Kyushu is located on the southernmost tip of Japan and has a warmer, more tropical climate than the rest of the country. Peppered with lovely beaches, hot springs, and historical spots, this area also prides itself with unique food, festivals and culture.
Although Saga Prefecture (佐賀県) is the smallest in Kyushu, it played an important role in Japan’s history as a hub for trade and transmission of culture between the Japanese archipelago and mainland Asia. Rich in nature, a large portion of the region is covered by forested and agricultural lands. As such, one can expect high quality produce such as Saga beef, strawberries and mochigome 糯米 (sticky rice). One other speciality of Saga is ceramics from the towns Karatsu, Imari, and especially Arita.
Saga City (佐賀市)
As with every Japanese city, its castle is one of the main attractions. Sadly, the Saga Castle was destroyed by fires during the Saga Rebellion of 1874, where only the gate known as Shachi-no-mon survived. Originally built on a plain instead of a hill, Saga castle was surrounded by a wall. The main keep of the castle was reconstructed by Naomasa Nabeshima during the late Edo period and and is the largest wooden structure in Japan. It is now home to the the Saga Castle History Museum. Nabeshima lived simply and encouraged people to do the same, so as to prevent the Saga domain from falling into debt. This is evident from the design of the castle keep / museum.
Saga Station Bus Center and alight at Sagajo-ato stop.
As you wander around the city, much of its history can be seen it its buildings, from old samurai residences to “kurazukuri-style” (warehouse style) buildings from the Meiji era, forming part of the Saga City Cultural Museum (佐賀市歴史民俗館). For example, the firdst floor of the Former Koga Bank (旧古賀銀行) is now a cafe and concert venue, while the Former Nakamura House (旧中村家), now converted into a restaurant with traditional bento set meals!
The Saga International Balloon Fiesta is annually between end of October and early November in Saga City. For 2015, 20 hot-air balloons from 20 countries will be participating in Asia’s largest hot-air balloon competition. It’s the perfect opportunity for photography enthusiasts to capture amazing shots of the many hot-air balloons against a backdrop of clear, blue sky and vibrant, green grass.
Kanzaki City (神埼市)
Catch a glimpse into Japan’s past by visiting the archeological sites at Yoshinogari Historical Park (吉野ヶ里歴史公園), which showcases reconstructed settlements from the Yayoi Period (300 BC to 300 AD). Thought to be the remains of “Yamatai”, an ancient country in present-day Japan, unique pit dwellings from this period can be seen. Do not miss the Minami Naikaku, which is enclosed by defensive walls and moats. Within it lies lies the Ruler’s Residence.
Apart from the reconstructed settlements, one can spend the day visiting a museum dedicated to the ancient forest that covered the area, or try your hand at stone carving and how to use a bow-drill to start a fire.
Karatsu City (唐津市)
Karatsu is full of natural and scenic locations, such as the beautiful Japanese black pine forest arc known as Niji-no-Matsubara (虹の松原). The pine trees were initially planted by the first lord of Karatsu clan (Terasawa Hirotaka) along the coastline as a counter-measure against the strong winds and tides.
The small town of Yobuko (呼子) is well-known for its fresh squid, which is usually eaten raw. The Yobuko Morning Market is one of the three major morning markets in Japan. With over 40 stalls on weekdays and more during the weekends, visitors can eat their hearts out with the large selection of fresh and dried seafood, vegetables and fruits.
The Nanatsugama Caves (七ツ釜) are seven large caverns carved out by the raging waves of the Sea of Genkai. The largest of them has an opening of 3 m and a depth of 110 m. Ferry services are available to bring visitors up close to the caves, while there is a lookout and walking trail above.
Nanatsugama Caves: From Karatsu Oteguchi Bus Center, board the Showa Bus bound for Yobuko via Minato. Alight at Nanatsugama stop and walk for 20 mins.
Home to one the the world’s most famous ceramics, Arita-yaki (有田焼), originally a type of blue and white porcelain with a pattern drawn on a white background. New styles such as the Kakiemon introduced colours and resulted in vibrantly-colored porcelain, which appealed to the Europeans in Nagasaki. Hence, Arita-yaki was exported to Europe from Imari port and both styles were called Imari-yaki (伊万里焼). Nowadays, there is a distinction between both styles, which are named according to the place where they were produced.
Many of the attractions are also related to pottery, such as the now-defunct Izumiyama Quarry (泉山磁石場) where the discovery of kaolin stone (raw material for Arita-yaki) led to the development of this region as the centre of porcelain production. Take a look at this beautiful video about Arita-yaki, where the quarry can be seen in the first 30 seconds of the video.
