Kyushu is the third-largest island in Japan after Honshu and Hokkaido and covers 36,000km2. While it isn’t home to the most famous cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, or Nara, it is home to over 13 million people and some iconic towns of its own.

A trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without visiting Kyushu. You can enjoy onsen, temples, massive cities, picturesque villages, delicious ramen and sushi, and active volcanoes. You could even argue that Kyushu is the birthplace of Japanese culture!

In this article, we’ve got some reasons you should visit Kyushu during a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun for a trip full of wonderful nature, Japanese culture, and happy memories.

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Relax in an Onsen in Kyushu

Kyushu is a subtropical island and while it doesn’t house Mount Fuji, Shibuya, or Gion, it can boast a lot of things that other parts of Japan could only dream of.

The Japanese towns in Kyushu are built along large volcanic mountain ranges allowing the people to enjoy the hot springs, known locally as onsens. There are few things more Japanese than enjoying these hot springs.

Japanese onsens are incredibly relaxing and you can easily spend hours soaking in them. The alkaline water will make your skin softer.

It’s also a great way to discover an important part of Japanese culture.

The most famous onsen in Kyushu include:

  • Harazuru Onsen (Fukuoka)
  • Ureshino Onsen (Saga)
  • Unzen Onsen (Nagasaki)
  • Kurokawa Onsen (Oita)
  • Yufuin Onsen (Oita)
  • Beppu Onsen (Oita)
  • Aso Onsen Village (Kumamoto)
  • Ibusuki Onsen (Kagoshima)
  • Kirishima Onsen Village (Kagoshima)
  • Yakushima Onsen (Kagoshima)

The Unzen Onsen are probably the most famous in all of Kyushu and are also known as the Jigoku (Hell) Onsen. It gets its name from the smoke emanating from the rocky landscape. It's worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.

These hot springs are good for the body. There are hot springs all over Japan but there’s a particularly large number of them in Kyushu, particularly in the town of Beppu in the Oita Prefecture. You can see the steam from the onsen all over the town.

You’ll also find onsen in Kansai, Miyajima, Hiroshima, Kamakura, and on the island of Shikoku.

Find out more about Japan's main islands.

Visit Fukuoka, the Beating Heart of Kyushu

Visiting Japan’s nature is a good thing, but you can also visit some of Japan’s best cities. While a lot of tourists visit Tokyo, the capital city, there are other cities you should visit like Fukuoka.

What is there to visit in Fukuoka?
Fukuoka is Kyushu's largest cities and while you're there, you should try the Hakata ramen! (Source: ioa8320)

Fukuoka is one of the country’s biggest cities and also the designated city for the prefecture of the same name. With 1.5 million inhabitants, it's also the main city in Kyushu. Before 1889, there were 2 Japanese cities here, Fukuoka and Hakata, but they grew and merged into one another, keeping the name of the former.

The Hakata name is still used in the city for the JR Shinkansen station and the local speciality, Hakata ramen.

Fukuoka is a marvellous city with diverse and lively neighbourhoods. There are several interesting sites to visit, too:

  • Ohori Park
  • Canal City Hakata
  • Momochihama, the beach at Fukuoka.
  • Fukuoka Tower in Hakata Bay.
  • The Tocho-Ji Temple with its large Buddha.
  • Yanagibashi Rengo Market
  • Hakatamachiya Furusatokan Museum
  • The various Shinto shrines (Sumiyoshi, Hakozaki, Kushida, etc.).
  • The Momochi waterfront.

There’s something for everyone in Fukuoka and you can easily spend several days there. Whether you want to walk around, see some art, shop, or get something nice to eat, you won’t be disappointed.

Discover the Japanese island of Honshu.

Discover Volcanoes in Japan

There’s nothing more impressive than seeing one of Japan’s active volcanoes!

The island of Kyushu has 2 active volcanoes: Mount Aso, the largest volcano in Japan, and Sakurajima, a volcano that has formed an 80km2 island. These volcanoes pose a risk to the local populations, but you can still visit them.

Of course, the Japanese authorities keep an eye on both of them and visiting the volcanoes is highly recommended if you find yourself in Kyushu.

The island of Sakurajima (which is now a peninsula) is home to hot springs, observatories, a park, and the buried shrine gate. You should only need an afternoon to visit it.

Where can you visit volcanoes in Japan?
Sakurajima was on an island but since it's joined the adjacent island, it's now technically an archipelago. (Source: tsunehachi)

If you want to visit Mount Aso, you’ll need to take the cable car to reach the top and visit the namesake town for an incredible view of the volcano.

Find out what you can see and do in Shikoku.

Culinary Tourism in Kyushu

Japanese food is famous all over the world. We could easily talk about sushi, ramen, or yakitori. That said, each region also has its culinary specialities and Kyushu is no exception.

