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Exploring The Island Of Kyushu, Japan


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Devinne Bissell



Welcome to the enchanting island of Kyushu, located in southern Japan. This incredible destination combines rich history, natural beauty, and vibrant culture to offer travelers a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a history buff exploring ancient castles, a nature lover seeking breathtaking landscapes, or a food enthusiast indulging in unique culinary delights, Kyushu has something for every type of traveler.


Kyushu is the third largest island in Japan and consists of seven prefectures: Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Saga, Oita, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, and Kagoshima. Each prefecture boasts its own distinctive charm and attractions, making Kyushu a treasure trove of diverse experiences.


With a history dating back thousands of years, Kyushu is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the magnificent Kumamoto Castle and the historic Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution. These sites offer fascinating insights into Japan’s feudal past and its transformation into an industrial powerhouse.


Beyond its historical significance, Kyushu also boasts stunning natural wonders. From the majestic peaks of Mount Aso, an active volcano with one of the world’s largest calderas, to the ethereal beauty of the Takachiho Gorge, where cliffs covered in lush greenery surround a mystical river, Kyushu’s landscapes are truly awe-inspiring.


Moreover, Kyushu’s cultural charm is embodied in its lively festivals, traditional arts, and captivating performances. The Yamaga Lantern Festival in Kumamoto Prefecture, renowned for its intricately designed paper lantern displays, is a must-see event that showcases the region’s artistic and cultural heritage. The Miyazaki Prefecture’s Takachiho Kagura dance performances, depicting ancient Shinto myths, leave audiences mesmerized.


Getting around Kyushu is a breeze, thanks to its efficient transportation infrastructure. The island is well-connected by trains, buses, and domestic flights, allowing visitors to easily navigate between cities and immerse themselves in the diverse offerings of each prefecture.


So, whether you’re seeking historical landmarks, natural wonders, unique cuisine, or immersive cultural experiences, Kyushu has it all. Embark on an unforgettable journey to this captivating island and discover the wonders that make it a truly remarkable destination.


Geographical Overview

Situated in the southwestern part of Japan, Kyushu is a diverse and stunningly beautiful island known for its dramatic landscapes and geographical features. Spanning approximately 36,000 square kilometers, Kyushu is the third largest island in Japan and is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan, and the East China Sea.


The island is characterized by its volcanic terrain, with several active volcanoes dotting its landscape. The most famous of these is Mount Aso, located in Kumamoto Prefecture. Mount Aso boasts one of the largest calderas in the world and offers breathtaking panoramic views of its surroundings.


In addition to its volcanic peaks, Kyushu is also home to hot springs, known as onsen, which are scattered throughout the island. These natural thermal baths provide a perfect opportunity for relaxation and rejuvenation while enjoying the picturesque surroundings.


The coastal areas of Kyushu are renowned for their stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. Popular beach destinations include Miyazaki and Kagoshima, where visitors can bask in the sun, swim, and partake in various water sports activities.


Furthermore, Kyushu is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. The Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture is a prime example, with its steep cliffs and emerald green river cutting through the landscape, creating a truly enchanting sight. Additionally, the Yufuin area in Oita Prefecture offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere, with its beautiful countryside and tranquil hot spring resorts.


Despite its natural wonders, Kyushu is not solely defined by its landscapes. The island also boasts fertile plains, which have made it an agricultural hub producing a variety of crops, including rice, tea, and fruits. The volcanic soil in Kyushu provides excellent conditions for farming, resulting in high-quality and flavorsome produce.


From its volcanic terrain and hot springs to its stunning coastlines and fertile plains, Kyushu’s geography offers a diverse and captivating experience for visitors. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, scenic landscapes, or a relaxing getaway, Kyushu is sure to leave you in awe of its natural wonders.


Historical Background

Kyushu has a rich and fascinating history that spans thousands of years. The island has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with archaeological evidence suggesting human presence as early as the Paleolithic period.


During Japan’s feudal era, Kyushu played a crucial role in the country’s political and military landscape. The island was known for its powerful samurai clans, who fought for dominance over the region. Notably, the Shimazu clan in Kagoshima and the Otomo clan in Saga were influential in shaping Kyushu’s history.