JR Sasebo Line, alight at Hakujigaoka stop, and walk for 5 mins.
Dedicated to the influential Korean potter Ri Sampei (the father of Arita porcelain), the Tozan Shrine / Sueyama Shrine (陶山神社) is famous for having both its torii gate and komainu (guardian dogs) made out of… PORCELAIN! Built at the foot of a mountain, you can expect to have an amazing view of the town, as well as blooms of cherry blossoms, azaleas and altheas (the national flower of Korea).
Line, alight at Fudanotsuji stop, and walk for 5 mins.
Further away from the town center lies the Arita Porcelain Park (有田瓷器公園), an interesting porcelain-related theme park which contains a reproduction of the Zwinger Palace in Dresden, Germany. Some of ceramics exhibited in the gallery were produced during periods of export boom (the Bakumatsu period and the Meiji period). One noteworthy exhibit is a 1.82m high flower vase exhibited during World Exposition in Vienna in 1873.
Apart from Arita-yaki, visitors also have the opportunity to tour the sake brewery and have a taste for yourself!
ride to the theme park.
- Check out this link for all events happening in Saga prefecture.
- Download Doganshitato, a Saga travel support app (in English) to aid in your planning!
Read the original article on WAttention Singapore.
Recently, the southern parts of the Japanese archipelago has seen a spike in the number of tourists visiting. What is so attractive about Kyushu (九州)? Shrouded in tranquility, each of the seven prefectures of Kyushu has something special for everyone, from lively open-air food stalls in Fukuoka to hiking up a volcano in Kumamoto or go onsen-hopping in Oita. Stressed out individuals can find some peace and quiet in this laid-back yet beautiful region, with relaxing hot spring baths and majestic mountains.
First on the list is Fukuoka Prefecture and its two main cities – Fukuoka and Kitakyushu. Fukuoka, the most densely populated prefecture in Kyushu, has about 5 million people in an area seven times the size of Singapore! Closer to Seoul than to Tokyo, the Fukuoka prefecture is a quirky mix of traditional Japan and the modern West.
Fukuoka City (福岡市)
Fukuoka City (福岡市)
Present-day Fukuoka resulted from the merging of the port city of Hakata and the castle town of Fukuoka. Thus, some of you may be familiar with Hakata ramen, which comes from Fukuoka. What is so unique about it? The soup uses pork bones and boiled under extreme heat, thereby releasing the characteristic flavour that comes from the bone marrow. The noodles are very thin but firm. Although portions are small, diners can always order extra noodles cheaply – this kaedama system is unique to Hakata ramen.
The most notable underground shopping street in Kyushu is none other than Tenjin Underground City (天神地下街). It is a stretch of European style space filled with various shops of fashion, gourmet, books and more. A unique experience in Fukuoka is definitely eating at one of the approximately 150 yatai (屋台, open air food stalls) in the city. They sell food items from ramen to oden, gyoza, tempura and more.
Try to be early as the area gets crowded, but the stalls remain open till after midnight. Tenjin yatai is popular with tourists and have their menu in English, phew! Micaela Braithwaite is a popular YouTuber living in Fukuoka city, and here is her take on eating at a yatai, where you can get friendly with the locals! Other famous yatai areas include Nakasu 中州 (near Nakasukawabata Station) and Nagahama 長浜 (near Fukuoka City Fish Market).
Museum-lovers will enjoy spending time at the Hakata Machiya Furusato-kan (博多町家ふるさと館), which occupies three traditional Japanese townhouses known as machiya. Housed within this folk museum are buildings and artifacts that reflects a Hakata neighbourhood during the Meiji era. In the Exhibition Hall, you can find everyday objects and crafts of the Hakata people, while the Machiya Hall is an example of old architecture. Elsewhere in the museum are old photographs, recordings of the unique Hakata dialect and artisans available to demonstrate their crafts. Get a gift from the shop selling Hakata ori (folk woven textile) or Hakata dolls to remember your stay!
The nearby Kushida Shrine (櫛田神社) has a long history and is fondly regarded by the people of Fukuoka as “Okushida-sama” (お櫛田様, the god of immortality in Shinto). The locals come to the shrine in the belief that “Okushida Sama” will bless them with long life and prosperity in business.
Prominently located in the shrine yard is the symbolic gingko tree, with two monumental tablets of the Mongolian invasion at its foot. It is most well-known for holding the summer festival Hakata Gion Yamakasa (博多祇園山笠) each year.
walk for 5 mins.
