Kyūshū (Japanese: 九州) is the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan. The climate is slightly warmer and more tropical than Honshu, and the southern and eastern coasts are regularly battered by typhoons each year. The terrain is generally mountainous with very fertile valleys much like the rest of Japan, except for the wide plain area at the top of the island - the location of the largest cities of Fukuoka and Kitakyushu.
home of the cities of Fukuoka and Kitakyushu
small and rustic, famous for pottery and pre-historic village ruins
best known for the eponymous city of Nagasaki, a hilly city known as the only "foreigners port" during Japan's isolationist period and target of the second atomic bombing attack during World War II
rural area well known for abundant onsen hot springs, especially Beppu
center of the isle of Kyushu, location of the Aso caldera, largest in the world, and the beautiful Amakusa chain of islands
the surfers' destination of Japan with big beaches and big waves, plus the stunning Takachiho Gorge with its Shinto shrines
dominated by the Sakurajima volcano, hot enough to grow sugarcane - get buried on hot-sand beaches, or visit the two famous islands of Yakushima and Tanegashima
- 1 Beppu — one of the most famous hot spring towns in Japan: there are more here than anywhere else in the nation
- 2 Fukuoka — the largest city and main transport hub. Lots of shopping, museums, unique architecture, and one of the three big sumo tournaments
- 3 Ibusuki — The island's famous "sand bath" hot spring town
- 4 Kagoshima — southern city in the shadow of the Sakurajima volcano
- 5 Karatsu — a coastal castle town known for its squid market
- 6 Kitakyushu — Kyushu's main port town has a castle, a preserved historical port, and a space theme park
- 7 Kumamoto — castle town and hub to central Kyushu
- 8 Miyazaki — beach resort area in southern Kyushu. Surfing, golf, and Aoshima
- 9 Nagasaki — Japan's first port open to the West, home to the oldest continuous Chinatown, and the site of an atomic bombing at the end of World War II
- 1 Amakusa — three islands where many "Hidden Christians" practiced when Christianity was illegal, also known for dolphin watching
- 2 Amami Islands — subtropical archipelago halfway to Okinawa
- 3 Mount Aso — an active volcano
- 4 Kirishima — a mountainous national park chock full of volcanic craters and hot springs
- 5 Kushima — a rural town known for its wild horses, the Misaki horse, and great surfing
- 6 Takachiho — a scenic gorge with deep ties to Shintoism
- 7 Tanegashima — island home of Japan's space program
- 8 Tsushima — an island that used to be its own province known for its unique endangered cat species
- 9 Yakushima — subtropical island famous for its giant cedars
Kyushu is home to dialects of Japanese that are almost incomprehensible to speakers of standard Japanese, so much so that it was used during World War II for preventing interception by the Allies of Japanese communications. Even native speakers of Japanese from Honshu often have problems understanding the conversations of locals. However, most people are able to speak standard Japanese and especially in the cities younger people may also have a decent command of English.
Fukuoka (FUK IATA) is Japan's busiest international hub after the trio of Tokyo, Chubu and Kansai and has excellent connections throughout Asia and Japan. All the other prefectural capitals also offer limited service within Japan and to a few major Asian cities (typically Seoul and Shanghai).
The San'yo Shinkansen line runs from Osaka to Fukuoka and many trains continue along the Kyushu Shinkansen line to Kagoshima. All Shinkensen trains stop at Kokura Station in Kitakyushu and Hakata Station in Fukuoka; a trip by train all the way from Tokyo takes about 5 hours by Nozomi and costs ¥23,150. There are no Hikari trains that go the full distance from Tokyo to Hakata, so with the JR Pass, you'll need to change trains. You can also go from Osaka to Hakata with the JR West San'yo Pass.
The Kyushu Shinkansen crosses the west side of the island to Kagoshima in the south. Many trains to Kagoshima start in Osaka, and the full course takes about 3.75 hours by Mizuho and ¥22,210. The JR pass is not accepted on Mizuho trains, but they are accepted on Sakura trains which make the journey in 4 hours. A journey from Tokyo (with a change in Osaka) takes a little over 6.5 hours and costs about ¥30,500, add an hour with the JR Pass for a Hikari to Sakura connection in Shin-Osaka or Okayama.
The Hakata to Kagoshima run takes about 1.5 hours. There are also good Limited Express trains servicing most anywhere of interest on the island, so you can take train from Hakata to just about anywhere else of interest on the island in about an hour in a half. The exception being Miyazaki which is about four hours from Hakata.
Willer Express is a company which provides daily night time bus services from Nagoya, Tokyo, and Osaka to Kyushu. They offer an online booking services in Japanese, English and Korean.
The train is the transport mode of choice on Kyushu. The Kyushu Shinkansen zips across from Fukuoka (Hakata) via Kumamoto to Kagoshima in 1 hr 20 min, and there is a fairly rapid express network covering most of the island. Some scenic local lines are attractions in their own right, such as the JR Hisatsu Line (肥薩線), which runs from Kumamoto via Yatsushiro to Hayato (near Kagoshima) and is considered one of the most scenic in Japan. These lines often feature services aimed at tourists and sightseers, such as the steam-powered SL Hitoyoshi, which runs on weekends from Kumamoto to Hitoyoshi.