In the late 16th century, Kyushu became a battleground during the Sengoku period, a time of intense warfare between rival daimyo, or feudal lords. One of the most notable figures of this era was Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a powerful warlord who sought to unify Japan under his rule. Hideyoshi launched a campaign to conquer Kyushu, leading to the famous Battle of Kyushu in 1586.


During the Edo period that followed, Kyushu became a vital center for foreign trade. The port city of Nagasaki, in particular, played a crucial role in Japan’s relationship with the outside world. It was one of the few ports open to foreign traders during Japan’s period of isolation, and its influence can still be felt today in the city’s European-inspired architecture and cultural diversity.


In more recent history, Kyushu was heavily impacted by World War II. Nagasaki, tragically, was one of the targets of the atomic bombings in 1945. Today, the city stands as a symbol of peace and a testament to the resilience of its people.


Kyushu’s historical significance is evident in its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The beautifully preserved Kumamoto Castle, originally built in the 17th century, offers a glimpse into the architectural splendor of feudal Japan. The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution, including the famous ironworks of Yahata in Fukuoka, speak to Kyushu’s role in Japan’s modernization.


Exploring Kyushu’s historical sites and understanding its rich past provides a deeper appreciation for the island’s heritage. From the samurai era to the impact of international trade and the scars of war, Kyushu’s history has shaped its culture and left a lasting imprint on the island’s identity.


Major Cities and Prefectures

Kyushu is home to several vibrant cities and prefectures, each offering its own unique charm and attractions. Let’s explore some of the major cities and prefectures that make Kyushu a fascinating destination.

  • Fukuoka: As one of Kyushu’s largest cities, Fukuoka is a bustling metropolis known for its vibrant nightlife, delicious cuisine, and modern shopping districts. The city is also home to historic sites like Fukuoka Castle and the serene Ohori Park.
  • Kumamoto: The city of Kumamoto is famous for its iconic Kumamoto Castle, one of Japan’s most impressive castles. Visitors can explore the castle grounds and enjoy breathtaking views of the city. Kumamoto is also a gateway to the stunning Aso region, with its magnificent volcanic landscape.
  • Saga: Saga prefecture is renowned for its traditional ceramics, known as Saga-yaki. The city of Arita is especially famous for its porcelain production and offers visitors the chance to witness traditional pottery-making techniques.
  • Oita: Oita prefecture is known for its natural hot springs and scenic beauty. The city of Beppu is a hot spring enthusiast’s paradise, with a diverse range of onsen facilities. Oita is also home to the charming Yufuin area, known for its picturesque landscapes and relaxing hot spring resorts.
  • Miyazaki: Located in the eastern part of Kyushu, Miyazaki is known for its stunning coastline, surf-friendly beaches, and lush green landscapes. The city is also associated with Japanese mythology and is believed to be the birthplace of Japan’s first emperor, Emperor Jimmu.
  • Nagasaki: Nagasaki is a city with a rich history influenced by international trade and foreign cultures. It is famous for its Dutch-inspired architecture in the Nagasaki Dutch Slope area and the Peace Park, which serves as a poignant reminder of the atomic bombing that occurred here during World War II.
  • Kagoshima: Located in the southernmost part of Kyushu, Kagoshima offers stunning views of Sakurajima, an active volcano located just offshore. The city is also known for its beautiful gardens and historical sites, such as Sengan-en Garden and the reconstructed Shoko Shuseikan complex.

These are just a few highlights of the major cities and prefectures in Kyushu. Each destination offers a distinct blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making Kyushu a truly captivating and diverse region to explore.


Cultural Attractions

Kyushu is a haven for cultural enthusiasts, offering a wide array of attractions that celebrate its rich heritage and traditions. From ancient castles and historic sites to traditional arts and performances, here are some of the must-visit cultural attractions in Kyushu.