Located within the giant entertainment complex Canal City Hakata (キャナルシティ博多) is a “Ramen Stadium” that offers the local favourite Hakata ramen, as well as seven other shops with noodle dishes from all over Japan. Known as “a city within the city”, visitors can stay in the two hotels (the Washington Hotel and the Grand Hyatt Fukuoka) while enjoying the many attractions such as the huge shopping mall, Fukuoka City Theater and the artificial canal that weaves across the complex!
to Canal City Hakata. OR Take the subway to Nakasu Kawabata Station and walk for
Kitakyushu City (北九州市)
Kitakyushu was once a flourishing port, playing an important role in the international marine trade. Remnants this legacy can be seen in the Moji Port Retro Area (門司港レトロ倶楽部). Take a walk along the promenade to take in the view of the Kanmon Strait. Situated all over the port are countless Western architecture such as the wooden Mojiko Station and the Moji Customs Building. Learn about history of the Kanmon Strait at Kaikyo Dramaship, or ogle at retro locomotive and drive a mini-train at the Kyushu Railway History Museum.
Two local favourite dishes to try is “yaki curry” (焼きカレー, baked curry rice), and fresh fugu (blowfish)! Fugu is so popular that during the annual Fugu, Lights and Hina Dolls Festival, the glow from blowfish lanterns light up the area while the crowd can enjoy blowfish hot pot and even blowfish fin sake tasting.
Also catch the banana auction which is unique to Mojiko!
at Mojiko Station. Explore the rest of the sights by foot.
History buffs can spend some time at the castle town Kokura (小倉), which is the starting point for Nagasaki Kaido (長崎街道, an ancient road that leads to Nagasaki Port). The famous Kokura Castle is an imposing structure with one unusual feature – the fifth storey of the castle keep is larger than the fourth. There is a karakuri puppet (からくり人形, mechanized Japanese traditional puppets) theater on the third storey, with many amazing puppets on display. Although small in comparison with the castle, the lush greenery of the Kokura Castle Japanese Garden makes it a wonderful place for a stroll.
Nishi Kokura Station. The castle is 8 mins walk away.
Pop over to the “Kitchen of Kitakyushu area”, also known as the Tanga Market (旦過市場), for some fresh seafood and produce. Shoppers can collect stickers in exchange for vouchers, movie tickets and more. It’s an interesting way to keep the business going! After all the fun, head over to nearby Murasaki River to enjoy the lovely view.
The market also provides stalls for the Wasshoi Hyakuman Summer Festival (わっしょい百万夏まつり), where visitors can check out the “Boat Heaven” expo held at Moji Port, followed by amazing Yamakasa floats at the “Summer Festival Roundup” and the Hyakuman Odori dance consisting of 10,000 participants. Of course there’s always the fancy display of nearly 3,000 fireworks in every Japanese festival.
to Nishitetsu “Tangabashi Quest” stop.
Those eager for some delicious unagi (eel) dishes should make a visit to Inaka-an (田舎庵), a quiet yet posh restaurant specializing in fresh eel caught from nearby rivers that flow into the local Buzen and Ariake Seas. Top on the menu is “Unaju”, a dish consisting of juicy grilled eel drizzled with a sweet-and-spicy sauce and placed on top of fragrant Japanese rice.
Other goodies include the tangy Yuzu Karashi Mentaiko (柚子風味辛子明太子, spicy cod roe is seasoned with yuzu fruit), and Unagi Chazuke (鰻茶漬, eel with green tea rice gruel). Both dishes are available from grocery stores and are recommended souvenirs to take home from Kokura!
Station. The restaurant is 5 mins away on foot.
Make plans for an exciting day of fun at the world’s first space theme park, Space World. The rides range from mild to thrilling, where the heart-stopping “Titan V” leaves you craving for more. Like every theme park, there are family-oriented shows in the “Galaxy Theater”, or a cooling water ride in the hot summer.
Spaceworld Station. The amusement park is 5 mins away on foot.
Dazaifu City (大宰府市)
Although original established as an administrative centre for Kyushu in the 7th century, Dazaifu also played a significant role in Japan’s diplomatic negotiations with foreign countries and defended Western Japan.
A lingering memory of the city’s administrative legacy can be seen in the Government Office Ruins (大宰府政庁跡), which showcase the remaining stone foundations of the government offices. The scale of the ruins gives us a glimpse of the enormity of Dazaifu’s administrative centre.
