuminating the streets with a magical glow.
The Nagasaki Lantern Festival (長崎ランタンフェスティバル) dazzles visitors with its colorful displays and captivating performances, blending Chinese and Japanese influences. These festivals are integral to Kyushu’s culture, drawing locals and tourists alike to experience the region’s deep-rooted traditions, captivating spectacles, and warm sense of community.
In Okinawa, there is also the traditional Eisa Matsuri (エイサーまつり) which is Okinawa’s lively dance festival.
▶ Hakata Yamakasa official website: https://www.hakatayamakasa.com/
▶ Yame City tourism official website: https://yame.travel/summary/festival/
▶ Eisa Matsuri official website: https://www.zentoeisa.com/en/info.html
7. Explore Takachiho Gorge
Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡) in Miyazaki prefecture is a natural wonder that captivates all who visit. Carved by the Gokase River, the gorge features breathtaking cliffs and emerald waters, creating a serene and picturesque landscape.
Its significance lies in its deep connection to Japanese mythology, as it is believed to be the stage where the gods descended to Earth. Visitors are drawn to the ethereal beauty and tranquility, making it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts, hikers, and those seeking a spiritual connection with Japan’s ancient legends.
▶ Takachiho official website: https://takachiho-kanko.info/
8. Explore the historic and iconic castles
Kyushu boasts a rich legacy of castles that beckon history buffs and culture enthusiasts.
Kumamoto Castle (熊本城), a majestic fortress, exemplifies samurai architecture and offers panoramic city views. Fukuoka Castle’s ruins (福岡城跡), now a serene park, narrate the city’s feudal past. Saga Castle’s (佐賀城跡) reconstructed towers provide a glimpse into the Edo period.
In Okinawa, Shuri Castle (首里城) stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site(under reconstruction), showcasing Ryukyuan royalty and vibrant cultural heritage.
These castles, each with a unique tale to tell, are popular attractions in Kyushu, offering visitors a chance to step back in time, immerse in Japan’s feudal history, and marvel at splendid architectural feats.
▶ Kumamoto Castle official website: https://castle.kumamoto-guide.jp/en/
▶ Fukuoka Castle official website: https://fukuokajyo.com/
▶ Saga Castle official website: https://saga-museum.jp/sagajou/
▶ Shuri Castle official website: https://oki-park.jp/shurijo/
9. Enjoy pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters in Okinawa.
Okinawa is a tropical paradise adorned with stunning beaches, alluring travelers from around the world.
Ishigaki Island (石垣島) boasts pristine shores and crystal-clear waters, perfect for snorkeling and diving among vibrant marine life. Miyako Island (宮古島) captivates with its picturesque landscapes and idyllic surroundings.
The main island of Okinawa features famous beaches like Emerald Beach and Nishihama Beach, renowned for their beauty and recreational activities.
These beaches offer the ultimate escape, where visitors can bask in the sun, enjoy water sports, and immerse themselves in Okinawa’s relaxed and enchanting coastal culture, making them must-visit destinations for an unforgettable island getaway.
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10. Indulge in the exquisite local foods
Kyushu is a culinary treasure trove in Japan, enticing visitors with its delectable local delicacies.
Hakata ramen (博多ラーメン) from Fukuoka, features rich pork broth and thin noodles, a beloved comfort food worldwide. Kumamoto’s Akaushi beef (あか牛), renowned for its marbling and tenderness, offers an unparalleled gourmet experience. Kagoshima’s Satsuma-age (さつま揚げ), a flavorful deep-fried fish cake, tantalizes taste buds with its savory goodness. And in Nagasaki, Champon noodles (長崎ちゃんぽん) delight with their hearty combination of seafood, vegetables, and Chinese-style noodles.
Although there are many more, these dishes showcase Kyushu’s distinct regional flavors, reflecting its cultural heritage and natural abundance, making them irresistible favorites among locals and visitors alike.
Best Things to Do in Fukuoka
Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県) is a captivating destination blending rich history, modern vibrancy, and cultural delights.
Explore the ancient ruins of Fukuoka Castle and the serene temples like Tochoji and Shofukuji. The bustling city of Fukuoka offers vibrant shopping districts like Tenjin and Nakasu, alongside tranquil green spaces like Ohori Park.
Food lovers will be delighted by the famous Hakata ramen and mouthwatering yatai (street food stalls). Also, don’t miss the iconic Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival, showcasing local traditions and passion.