  • Kumamoto Castle: Located in Kumamoto city, Kumamoto Castle is one of Japan’s most iconic castles. Its impressive black exterior and beautiful grounds make it a must-visit attraction. Take a stroll through the castle’s gardens and soak in the historical ambiance.
  • Miyajidake Shrine: Situated in Fukuoka prefecture, Miyajidake Shrine is a sacred Shinto site known for its beautiful architecture and serene atmosphere. Visitors can explore the shrine’s peaceful grounds and witness traditional rituals.
  • Yamaga Lantern Festival: Held in Kumamoto prefecture, the Yamaga Lantern Festival is a vibrant celebration of light and art. During the festival, the streets are adorned with beautifully crafted paper lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere that captivates both locals and visitors.
  • Munakata Taisha: Located in Fukuoka prefecture, Munakata Taisha is a sacred shrine complex dedicated to the Three Goddesses of Munakata. The charming seaside setting and architectural beauty make it a popular spot for spiritual and cultural exploration.
  • Shoko Shuseikan: Situated in Kagoshima, the Shoko Shuseikan is a historic complex that showcases Japan’s industrial growth during the Meiji era. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the country’s transformation into a modern industrial nation.
  • Kagura Performances: Kagura is a traditional dance form in Kyushu that represents ancient Shinto myths and legends. Witnessing a Kagura performance, such as the ones held in Miyazaki prefecture at places like Takachiho or in Oita prefecture, is a captivating experience that highlights the region’s cultural heritage.
  • Noh Theater: Kyushu is home to several Noh theaters, where traditional Japanese theater performances are held. These theatrical productions showcase ancient stories, intricate costumes, and mesmerizing chants, providing an immersive cultural experience.

These are just a few examples of the cultural attractions that await visitors in Kyushu. Exploring these sites and engaging in the local traditions allows for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the island’s rich cultural legacy.


Natural Wonders

Kyushu is blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, from magnificent mountains and awe-inspiring volcanoes to enchanting forests and breathtaking coastlines. Here are some of the must-visit natural attractions in Kyushu:

  • Mount Aso: Situated in Kumamoto prefecture, Mount Aso is one of the world’s largest calderas and an active volcano. The vast volcanic crater offers mesmerizing views, and adventurous travelers can even take a guided hike to experience the raw power of nature.
  • Takachiho Gorge: Located in Miyazaki prefecture, the Takachiho Gorge is a natural wonder that will leave you in awe. Lush green cliffs surround a crystal-clear river, creating a truly mystical and enchanting atmosphere. Visitors can take a boat tour or stroll along the walking path to fully appreciate the beauty of this place.
  • Sakurajima: Situated near Kagoshima city, Sakurajima is an active volcano that constantly graces the skyline with its presence. Take a ferry ride to the island and enjoy stunning views of the volcano. You can also explore the volcanic landscapes and relax in the hot spring baths that dot the area.
  • Yufuin: Located in Oita prefecture, Yufuin is a charming town known for its picturesque countryside and serene hot spring resorts. The rolling hills, beautiful lake, and traditional architecture make it a perfect destination for relaxation and rejuvenation amidst nature’s beauty.
  • Yakushima: This UNESCO World Heritage site is a magical island located off the southwestern coast of Kyushu. Known for its ancient cedar forests, Yakushima offers lush hiking trails, stunning waterfalls, and an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature’s tranquility.
  • Amakusa: The Amakusa islands, located in Kumamoto prefecture, boast pristine beaches, rugged coastlines, and a unique mix of nature and history. Explore the Amakusa Geo Trail for its breathtaking views or take a boat tour to discover the hidden gems of this archipelago.

These natural wonders offer a glimpse into the raw beauty of Kyushu’s landscapes. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a chance to connect with nature, these breathtaking destinations will provide an unforgettable experience.