(3 buses every hour) to Dazaifu-seichoato bus stop.
Today, the city lies in the outskirts of busy Fukuoka City and serves as a quick getaway for locals and international visitors. An icon of the city is the famous Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (大宰府天満宮), which houses the deity for academic excellence, Sugawara Michizane. Students from all over Japan come to the shrine to pray for passing the entrance examinations or academic achievements.
JR Futsukaichi Station. Walk 10 mins to Nishitetsu Futsukaichi Station and take
the Nishitetsu Dazaifu Line to Dazaifu Station.
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Get yourself pampered with some of the best hot springs, food and sights that Nagasaki has to offer
Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima Resort Hotel is located on an island facing the sea of Nagasaki and is surrounded by picturesque ocean views. Only a 30-50 minute drive away from Nagasaki Station, it is also accessible from various tourist spots in Nagasaki.
This sprawling resort complex is facilitated with four different kinds of hotels, two natural hot springs, and a plethora of different dining options.
Cuisine is also a big draw here since Nagasaki specialty seafood and meats are available at the Japanese and buffet restaurants. The summer barbecue and other dining options ensure that everybody’s tastes are met.
You will never run out of things to do either. Getting tired of their extensive hot spring and sports facilities? Swim at the beach during summer or rent a bicycle to go around. Get a guided tour of iconic Gunkanjima, or take a taxi tour to see the night view of Nagasaki, one of the best night views in the world.
Accessible, comfortable and downright beautiful, all in all this resort offers the best package to give you a relaxing and healing vacation.
Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima
Location: 1-3277-7 Ioujima-machi Nagasaki City, Nagasaki, Japan 851-1201
Access: About 40 min. by free shuttle bus from Nagasaki Station (reservations required)
Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes
Oita in northeast Kyushu is sometimes referred to as the “Onsen Prefecture”, and this resort located in a sprawling 30,000 square meters garden with two hot spring sources is abundant in nature. Amidst the colorful plum trees and brooks teeming with dancing fireflies, stay in luxurious individual detached houses—many of which have private open-air baths. Or for a scenic change, the simple thermal spring and sodium bicarbonate saline spring public onsens boasts one of the best views of Mt. Yufu in the north. For music and movie lovers, come in the summer when Yufuin hosts a number of such festivals.
Take the Oita Kotsu bus from Oita Airport to JR Yufuin Station, or take the JR Limited Express Yufu train from JR Hakata Station to JR Yufuin Station. A 5-min. taxi ride from the station.
Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes
Known for its “Hell Tour” of eight multi-colored hot springs, Beppu produces the most hot spring water in the nation, and is perhaps Japan’s most famous onsen. At Hotel New Matsumi, sea, spa and sky combine as you overlook the Beppu Bay in all its glory. Commanding views of the ocean can be found on the top floor outdoor onsen as the soft breeze caresses your face, or from many of the rooms where you can conveniently dine kaiseki style on the freshest foods the bay has to offer. For a private dip, submerge yourself in the sodium bicarbonate saline spring waters in the private rock bath, or the open air ceramic (porcelain) baths attached to your room.
Take the JR Limited Express Sonic train from JR Hakata Station to JR Beppu Station. A 10-min. walk from the station.
Beppu in Oita Prefecture is probably the most famous onsen resort in Japan, producing the most hot spring water than any other area. The type of hot spring water varies on the location of the onsen, such as whether it is near the sea or the mountain.
Other than soaking in a hot spring, a popular activity is to do the Jigoku Meguri, or Hell Tour. There are a total of 8 Hell Hot Springs in an array of colors, but there probably isn’t a need to visit all of them unless you prefer to watch animals in hot springs than dip in one yourself. Here is a selection of six of them.
LAKE OF BLOOD
The high temperature of the hot spring water here (about 78 degrees) and the resulting volume of iron oxide and magnesium oxide in the water gives it its blood red colour.
SEA OF HELL
Formed from a volcanic explosion around 1,200 years ago, this hot spring is nearly 98 degrees Celsius and the high content of radium iron sulphate gives the water its turquoise color.
SHAVEN MONK’S HEAD HELL
The bubbles forming in this hot spring of grey mud are said to look like the shaven head of a monk. As the water temperature here hits around 99 degrees Celsius, dipping in this onsen is not advised, however, a foot bath facility is available on premise. There’s also a public bath next door with various pools to dip in.
WHITE POND HELL
This steaming milky white hot spring lake is surrounded by a Japanese garden and has an aquarium with rare tropical fish such as the man-eating piranha.
