Natural Wonders and Hot Springs
Experience Kyushu's natural beauty and power, as you drive from coast to coast. Travel from Fukuoka's beautiful seaside, through the mountains, and on to the hot springs of Oita. The best way to see everything is to rent a car, but if you're not driving, the Yufuin no Mori express train, covered by the JR Kyushu Rail Pass, will also get you there in style.
Fukuoka is compact and cosmopolitan, with a friendly atmosphere. Closer to Korea than to Tokyo, the city is the historic gateway to the Asian mainland. Hakata Station is connected to Tokyo by shinkansen and has rail and bus connections to the rest of Kyushu. After a day of exploring, sample Fukuoka’s famous soul food dishes—Hakata Ramen with its rich pork broth and mentaiko, a delicately spicy cod roe—at one of the outdoor food stalls known as yatai, which open each evening.
Ohori Park is built on the remains of the moat of Fukuoka Castle. You can stroll the parklands and visit the beautiful Japanese Garden and tea house, next to the Fukuoka Art Museum. For something different, Ainoshima, an island off the coast of Fukuoka, is famous for its many stray cats. Shingu port is about 30 minutes by train from Hakata Station. Take a ferry to the island, where the cats are happy to pose for pictures.
Itoshima, a 45 minute drive from the centre of Fukuoka, is famous for photogenic Futamigaura beach. Just off-shore, the Meoto-Iwa, or wedded rocks, are framed by a white torii gate. As the sun sets behind the rocks, the sky turns from gold to deep blue, known locally as the "blue hour". The area is also famous for oyster huts, which set up around the fishing ports from October through late March. You can cook your own oysters and other shellfish.
The drive from Fukuoka to Oita takes you through the Kuju mountains, close to the popular town of Kurokawa Onsen. If you’re not driving, there are highway buses from Fukuoka to Yufuin. Stop off at Kuju Flower Park with 500 varieties of flowering plant, cafes, restaurants and food stalls. Nearby, Harajiri Falls is called the Niagra Falls of Japan for its distinctive horseshoe shape. Head north to Yufuin Onsen, an attractive hot spring town. With plenty of accommodation options, it’s ideal for an overnight stay.
When you reach Beppu Onsen in Oita, you have crossed Kyushu from coast-to-coast. The area is famous for the Beppu Hells, eight fiercely hot, bubbling hot springs, colored by natural minerals. Most can be covered on a short walk. If you're hungry, head to Kamado Jigoku, or Cooking Pot Hell, for vegetables steamed in the hot spring vapours. After touring the hells, head back to the town area for hot spring heaven. There are hotels and resorts to suit all budgets.
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