Unique Cuisine

Kyushu is a culinary paradise that tantalizes the taste buds with its unique and diverse cuisine. With an abundance of fresh ingredients, local specialties, and regional flavors, the island offers a gastronomic experience like no other. Here are some of the must-try dishes and culinary delights in Kyushu:

  • Tonkotsu Ramen: Fukuoka prefecture is known for its rich and flavorful tonkotsu ramen, a dish consisting of chewy noodles in a pork bone broth. The soup is creamy and aromatic, often topped with succulent slices of chashu pork, green onions, and pickled ginger.
  • Kumamoto Ramen: Kumamoto’s specialty is a distinct style of ramen characterized by its straight, thin noodles and bold garlic-infused broth. The addition of spicy miso paste adds a unique kick to this satisfying bowl of noodles.
  • Motsunabe: This popular hot pot dish originated in Fukuoka and features beef or pork offal (motsu) cooked in a savory broth with vegetables. It is often enjoyed with a dipping sauce and pairs well with a cold glass of local sake.
  • Basashi: A delicacy in Kumamoto, basashi is thinly sliced raw horse meat served with soy sauce and grated ginger. This unique dish is tender, flavorful, and highly regarded as a local specialty.
  • Takoyaki: Originating from Osaka but popular throughout Kyushu, takoyaki are savory octopus-filled balls made with a batter, cooked in a special takoyaki pan, and topped with sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and green onions. They are a delectable street food snack.
  • Kagoshima Kurobuta Pork: Kagoshima is renowned for its high-quality black Berkshire pork, known as Kurobuta. The meat is succulent and flavorful, often enjoyed in a variety of dishes such as tonkatsu (breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets) or shabu-shabu (hot pot).
  • Yuzu Shochu: Kyushu is famous for its shochu, a traditional distilled spirit. Yuzu shochu is a popular variety made with the aromatic yuzu citrus fruit. This refreshing and citrusy beverage is perfect for sipping and is often enjoyed on its own or mixed in cocktails.

These are just a sampling of the unique and delicious culinary treasures that await visitors in Kyushu. Whether you’re a food lover or an adventurous eater, exploring the local cuisine is an essential part of experiencing the vibrant culture of the region.


Traditional Festivals

Kyushu is renowned for its vibrant and lively traditional festivals that showcase the region’s rich cultural heritage. These festivals are deeply rooted in centuries-old traditions and offer a unique glimpse into the local customs and celebrations. Here are some of the most captivating traditional festivals in Kyushu:

  • Yamaga Lantern Festival: Held in Kumamoto prefecture, the Yamaga Lantern Festival is a spectacular event that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Elaborately designed paper lanterns illuminate the streets, creating a breathtaking display of artistry and craftsmanship.
  • Kunchi Festival: Celebrated in Nagasaki, the Kunchi Festival is one of the most famous festivals in Kyushu. The festival features vibrant parades, traditional music and dance performances, and various cultural events. It is a captivating celebration of Nagasaki’s diverse cultural heritage.
  • Hakata Dontaku: Taking place in Fukuoka city, Hakata Dontaku is a lively festival held during Golden Week. The streets come alive with colorful parades, traditional dances, and music performances, attracting locals and tourists alike.
  • Takachiho Kagura: Kagura is a traditional Shinto dance performance that depicts ancient myths and legends. In Takachiho, Miyazaki prefecture, you can witness these captivating Kagura performances held throughout the year, showcasing stunning choreography and traditional costumes.
  • Yufuin no Mori Festival: Held in Oita prefecture’s Yufuin area, this festival celebrates the beauty of the region with colorful floats, traditional music, and dance performances. Visitors can immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere and enjoy the local cuisine and arts and crafts exhibitions.
  • Nagasaki Kunchi: This annual festival held in Nagasaki celebrates the city’s multicultural heritage and features extravagant processions, dragon dances, and traditional music performances. The festival is a lively fusion of Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch influences.
  • Chiran Peace Festival: Taking place in Kagoshima prefecture, the Chiran Peace Festival commemorates the history of the Chiran kamikaze squadrons from World War II. The festival includes memorial ceremonies, cultural performances, and the opportunity to visit the Chiran Peace Museum.

Attending these traditional festivals allows visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant culture and cherished traditions of Kyushu. The vibrant colors, lively performances, and festive atmosphere create memories that will last a lifetime.



