Kyushu is Japan’s third-largest island and is known for its natural beauty, hot springs, and unique cultural experiences. While it may not be as popular as Tokyo or Kyoto, Kyushu is no less amazing and is 100% worth visiting!
This region of Japan has plenty to offer visitors who are looking for a more authentic Japanese experience. From the stunning natural beauty of Mt. Aso and Sakurajima to the traditional Japanese culture found in the pottery towns of Saga, you can easily find something to delight the explorer and traveler inside you.
Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, or outdoor enthusiast, finding something to fall in love with in this up-and-coming destination is not hard to do.
Here are several reasons why Kyushu is worth visiting on your next trip to Japan.
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10 Reasons Why Kyushu Is Worth Visiting On Your Next Trip To Japan
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Located in Kumamoto Prefecture, Mt. Aso is one of the largest active volcanoes in Japan and is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. In fact, its caldera is one of the largest in the world, measuring 25 km in diameter and more than 100 km in circumference.
If you’re a fan of out-of-this-world landscapes, the Mt. Aso area should be on your list.
Visitors can start their exploration by taking a cable car to the top of the volcano and enjoying stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
There are also hiking trails for those who want to explore the area on foot. One standout place to explore the unique terrain on foot is Aso Kuju National Park, one of the best places in Japan to hike (or drive) through dramatic volcanic landscapes and observe active volcanoes.
If emerald green grassland plateaus with grazing cows and horses are more your style, you can also visit the Kusasenri grasslands, located at the base of Mt. Aso which are a popular spot for picnics and hiking.
From there, it’s time to try local cuisine. The Mt. Aso area is known for its delicious regional cuisine, including Akaushi beef, Kumamoto ramen, and mentaiko (spicy cod roe).
Mt. Aso is also home to several hot springs, or onsen, where visitors can relax and soak in the natural mineral-rich waters.
Beppu Onsen (Hot Springs Town)
Beppu is a city in Oita Prefecture that is famous for its hot springs. Beppu Onsen is blessed by eight different springs, producing more hot spring water than any other onsen resort in Japan.
In total there are over 2,000 hot springs in Beppu, making it one of the best places in Japan to experience the traditional Japanese bathing culture.
The town is particularly famous for its “hells,” a series of hot springs with water so hot it is said to resemble boiling lava. How it got its name? During ancient times, people assumed the area was cursed upon seeing the gas and water bubbling up from the land violently!
The city of Beppu offers more than just hot springs and relaxation; it also offers plenty of attractions such as Jigoku-dani, an area with eight different types of boiling pools, Tsurumi Mountain (perfect for day hikers and nature lovers) and Takasakiyama Monkey Park where visitors can observe wild monkeys living naturally in their habitat.
There are many other natural wonders to explore within this city such as beautiful beaches, nature parks, lakes, volcanoes and waterfalls!
Things To Do In Beppu
- Tour the Hells of Beppu
- Explore the Beppu Tower, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape
- Try soft-boiled eggs cooked in the Jigoku Mushi way – a traditional way of cooking using the steam of a hot spring
- Take a sand bath at Beppu Beach
- Visit Kitakoka Shotengai Shopping street
- Visit the Oita Art Museum – which is home to a collection of modern and contemporary art
- Visit Mount Tsurumi by ropeway and go hiking
- Spend a day at Kijima Kogen Park amusement park
- Takasaki Monkey Park – see monkeys in their natural habitat
- Umitamago Aquarium – Attractive aquarium next to the monkey park.
- Take day trips to Yufuin, Kunisaki Peninsula, or Usuki
Where To Stay In Beppu
You may also like: 7 Best Ryokans In Beppu, Japan (With Private Onsen)
Yufuin Onsen (Hot Springs Town)
Yufuin Onsen is a personal favorite of mine! This onsen town is located in Oita Prefecture and is known for its beautiful mountain scenery (with Mt. Yufu surrounded by green fields) and traditional Japanese atmosphere.
Yufuin Onsen is particularly popular with couples and families, as it offers a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere than some of the larger, more touristy onsen towns.
One of the most popular attractions in Yufuin Onsen is the Yufuin Floret, an outdoor hot spring bath with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. This is a great place to relax and soak in the warm waters while enjoying the natural beauty of the area.
Yufuin is most accessible via bus and train for those coming from Fukuoka Prefecture or other locations in Oita Prefecture, like Beppu Onsen for example.
Things To Do In Yufuin
- Stroll along Yunotsubo Street, the main shopping street (don’t miss Yunotsubo Alley too)
- Visit the Comico Art Museum
- Don’t miss Snoopy Village Tea House or Donguri no Mori (for Ghibli lovers)
- Enjoy the picturesque Kinrin Lake, one of the few lakes in Japan where hot springs flow out from its bottom and create a hovering mist
- Visit Yufuin Floral Village, a theme park based on the Cotswolds area of England
- Try local foods such as Bungo Beef, croquettes, and Swiss rolls
Where To Stay In Yufuin
You may also like: 5 Best Ryokans With Private Onsen In Yufuin, Japan
Experience a unique culture blend in Nagasaki
Head to Nagasaki and experience the place where Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch cultures meet. Sounds like a crazy combination of cultures, right?
Nagasaki Prefecture in Kyushu borders another prefecture on the east but is otherwise open to the sea. Because of its location, the ocean and ports have long played a critical role in the economic foundations and cultural development of the area.
During the period spanning from the 1600s to the mid-1800s, Nagasaki was the sole location in Japan that maintained direct contact with European nations. This distinctive past has had a huge impact on what Nagasaki looks, feels, and tastes like.