The Kyushu Rail Pass, available only to visitors on tourist visas, offers unlimited travel on JR Kyushu's lines, including the Kyushu Shinkansen but not the San'yo Shinkansen to Hakata. The limited express trains throughout Kyushu are fairly reasonably priced, so the 3-day pass is probably not going to save money unless you're using the Shinkansen or spending a lot of time on the train.
The prices of the pass are as follows:
- Northern Kyushu Area — 3-day pass ¥7,200, 5-day pass ¥9,260
- All Kyushu Area — 3-day pass ¥14,400, 5-day pass ¥17,490
Buses serve those parts of Kyushu outside the railway network, but schedules tend to be very limited. There is also a highway bus system paralleling the train network, for which reservations can be done on a portal website. They also offer SUNQ[dead link] 3-4 day unlimited travel passes: 4-day All Kyushu Pass ¥14,000; 3-day All Kyushu Pass ¥10,000; 3-day Northern Kyushu Pass ¥8,000.
Kyushu doesn't have any original castles, but there are still some noteworthy reconstructions and interesting ruins to explore. Kumamoto Castle (Kumamoto) was often considered to be the best reconstructed castle in the nation, because they not only rebuilt the castle keep, they also rebuilt most of the other structures in the castle grounds. The castle keep and many other structures were severely damaged in the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake. It has been closed since that time and works to rebuild and restore the castle are ongoing. It is projected that the keep will be completed as early as 2019 while the full restoration of all buildings and walls is not expected to be completed until the 2030s.
Saga Castle in Saga features one of the best palace reconstructions in the nation. They had to obtain special permission in order to build the palace at full scale in its authentic form due to size restrictions on wooden buildings.
- Karatsu Castle, Karatsu
- Hizen Nagoya Castle, Karatsu
- Nakatsu Castle, Nakatsu
- Usuki Castle, Usuki
- Oka Castle, Takeda
- Obi Castle Ruins, Nichinan
- Hirado Castle, Hirado
- Shimabara Castle, Shimabara
- Hara Castle, Minamishimabara
- Kokura Castle, Kitakyushu
- Fukuoka Castle, Fukuoka
- Senganen Garden, Kagoshima
- Suizenji Garden, Kumamoto
- Mifuneyama Rakuen Garden, Takeo
- Kuju Flower Park, Kuju
Temples and Shrines
- Dazaifu Tenmangu, Dazaifu
- Yutoku Inari Shrine, Kashima
- Usa Shrine, Usa
- Futagoji Temple, Kunisaki
- Nanzoin Temple, Sasaguri
- Kirishima Shrine, Kirishima
- Udo Shrine, Nichinan
- Aoshima Shrine, Miyazaki
- Amano Iwato Shrine, Takachiho
- Aso Shrine, Aso
- Confucian Temple, Nagasaki
- Sofukuji Temple, Nagasaki
World Heritage Sites
- See also: UNESCO World Heritage List#Japan
- Yakushima, an island with a scenic primeval forest used to design the scenes in the movie Princess Mononoke
- Munakata Shrine, Munakata
- Hidden Christian Sites in Nagasaki, Hirado, Sasebo, Minamishimabara, Amakusa, and the Goto Islands
- Amami Oshima
- Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution
You'll eat well in Kyushu. Fukuoka, in particular, has a reputation as a foodie paradise and a particularly lively street food scene, since it's the last major city in Japan that still has yatai, outdoor stalls, set up along the riverside.
Some famous (or infamous) Kyushu eats include:
- Tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen noodles in Fukuoka, widely considered the ramen capital of the world.
- Mentaiko spicy cod roe, also a Fukuoka speciality. Only mildly spicy, and often served up in spaghetti sauce!
- Raw chicken sashimi in Kagoshima. Tastes like, well, raw chicken.
- Nagasaki chanpon, a hearty noodle soup topped with pork, seafood and thick noodles.
- Chicken nanban, literally "Southern Barbarian chicken" — invented in Miyazaki, this is deep-fried chicken doused in a sweet sauce of Portuguese origin (hence the name) and served with raw cabbage and tartar sauce.
Mentaiko spicy cod roe
Kyushu is the home of shōchū (焼酎), the fiery Japanese distilled liquor. It's typically around 25%, but some varieties can be much stronger. It can be distilled from nearly anything including rice, barley, brown sugar and buckwheat, but Kyushu is best known for potato shōchū (芋焼酎 imojōchū), particularly that from the ancient province of Satsuma (modern-day Kagoshima).
Carry a cellphone with you at all times and avoid areas where there are no streetlights, people, or busy shops/restaurants (just like anywhere else!).
The Chugoku region offers many great experiences for travellers, such as:
- Hiroshima, the first city to experience an atomic bombing
- Okayama, home to one of Japan's Three Famous Gardens
- Izumo, with the second holiest Shinto Shrine in Japan
- Tottori, with Japan's only sand dunes.