A Guide to Exploring Kyushu!
Kyushu's one of my favourite parts of Japan and I really enjoyed myself during my trip there last year! As Kyushu isn't visited as much as Kansai and Hokkaido, there isn't much information online that can help with planning itineraries. So here's a simple guide of how to plan your trip and travel around Kyushu!
Planning your trip
With most international flights landing in Fukuoka you can take airport buses from the airport to different parts of Kyushu!
Kyushu is made up of 7 prefectures and it is relatively easy to get around by train! Just remember to get a copy of the train schedule whenever you arrive at the train station as trains in some prefectures such as Miyazaki can be quite irregular.
For travelling within prefectures by bus, it's also important to get the information from the tourist centres or transport hubs to get the most updated information. Some schedules can be available online but they might not be updated.
While planning your trip, it'll be good to calculate how much the travelling can cost to help you with your decision to buy the JR Kyushu Pass!
Highlights of each prefecture
The main areas of attraction in Oita are Beppu and Yufuin.
Beppu is famous for being a hot spring city and one of the main attractions is the Hells (Jigoku). This is an area of 7 hot springs made up of different materials and minerals. The hot spring in the picture above is called Chinoike Jigoku (the blood ponds of hell). It's red because of the rocks in the area that are made of red clay that melt at boiling point. Also, I read somewhere that red clay is good for brightening the skin and renewing skin cells so the shop in the picture sells red clay products.
Yufuin's a hot springs town that's more developed for tourism than Beppu is. One of the main attractions is Yufuin floral village, which looks like it's part of a set of a Ghibli movie.
A special snack that can be found here is pudding dorayaki from 花麹菊家!
Miyazaki is a quite laid-back and relaxed. A main tourist attraction is Aoshima Island, a small island that is 1.5km in circumference. There's a shrine on the island and the rocks on the right are called Ogre's Washboards.
Another main attraction in Miyazaki is Takachiho Gorge. It's in Miyazaki Prefecture but it's nearer if you drive from Kumamoto. If you don't drive and want to take public transport like I did, you can take a train from Miyazaki station to Nobeoka station. You then take a bus from Nobeoka to Takachiho and Takachiho Gorge is about 20-30 minutes walk from the bus station.
The Miyazaki Bus Pass is quite useful for travelling around Miyazaki as it includes most of the tourist attractions in the prefecture!
Famous tourist attractions in Kagoshima include Sengan-en and Sakurajima. Sakurajima is an island with a volcano on it and Sengan-en is a Japanese landscaped garden with views of Sakurajima (the mountain in the background of the photo).
When travelling around the main and touristy areas of Kagoshima, the Welcome Cute pass has quite a good value as it includes most transport and gives free things at selected tourist attractions.
Shirokuma (white bear) is a representative dessert of Kagoshima! It's shaved ice with condensed milk, jelly, biscuits and fruits.
Kagoshima is also famous for the Kagoshima beef and kurobuta pork!
A good place for a day trip from Kagoshima can be Ibusuki, famous for their sand baths. The naturally heated sand baths are said to provide health benefits. This place is called 砂むし会館 砂楽.
A highlight of Kumamoto is Kumamoto castle which was quite badly damaged during the recent earthquake. Other highlights of Kumamoto include Mount Aso but transport there isn't available yet due to the earthquake too!
At the foot of Kumamoto Castle, there's sakuranobaba josaien. It's a shopping area where you can buy souvenirs related to Kumamoto prefecture and learn about their culture as well.
You can get a day pass for your transport in Kumamoto to all the main tourist attractions!
Kumamoto ramen has the same origins as Kurume ramen, just that the tonkotsu is less strong and there is sesame oil used in cooking the soup! You get to add garlic chips into the ramen too. This ramen is from Komurasaki ramen, a famous ramen chain in Kumamoto!
If you would like an educational day trip from Kumamoto, you can visit Minamata to learn about the Minamata disease. The area can be quite scenic as well! You will have to drive or take the taxi when you're here though, there isn't much public transport in this area.
Fukuda farm is a nice area to visit for food in Minamata! They have very good paella because Minamata is near the sea and they have a lot of fresh seafood!
Apart from the atomic bomb museum and chinatown which are Nagasaki's places of interests, another interesting place to visit is Dejima. Dejima used to be a Dutch trading post during the Edo period. The architecture here can be quite interesting and the different parts of Dejima provide you with information of how life was like here in the past.
A good place to spend a day out in Nagasaki is Huis Ten Bosch, a European themed theme park in Nagasaki!
It's not a typical theme park with the rides and all but they have a variety of activities for all ages such as Virtual Reality experiences, a chocolate house, a cinema with shows with the aim to make you cry and many more.
They have a wide variety of food in the theme park with different cuisines as well. This is lemon steak from Rode Leew. It's really unique and I loved it.
A famous food product from Nagasaki is castella! There are castella times at the shop and you get to try all the different types and flavours so you can look out for them and see!
Eating at a yatai is a good experience at night in Fukuoka! Yatai stalls are street food stalls that open in the evening. This is kokinchan, a famous yatai that was recommended to me by a friend. I was here at 5pm on a weekday and it was quite crowded already so be prepared to queue!
Fukuoka is famous for mentaiko so the mentaiko tamagoyaki was really good! I enjoyed eating mentaiko a lot in Fukuoka.
Fukuoka is where tonkotsu ramen started so Taiho ramen in Kurume is an extremely famous place for good tonkotsu ramen visited by both locals and tourists! The tonkotsu flavour was really strong and the chilli was really fragrant too!
And of course there is the famous Ichiran ramen that started in Fukuoka. This picture is of Ichiran honten, the main outlet of the chain. The ramen here is indeed better than of the other outlets and they have special flavours limited to this outlet too (for both eating in and the prepacked ramen).
Mojiko is a port area in Fukuoka that has interesting architecture and history. It used to be a prominent port but now with the port activities shifted elsewhere, it's a tourist destination. This is a small area easily explored by foot too. This building is the Kitakyushu Memorial Library of International Friendship.
Mojiko's signature food is yaki curry, which is curry baked rice with cheese. I got a yaki curry map at the train station and it shows how many places sell yaki curry in this small area! I've tried it and it's pretty good, I like it.
I hope this guide helps in your trip planning or entices you to visit Kyushu! Enjoy!