This geyser erupts every 30-40 minutes for up to 10 minutes at a time, reaching around 50m in height.
MONSTER MOUNTAIN HELL
Over 80 crocodiles and alligators inhabit this hot spring which was the first hot spring facility to rear crocodiles over 90 years ago.
Natural seaside beauty at Kyushu’s “99 Islands”
Nearly untouched by human hands and abounding with intricate islet formations, the Kujuku Islands offers an unparalleled scenic seascape view.
Scattered along Nagasaki’s coastline for 25 km, the Kujuku Islands (literally “99 Islands”, though generally referring to “many”,) form the most densely concentrated collection of islands in Japan. Together with the Goto Islands and Hirado Peninsula, these 208 islands make up the Saikai National Park, on Japan’s most western border.
For some breathtaking views of these islands from above, stop by one of the four observation points on the Sasebo hills, including Ishidake Observatory. The picturesque scenery from here made it the prime choice as one of the filming locations for the movie, “The Last Samurai.”
Better still, embrace the beauty of the deep blue sea and lush green islands by taking a relaxing cruise along the Kujukushima Excursion Boat Pearl Queen, departing five times a day between 10am and 3pm from the Pearl Sea Resort Tour Boat Terminal.
This white multi-deck ferry weaves throughout these islands on a 50-minute tour, allowing you to get up close to these uninhabited islands while listening to the scenery explanations in both English and Japanese. With islands on every side, roam about the deck or climb up to the lookout post for the perfect photo opportunity. Throughout Golden Week and the summer months (July through October), you can also watch the sun slowly descend beneath these islands on their Sunset Cruise.
For water sport lovers, you can also yacht or kayak your way through these calm waters. Or if you’d like to actually set foot on one of these islands, take the Uninhabited Island and Feeding Cruise. See the crater-filled rock walls formed from years of lapping waves, or feed the over 7,000 Red Seabream at the nearby fish farm.
Whether navigating these “99 Islands” by ship, or marveling at the panorama of these preserved natural wonders from above, the number of scenic views here are as countless as the islands themselves.
Next in this series: Picturesque Japan: Feel the suspense in the air with this bridge walk
Name: Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort
Address: 1008 Kashimae-cho, Sasebo-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture
Access: 25 minute bus ride from JR Sasebo Station
Kujukushima Excursion Boat Pearl Queen Departure Times: 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
Uninhabited Island and Feeding Cruise Departure Times: 10:30am, 11:45am, 1pm
Official Information: http://www.pearlsea.jp/english/
Like magic to your eyes
Located on the north edge of Miyazaki prefecture on Kyushu Island, the Takachiho Gorge is without a doubt, one of Japan’s most impressive natural landscapes. With dramatic cliffs, verdant forests, an emerald green river, and not to mention, the Manai waterfall that strikes you like sunlight bursting through the morning clouds, this gorge along the Gokase river is so beautiful it’s magic to your eyes. Paddle your way around with the rental boats available, and be thrilled by the Manai waterfall from up close.
You can also chose to hike the path along the Takachiho Gorge that lets you look at this breathtaking landscape from above. After passing the gorge, the path leads you to the picturesque Takachiho Shrine that boasts a history of 1,800 years. Be sure to wear the right shoes, as there are quite a lot of stairs to climb along the way.
If you visit during the summer, enjoy a refreshing meal of ice-cold somen noodles at the tea houses located nearby. These thin wheat flour noodles will come floating your way on a long bamboo flume. Can you catch them with your chopsticks before they flow on to the next customer? The gorge is also lit up with illuminations until 10PM during the summer months.
Trust me, the Takachiho Gorge won’t dissapoint, and there are many other sites to visit nearby as well, including the mysterious Amanoyasugawara cavern, where according to legends the sun goddess Amaterasu used to retreat.
To sum it up, if you are making a trip to Kyushu Island, the Takachiho Gorge has to be on your list!
Next in this series: Picturesque Japan: The Kujuku Islands
Name: Takachiho Gorge
Address: Mitai, Nishiusuki-gun, Takachiho-cho, Miyazaki Prefecture
Access: Takachiho can be reached by bus from Kumamoto or Nobeoka while the gorge is located within walking distance from the Takachiho Bus Center.
Boat rental fare: ¥2000 for 30 minutes (Can fit up to 3 people)
Boat rental hours: 8:30 ~ 16:30
Official Information: http://takachiho-kanko.info/en/