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So far in our exploration of Japan’s different regions, we’ve had a look at 10 reasons to visit Shikoku, 5 reasons to visit Tohoku, and 10 reasons to head to Hokkaido. Today, we’ll be taking a look at just a few of the reasons to consider Kyushu…
1. The volcanoes
Forget Mount Fuji – Kyushu has some of the most beautiful and interesting volcanoes in Japan. Mount Aso, for example, is the country’s most active volcano. The surrounding countryside is absolutely beautiful, and when the mountain isn’t belching too much smoke and ash, it is possible to catch a cable car to the top and peer into its bright blue crater lake.
Sakurajima, off the coast of Kagoshima, is another of Kyushu’s impressive volcanos. Once an island floating in the bay, it became attached to the mainland after its last eruption in 1914.
2. The islands
Kyushu is the gateway to some of our favourite Japanese islands, which can be reached by ferry or plane from the island’s coastal cities. Gunkanjima, or “Battleship Island”, is an abandoned mining island that rose to fame as the inspiration for Javier Bardem’s lair in the James Bond film Skyfall. This year it was awarded World Heritage status, and can now be visited on a day cruise from Nagasaki.
Yakushima, meanwhile, is a very different kind of island – densely covered in ancient forest and populated mainly by deer and monkeys. This is one of our absolute favourite Japan destinations – read more about it here.
3. The hot springs
Wherever there are volcanoes, there are hot springs – and hot spring bathing is Japan’s most treasured cultural pastime. For dramatic, moon-like landscapes filled with billowing steam, bubbling pools, and the smell of sulphur, head to Unzen Onsen. For the quintessential traditional hot spring town, filled with wooden buildings and pretty baths, there’s nowhere better than Kurokawa Onsen. And these are just a couple of our favourites!
4. The countryside
Japan may be most famous for its sprawling cities and towering skyscrapers, but there is beautiful countryside to be found on all of the country’s main islands. Kyushu’s landscapes tend to be lush, green and open, with a very different atmosphere to the towering mountains of Honshu, the hidden valleys of Shikoku, or the windswept plains of northern Hokkaido.
5. The people
Perhaps it’s the warm climate, but everybody who visits Kyushu seems to remark on the languid pace of life and cheerful, laid-back attitude of its residents. The frenetic rush of Tokyo and the in-your-face brashness of Osaka have their own merits, but it is Kyushu where you will really get a chance to slow down and enjoy the open and welcoming attitude of your hosts.
6. The history
Everybody knows about the devastating history of Nagasaki, which was the second and last city ever to be hit by an atomic bomb in 1945. Though the city’s peace memorial and war history is certainly fascinating, Nagasaki has a much longer and richer history than most people realise – having been one of the only places open to foreign trade during Japan’s long period of isolation. We recommend visiting Dejima Island, where Portuguese and Dutch traders were allowed to ply their business during the 17th century, and Glover Gardens – home to some the oldest Western-style buildings in Japan.
7. The food
Literally everywhere in Japan has incredible food – and Kyushu is no different. hakata ramen is probably the most famous dish on the island, and anybody who has tried it tends to come over all glassy eyed whenever its name is mentioned.
For an unusual, al fresco dining experience, Fukuoka’s open-air food stalls (called yatai) are a fantastic place to try a few of the local specialities and mingle with the locals.
If you have been seduced by the many charms of Kyushu and fancy heading off the beaten track, have a look at our Kyushu Elements Small Group Tour. If you prefer to travel independently, our Kyushu Adventure itinerary is an excellent place to start.