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5 must-dos in Kyushu island

Tokyo and Kyoto are amazing, of course, and you can’t beat the skiing in Hokkaido, but for your next holiday to Japan, we highly recommend a visit to Kyushu. Located in the country’s southwest, the island is home to hot springs, volcanoes, cultural and historical sites, and more. Autumn is a great time to go, especially for the pleasant 20-degree temperatures of September and October. Here are some of things you shouldn’t miss.

Mount Aso, Kyushu, Japan, Japan's third largest island, Japan travels, travel
View of Mount Aso

#1 Ride a ropeway

Kyushu boasts many majestic mountains across its seven prefectures. The best way to enjoy the stunning panoramic views from atop these natural wonders is by hopping on a ropeway – the Japanese version of the cable car. Some ropeways to consider include the ones on Mount Unzen in Nagasaki Prefecture (lovely snow-capped views during winter) and Mount Tsurumi in Oita Prefecture (for catching the cherry blossoms during spring).

#2 Visit an active volcano

Get up close to one of the largest and most famous active volcanoes in Japan, Mount Aso in Aso Kuju National Park in Kumamoto Prefecture. From the observatory, you’ll be able to see smoke rising out of the crater and be close enough to smell the sulphur in the air.

Takachiho Gorge, Kyushu, Japan, Japan's third largest island, Japan travels, travel
Takachiho Gorge

#3 Row through a gorge

Carved by the Gokase River, the Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture is one of the most spectacular gorges in the country. Row through the calm waters while enjoying close-up views of the cliffs and the towering Manai Falls. You can also opt to explore the gorge via the walking trail that runs along its edge.

#4 Take a bath in sand

If you’re seeking to improve your blood circulation or alleviate an ailment, why not immerse yourself in hot volcanic sand? The small town of Ibusuki in Kagoshima Prefecture has long been famous for its sand baths; so, wrap yourself in a yukata (traditional Japanese robe), close your eyes and surrender to the heat!

Ibusuki sand bath, Kyushu, Japan, Japan's third largest island, Japan travels, travel
Ibusuki sand bath

#5 Experience authentic accommodation

It’s not specifically a Kyushu thing, of course, but a stay in a ryokan (traditional inn) is a must for a genuine Japanese experience. Guestroom floors are lined with tatami (straw mats) and you sleep on a futon on the floor – but don’t worry; they’re thick and comfy, and come with a plush blanket to keep you warm throughout the night. One of the best things about staying in a ryokan is enjoying a traditional kaiseki (multicourse) dinner, and a breakfast that typically consists of rice, miso soup, grilled fish and often a local speciality or two. Most ryokan also house an onsen (communal bath). If you’re still a little shy about the nudity aspect of these, check if your accommodation has a private one where you can enjoy a dip in solitude.

Finally, you can never fully experience a country – especially Japan! – without trying the local food. Kyushu offers a variety of great dishes. In particular, we suggest you order a hearty bowl of Nagasaki noodles or Fukuoka’s famous pork-bone ramen, or sit at a yatai (roadside food stall) and enjoy oden (hotpot).

Fast facts

  • Name: Kyushu translates as “nine provinces”
  • Population: almost 13 million (compare Honshu’s 103 million)
  • Main cities: Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Oita
  • Getting there: Singapore Airlines flies direct to Fukuoka daily (just over six hours)

 

By Lindsay Yap

This is an article that first appeared in the May 2017 edition of Expat Living. Purchase a copy or subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

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