Fukuoka is one of the best places to try the local cuisine as it’s the island’s largest city. You can find traditional izakaya bars all over town.
Of all the regional specialities, you can try:

  • Hakata ramen
  • Motsunabe, a meat and vegetable stew.
  • Mizutaki, a chicken hot pot.
  • Karashi Mentaiko, spicy fish roe.
  • Gameni, simmered chicken and vegetables.
  • Goma Saba, mackerel sashimi.
  • Hakata-style gyozas.
  • Yaki Curry, a baked curry.
  • Umegae Mochi, sweet dumplings filled with red bean paste.
  • Amaou Ichigo, massive strawberries.

Kyushu also has some culinary traditions like making curry with beef instead of pork, eating butaman (steamed buns), or a soy sauce that is sweeter than what you’d usually find elsewhere in Japan.

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Nagasaki and Japanese Cultural Heritage

Nagasaki is one of the cities that is quite famous for being the target of one of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during the Second World War. However, there’s so much more to the city’s history than that.

What is there to do in Nagasaki?
Nagasaki is very cosmopolitan now but we recommend that you visit the Peace Garden. (Source: Hruruk)

Nagasaki is located on the northwest coast of Kyushu and was founded in the 15th century by the Portuguese. It quickly became a trading port for the Portuguese and the Dutch.

Nowadays, it’s a very cosmopolitan city.

You can visit the Peace Park, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Mount Inasa, Glover Garden, the Kofukuji Temple, Urakami Cathedral, the Dejima neighbourhood, or the Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown. There are several festivals organised throughout the year, too.

Don’t hesitate to visit Nagasaki during your time in Kyushu!

Miyazaki: Japan’s Seaside Paradise

Just 3 hours from Beppu, you can find the town of Miyazaki in its namesake prefecture. It’s famous for its beaches, palm trees, and delicious mangos. It’s a good idea to visit when the weather's nice as it’s famous for water sports and surfing in particular.

Don’t forget to taste the chicken nanban when you’re there.

You can also visit the town of Takachiho, Aoshima island, or the Udo-jingū Shinto shrine. Dedicate at least a full day to Miyazaki.

Find out why you should visit Hokkaido.

Festivals on the Island of Kyushu

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to attend one of Kyushu’s many festivals. There are festivals everywhere from the biggest cities to the smallest towns.

Here are a few worth checking out:

  • Hakata Gion Yamakasa
  • Karatsu Kunchi
  • Tamaseseri Festival at the Hakozakigu Shrine
  • Hakata Dontaku
  • Dazaifu Tenmangu Plum Blossom Festival
  • Wasshoi Hyakuman Natsumatsuri
  • Nagasaki Lantern Festival
  • Nagasaki Kunchi
  • Shurijo Castle Festival

These festivals are a great way to learn more about Japanese culture and celebrate their history.

The Picturesque Kumamoto Region

Kumamoto is the capital city of the Kumamoto prefecture in the west of Kyushu. It’s sadly known for the earthquakes that occurred in 2016, but has been rebuilt and is ready to welcome tourists from all over the world.

What can you do in Kumamoto?
Kumamoto is home to Mount Aso and many picturesque areas for you to explore. (Source: DeltaWorks)

Nature lovers can enjoy Kumamoto and onsens. You can visit Kumamoto Castle, the Sakuranobaba neighbourhood, and taste local specialities.

You can also see the Suizenji Jojuen Garden with its mini Mount Fuji, enjoy shopping at Shimotori Shotengai and Kamitori Shotengai, learn more about the samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, at the Shimada Museum, and explore the Reigandō Cave.

Mother Nature at Kagoshima

Kagoshima is known as the Naples of the East, probably because it’s located quite near a volcano. The city is located on a bay and is popular with tourists.

Kagoshima isn’t the busiest city on Kyushu but it does have some great food, a fascinating culture, and a sunny climate. You can walk along Dolphin Port or around Shiroyama Park.

Visiting Sakurajima is one of the most popular activities but you can also visit the aquarium, the Kagoshima City Museum of Meiji Restoration, or the Sengan-en Garden.

Visit the Okinawa Archipelago

Finally, we recommend ending your trip to Kyushu with a visit to the Okinawa Peninsula. You’ll find some wonderful nature in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and rich culture. The weather’s not bad, either.

Okinawa has a rich and varied culture and you can discover arts and crafts such as:

  • Kumi Odori dance
  • Bashofu weaving
  • Ryukyu dance
  • Bingata dyed fabrics
  • Ryukyu music
  • Okinawa pottery
  • Folk dance and songs
  • Ryuku glass

The food on the archipelago is also delicious and healthy. We recommend visiting Naha, the capital city of the Okinawa prefecture. There you can enjoy historical sites or have fun at American Village.

Now you should know a bit more about what to see and do on a trip to Kyushu. For more information, check out our other articles. You can also learn about Japan and the Japanese language from a tutor on Superprof.

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