The spectacular array of natural attractions on KYUSHU makes this, Japan's third-largest island, a feasible holiday destination on its own, providing a thrilling alternative to the regular Kanto and Kansai circuits. Here visitors can find themselves hiking the rim of the world's largest caldera, taking a lonesome onsen dip in the forest, surfing Japan's gnarliest waves, tracking down moss-coated cedar trees that predate Christianity or being showered with ash from a live volcano. It's perfectly possible to just scoot round the main cities in a week, but you'll need more like two to do the region justice, allowing time for the splendid mountainous interior and a few of the more far-flung islands.
Fukuoka, 6 hrs. by Shinkansen super express from Tokyo or 2 hrs. by air and 3 hrs. by Shinkansen super express from Shin-Osaka, is the rail gateway to Kyushu. In recent years, the city has emerged as a strategic point of international exchange with the rest of Asia. The intriguing Fukuoka Museum of Asian Fine Art, is well worth a visit as it showcases the "now" of Asia. At Dazaifu, 20 min. by car from Fukuoka, many archaeological finds related to Japan's ancient court culture can be found.
Arita, 1 hr. 20 min. from Hakata, is well known for its pottery with a history of over 400 years. There are about 150 kilns in the area.
Nagasaki is a base from which to visit Unzen. Nagasaki was the only Japanese port open to foreign trade by the Tokugawa shogunate during the period of Japan's seclusion from 1639 to 1859. Nagasaki was also the target of the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan during World War II.
Primary attractions in Nagasaki include Sofukuji Temple, known as the Chinese Temple, the Oura Catholic Church - a National Treasure - and the century-old Glover Garden Nagasaki, is an open air museum, exhibiting mansions of former Western residents of Nagasaki. It is also noted for its scenery reminiscent of the setting for Puccini's opera, Madame Butterfly.
Nagasaki Peace Park was laid out to commemorate the exact spot of the atomic blast on August 9, 1945, three days after the first was dropped on Hiroshima
Unzen, a pleasant 2-hr. drive from Nagasaki, features both highland and seashore hot-spring resorts. Mt. Unzen, an active volcano, consists of three peaks, the highest being Fugendake (alt. 1,360 m.). Shimabara is where Shimabara Castle once stood. Its donjon, a reconstruction, is now a museum, displaying records and documents relating to the Christians of the district who made their last stand here in their struggle against persecution by the Shogunate in 1638.
Kumamoto is 30 min. by Shinkansen super express from Hakata Sta. Major tourist spots include Kumamoto Castle and Suizenji Park. Kumamoto is also a gateway to Aso-Kuju National Park, which includes volcanoes such as Mt. Aso, the world's largest volcanic caldera, and Mt. Kuju.
Beppu, 15 min. by train from Oita, is situated on the eastern coast of Kyushu. Beppu, a spa town, is famous for its bubbling mud ponds, the most active of which detonate loudly and throw mud into the air. When it comes to public hot spring baths, there over 100 - eloquent proof that this is one of Japan's greatest hot spring resorts. Try hopping from one public bath to another and enjoy the many different hot spring waters.
Miyazaki, 3 hrs. by limited express train from Oita, is a favorite vacation spot. Nichinan Kaigan Quasi-National Park, extending for about 100 km. along the seacoast south of Miyazaki, is the foremost tourist highlight. Its principal attraction is Aoshima Island, a tiny islet densely covered with biro or betel-nut palms.
Kagoshima is 1.5 hrs. by Shinkansen super express from Hakata. The city abounds in scenic attractions, historic sites, and hot springs and is dominated by Sakurajima, an active volcano.
One hour by train from Kagoshima-Chuo Sta. is Ibusuki, one of the most celebrated hot-spring resorts in Japan. Located at the southernmost tip of the Satsuma Peninsula, it owes its popularity in part to its lovely white sandy beach and lush subtropical vegetation. A unique form of hot sand-bathing is offered here and is a great way to relax.
Yakushima Island, 40 min. by air from Kagoshima Airport, is home to a primeval forest of "Yaku-sugi" cedars dating back thousands of years. Many outdoor activities can be enjoyed, including mountain climbing, valley trekking, canoeing and eco tours among others.