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Best Things to Do in Saga
If you go to Saga Prefecture (佐賀県), with a rich samurai heritage, visitors can explore Yoshinogari Historical Park’s ancient ruins and the majestic Saga Castle. The prefecture’s serene countryside is perfect for tranquil getaways, boasting scenic spots like Mifuneyama Rakuen and Yutoku Inari Shrine.
Saga is renowned for its traditional arts, including Arita porcelain, a celebrated craft. Food lovers will relish the delectable local dishes, such as Saga beef and Saga-Nishiki rice. Discover Saga’s charm through its intriguing history, artistic heritage, and delightful cuisine.
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Best Things to Do in Nagasaki
Nagasaki Prefecture (長崎) is a captivating destination with a unique blend of history, culture, and breathtaking sights. As a former international trading port, it offers a fascinating glimpse into Japan’s connection with the world.
Visitors can explore the poignant Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park to learn about its tragic past. The picturesque Glover Garden and Dejima, a Dutch trading post, showcase Western influences. The vibrant Chinese-influenced Nagasaki Lantern Festival is a must-see cultural event. Food enthusiasts will savor the mouthwatering Champon noodles and Castella sponge cake.
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Best Things to Do in Kumamoto
Next, on this list, we have Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本県). Explore the iconic Kumamoto Castle, a splendid samurai fortress with a storied past. The nearby Suizenji Jojuen garden offers tranquility and scenic beauty. Nature enthusiasts will be awed by the majestic Mount Aso, an active volcano with breathtaking landscapes.
Kumamoto boasts unique arts, like Kumamoto ceramics and the traditional Kumamon bear mascot. Savor local delicacies such as basashi (horse sashimi) and Ikinari Dango.
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Best Things to Do in Oita
Oita Prefecture (大分県) is best known for its rejuvenating hot springs, starting with Beppu, renowned for its diverse onsen experiences.
Delve into history at Usa Jingu, an ancient Shinto shrine with a serene atmosphere. Nature enthusiasts will love Yufuin’s picturesque landscapes and tranquil Lake Kinrinko. Oita is famed for its bamboo crafts and traditional Oita Kabuki performances.
Also, be sure to savor local delicacies like Bungo beef and Toriten chicken tempura.
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Best Things to Do in Miyazaki
Miyazaki Prefecture (宮崎県) offers a warm climate, breathtaking sceneries, and cultural heritage.
Discover the ancient past at Miyazaki Jingu, a significant Shinto shrine with a sacred aura. The prefecture is blessed with stunning coastlines and picturesque landscapes, like Aoshima Island and Takachiho Gorge. Embrace the local culture through traditional folk dances and festivals. Miyazaki’s renowned Aya beef and delicious mangoes are a treat for food enthusiasts.
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Best Things to Do in Kagoshima
Kagoshima Prefecture’s (鹿児島県) warm climate and stunning landscapes, including beautiful beaches and hot springs, make Kagoshima a must-visit destination for an immersive experience of Japan’s history, nature, and cuisine.
Explore the history of samurai at Sengan-en, a stately garden and former residence of the Shimadzu clan. Witness the powerful Sakurajima volcano, a symbol of Kagoshima’s raw beauty. Kagoshima’s unique Satsuma pottery and traditional crafts showcase its artistic heritage. Indulge in local delicacies such as Kurobuta pork and Satsuma-age fish cakes.
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Best Things to Do in Okinawa
Okinawa Prefecture (沖縄県) offers a unique and alluring experience as the southmost prefecture.
Steeped in history, visitors can explore World War II history at the Peace Memorial Park and Underground Naval Headquarters. Okinawa’s pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters make it a haven for water sports and relaxation. Immerse in the rich Ryukyuan culture through traditional dance, music, and crafts like Bingata textiles. Savor the delicious Okinawan cuisine, featuring dishes like Okinawa soba and Goya Champuru.
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How to Get to Kyushu
To get to Kyushu, various transportation options are available. You can take a Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo or other major cities to Kyushu, with routes like the Kyushu Shinkansen connecting Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Kagoshima.
Alternatively, domestic flights from major Japanese airports to Kyushu’s airports, such as Fukuoka and Kagoshima, offer convenient access.
Ferries from mainland Japan, like Osaka or Hiroshima, to various Kyushu ports are another scenic option.
Kyushu’s extensive rail and bus networks make traveling within the region seamless, providing easy access to its diverse attractions, landscapes, and cultural gems.
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