As you stroll through the city streets, you’ll sense a strong presence of both Chinese and Dutch cultures despite being in a Japanese city. Just a brief five-minute walk from Dejima, you’ll encounter Nagasaki Chinatown, where you must try the Nagasaki champon, an exceptional soup and noodle dish teeming with a variety of ingredients and inspired by Chinese ramen. This dish has since become a symbol of the region’s local cuisine!
Nagasaki Chinatown offers a great opportunity to shop for souvenirs and enjoy an extensive range of street food, such as mahua dough twists, mooncakes, and other classic snacks.
If you happen to be a foodie, you can’t miss Shippoku cuisine. This renowned Nagasaki dining experience represents one of the area’s finest examples of blending Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch cultures.
Placed on a circular table, Shippoku cuisine features large plates of food, shared among family and friends, with each person taking small personal portions. While inspired by Chinese-style dining, it also incorporates Portuguese and Dutch influences combined with a distinct Japanese cultural touch.
The dishes on the round table are a combination of Japanese, Chinese, and Western cooking styles, made with locally sourced ingredients to showcase their unique flavors.
While it’s most often served at wedding ceremonies and other special events, Shippoku cuisine can also be enjoyed at many of Nagasaki’s top-tier restaurants!
Takachiho is a small town in Miyazaki Prefecture that is steeped in mythology and is considered one of the most spiritual places in Japan.
The area is most famously home to the Takachiho Gorge, a stunning natural gorge known for its crystal-clear mountain waters that is said to have been formed by the god Susanoo.
Takachiho-kyo is truly a sight to see because its cliffs, chock-full of twisted stones, look like the scales of a dragon. Visitors can take a boat ride through the gorge and see the waterfall that is said to be the home of the god’s wife.
Once your boat tour ends, the cultural immersion doesn’t stop. Other notable things to do here include catching one of the Kagura dance performances at Takachiho Shrine, where locals perform an abridged version of the Yokagura every night at 8 p.m. This costs about 1,000 yen per person and reservations can be made online.
From there, you can also visit Amano Iwato-jinja Shrine, an ancient shrine inside a cave.
Because Takachiho is not the easiest place to get to, the best way to visit this area is by car or by sightseeing bus.
Kawachi Fuji-en Gardens in Kitakyushu
The Kawachi Fuji-en gardens in Kitakyushu are famous for their stunning wisteria displays that bloom strongest between the months of April and May. Visitors can walk through tunnels of wisteria blossoms that create a purple canopy that’s full of color and life when in bloom!
The gardens are only open for a few weeks each year during the wisteria season, so visitors should plan their trip accordingly. The gardens are also home to several other types of flowers, making it a popular destination for flower lovers.
Fukuoka’s open-air yatai food stands
Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyushu and is known for its vibrant food culture. In fact, it’s famous for its rich, creamy tonkatsu ramen!
The prefecture’s culinary specialties also include sushi and other seafood dishes, yakitori (grilled skewers), and motsunabe hot pot (in the winter). One of the best ways to experience this regional food culture is by visiting the city’s open-air yatai food stands!
These small food stalls can be found on the streets of Fukuoka and serve a variety of traditional Japanese dishes, including ramen, yakitori, and takoyaki. Visitors can enjoy their food while sitting on small stools and bumping elbows with the locals.
If you happen to be planning a trip for the springtime, you’re in luck because the annual plum blossom display takes place at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. And if you like festivals, the incredibly popular Hakata Dontaku Festival is held every year in May during Golden Week, with 2 to 3 million people attending the festival every year.
Nearby are the iconic tunnels of wisterias at Kawachi Fuji-en garden in Kitakyushu (see above), as well as Itoshima Peninsula’s seaside culture comprised of sandy beaches and a surf culture that’s a ton of fun to experience even if you’re not a surfer yourself.
Sakurajima and Kagoshima
If you couldn’t get enough of the volcano sights, we’ve got one more for you! Sakurajima is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and is located in Kagoshima Prefecture.
Visitors can take a ferry to the island and hike up to the volcano’s summit for breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The volcano is also known for its ash clouds, which can be seen from a distance and create a unique backdrop for photography!
After you’ve enjoy the sights of Sakurajima, take some time to explore Kagoshima, the city. Check out a museum, relax in a hot spring, or spend the night in a ryokan.
Also nearby is Yakushima Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that you can ferry to, known for its ancient forests and wildlife. You can take a ferry from Kagoshima and spend a whole day exploring the island.
Surfing In Miyazaki
Miyazaki is a prefecture located on the eastern coast of Kyushu and is known for its world-class surfing spots. The area’s warm waters and consistent waves attract surfers from around the world.
Some of the best spots include Aoshima Beach, Kisakihama Beach, and Shirahama Beach. Even if you’re not a surfer, the beautiful beaches and laid-back atmosphere make Miyazaki a great destination for a relaxing vacation.
Saga’s Pottery Towns
Saga is a prefecture in Kyushu that is known for its pottery tradition. The area is home to several towns that specialize in different types of pottery, including Karatsu, Imari, and Arita.
Visitors can explore the traditional workshops and learn about the history and techniques of Japanese pottery. The towns also have several shops where visitors can purchase handmade pottery as souvenirs.
Looking for more Japan travel tips? You may also like:
- 7 Best Ryokans In Beppu, Japan (With Private Onsen)
- 10 Amazing Onsen Towns In Japan To Visit On Your Next Trip
- Japan On A Budget: 45 Ultimate Tips For An Affordable Vacation
- The Perfect Kyoto Itinerary: 5 Days In Kyoto, Japan (+ Nara and Osaka)
- Best Of Japan: The Perfect 2-Week Itinerary For First-Timers