For first time visitors to Kyushu, Fukuoka is a natural base for exploring, with convenient connections to the rest of Japan by air and rail. Spend a week exploring Kyushu’s vibrant nature, delicious food and soothing hot springs, as you journey from Fukuoka through Saga, finishing in the bustling port city of Nagasaki
Fukuoka is compact and cosmopolitan, with a friendly atmosphere. Closer to Korea than 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. Explore the beautiful grounds of Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine , Kyushu National Museum and the surrounding town, just under an hour from the city. Don’t miss the yatai food stalls that open around the city each evening.
Yanagawa, less than an hour from the city by train, is a perfect half day or leisurely day trip. The small castle town has pretty canals to explore by punt boat. A leisurely cruise offers a unique view of this historical town, drifting past traditional merchant houses and under low bridges, as your pilot entertains you with local folksongs. Feast on unagi, the local specialty: steamed eel on rice, topped with sauce and thin strips of omelet.
Arita is famous around the world for its fine porcelain. You can reach the town from Fukuoka’s Hakata Station in around 80 minutes by train. Kiln Arita, in front of JR Arita Station, has tourist information, a cafe and bicycle rental. Stop at the Kyushu Ceramic Museum to learn about Saga’s ceramics. Visit Arita Porcelain Park, a full-size recreation of Zwinger Palace in Dresden, Germany, with activities including pottery making and tours of the adjacent sake brewery.
Explore the charming streets of Arita, and visit Sueyama Jinja Shrine, near Kami Arita Station. The torii gates, lanterns, even the ema (plaques for writing wishes), are made from blue and white porcelain. Relax at nearby Takeo Onsen , a 1300-year-old hot spring town with a mix of traditional inns, modern hotels and public hot springs. Visit the spectacular Mifuneyama Rakuen Gardens nearby, with walking trails around the mountain and lake. You can stay at the luxurious on-site inn, Onyado Chikurintei.
Nagasaki has a fascinating history. In the 1630s, Nagasaki was the only port open to foreign trade, bringing products and ideas from all over the world. The city was razed by an atomic bomb towards the end of WWII, but its people have rebuilt and moved forward. It takes only 30 minutes to travel from Takeo Onsen to Nagasaki by the Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is a somber but highly recommended experience. Around sunset, head to Mt. Inasa, famous for its nightviews.
Gunkanjima, (Battleship Island), officially Hashima, is a fascinating ghost town. Once an undersea coal mine that housed over 5,000 people with apartments and schools, it is now abandoned. The eerie atmosphere has inspired movies including the James Bond Skyfall. Several companies offer cruises to the island from Nagasaki Port Terminal. Spend an extra day to visit the beautiful Western-style houses built around Glover Garden in the 1860s and stroll the streets of Dejima, an island built in 1636 to house Portuguese traders.
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