Driving Around Fukue Island
Hidden Churches and Stunning Beaches
Goto is an archipelago of 140 islands in the East China Sea, part of Nagasaki Prefecture. Blessed with stunningly blue seas and lush vegetation, these islands are widely known for Kakure Kirishitan (hidden Christians), people that had gone into hiding in these lands to avoid being persecuted by the shogunates for their beliefs.
Fukue Island is the largest of the five main islands of the archipelago. It can be reached by boat from Nagasaki or Sasebo. Fukue is a jokamachi (castle town) and its castle was the last one built in Japanese history. Its grounds are now used as the Goto high school. The tranquil town also features an area called Bukeyashiki Samurai Street, where the samurai used to live during the Edo Period (1603-1868). The stone walls and wooden gates survive to this day and make for a pleasant stroll.
Starting your journey, hop on a rental car or an electric car (Goto highly supports electric vehicles) and head down to the Abunze Visitor Center. Hidden in the vegetation is an observation deck from which you can see the Abunze Coast, with its black shore formed by lava rock following an ancient eruption of Mount Onidake.
Turn around: there in the distance is Mount Onidake! Its green surface is completely smooth, and seeing it surrounded by such a wild vegetation might make you forget that you are in Japan.
Heading back up towards Fukue and further up north you will arrive to Dozaki Church, the oldest and most famous church in Goto. It was built after the ban on Christianity was lifted and dedicated to the 26 martyrs that died in Nagasaki. The church is close to the water in an idyllic landscape and there are two quaint cafés nearby.
Further east from Dozaki Church is Mizunoura Church, a bright white building standing on top of a hill overlooking the coast.
Following the road to the western part of the island you'll arrive to Takahama Beach. This breathtaking stretch of white sand and blue water is arguably the most beautiful beach of Fukue.
On the far south side of the island, pay a visit to Imochiura Church. The church hosts a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes which is believed to be the first in Japan. Past the church, driving up the hill, you'll eventually arrive to a path that takes you to an observatory for another unexpected and beautiful scenery: Osezaki Cape. The landscape is completed by the picturesque Osezaki lighthouse standing at the end of the cape. You can walk to the lighthouse, too.
After taking in all the sceneries of Fukue, it's time to savor the blessing of its seas. Head to Konne Konne, a small but stylish fish restaurant and just leave it to the owner Yuri Sayama. She will treat you to some of the freshest and most delicious seafood you'll ever eat – all caught locally and cooked in both traditional and creative ways. The mixed sashimi always features seasonal fish like the Goto specialty kibinago (silver-stripe round herring). The seared bonito with sliced onions is also amazing. Other recommended specialties are the mixed tempura, the grilled oysters with mayo and cheese, and a whole fried kasago fish.