Kyushu offers excellent transportation options that make it convenient for travelers to explore the stunning landscapes, vibrant cities, and cultural attractions across the island. Here are some of the key modes of transportation in Kyushu:

  • Trains: Kyushu is well-connected by an extensive train network. The Kyushu Shinkansen, Japan’s high-speed rail system, provides fast and efficient travel between major cities like Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Kagoshima. Additionally, local trains connect smaller towns and scenic areas, making it easy to reach destinations throughout the island.
  • Buses: Buses are a convenient option for traveling within cities or reaching more remote areas. Local buses operate in urban centers, while highway buses connect different prefectures. It’s worth noting that Japan’s highway buses are comfortable and offer scenic routes, making them a popular choice among travelers.
  • Ferries: Kyushu’s coastal geography allows for ferry services to connect the island with neighboring regions. Ferries are a great way to reach smaller islands like Yakushima and Amakusa, providing scenic journeys and opportunities to appreciate the surrounding sea and landscapes.
  • Taxis: Taxis are readily available in cities and towns throughout Kyushu. They offer a convenient way to reach specific destinations or explore areas that may not be covered by public transportation. Taxis in Japan are known for their cleanliness, reliability, and courteous drivers.
  • Rental Cars: For those who prefer the flexibility of driving, renting a car is a great option. Kyushu has well-maintained roads and scenic driving routes, allowing travelers to explore at their own pace. International driver’s licenses are accepted in Japan, but it is essential to familiarize yourself with local driving rules and regulations.
  • Cycling: Kyushu’s picturesque landscapes and well-paved roads make it an ideal destination for cycling enthusiasts. Many cities and tourist areas offer bicycle rentals, allowing visitors to explore charming towns, coastal routes, and scenic trails while enjoying the fresh air and beautiful surroundings.

Navigation in Kyushu is generally straightforward, with clear signage and English announcements available on public transportation. It’s advisable to have a prepaid IC card, such as Suica or Pasmo, for seamless travel on trains, buses, and subways.


With its efficient transportation infrastructure, Kyushu provides travelers with various options to discover its natural wonders, cultural treasures, and historical sites. Whether by train, bus, ferry, or rental car, getting around Kyushu is a breeze, allowing visitors to fully indulge in the island’s captivating beauty and vibrant offerings.



Kyushu is a captivating island in southern Japan that offers a wealth of experiences for every kind of traveler. From its stunning natural landscapes and rich historical heritage to its vibrant cities and unique cuisine, Kyushu is a destination that never fails to impress.


With its diverse geography, Kyushu boasts breathtaking natural wonders, including the majestic Mount Aso, the mystical Takachiho Gorge, and the awe-inspiring Sakurajima volcano. Whether it’s hiking along scenic trails, soaking in rejuvenating hot springs, or exploring tranquil coastal areas, Kyushu’s natural beauty is bound to mesmerize you.


The island’s cultural attractions are equally captivating. Kyushu’s festivals, such as the Yamaga Lantern Festival and the Takachiho Kagura performances, showcase centuries-old traditions and provide an immersive experience into the local customs and rituals. Exploring historical sites such as Kumamoto Castle and the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution gives visitors a glimpse into Kyushu’s fascinating past.


No visit to Kyushu is complete without indulging in its unique cuisine. From savory tonkotsu ramen in Fukuoka to delicate basashi in Kumamoto and delicious takoyaki throughout the island, Kyushu’s culinary offerings will delight your taste buds and introduce you to a whole new world of flavors.


Getting around Kyushu is a breeze, thanks to its efficient transportation system. With well-connected trains, buses, and ferries, you can easily explore the island’s diverse cities, towns, and countryside. Don’t forget to take in the scenic routes, enjoy the comfort of the local taxis, or venture into the picturesque landscapes on a bicycle.


Whether you’re seeking natural wonders, cultural immersion, historical exploration, or gastronomic delights, Kyushu has it all. This captivating island is an ideal destination for those who want to experience the true essence of Japan. So pack your bags and embark on a journey to Kyushu, where adventure, beauty, and cultural discoveries await you at every turn.