Fukuoka, in the north of Kyushu Island, serves as a gateway to exploring this magnificent region with its lush green spaces, rich heritage and metropolitan vibe.
Words: Beverly Rodrigues Images: Japan National Tourism Organisation
The 234 metre-tall Fukuoka Tower is the tallest seaside tower in Japan, and featured prominently in the 1994 film Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla.
A hotspot for mountain climbing, Mt. Hikosan was once famous as the sacred dwelling and training grounds of the priests of the Shugendo – a mystical sect that stressed the bond between humanity and nature, and physical endurance as the path to enlightenment.
The Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival is the most famous festival in the Hakata district of Fukuoka. During this festival, men race through the streets carrying decorative floats that can weigh up to one tonne!
Akizuki Castle Town in Asakura City, Fukuoka, attracts thousands of tourists who come to experience its old world charm and the beauty of the changing seasons.
Kokura Castle in Kitakyushu was originally constructed in 1602 and fully restored in 1990 after a fire in 1865. Today, it offers beautiful views of the Kanmon Straits and houses a folklore museum.
During the Hina Matsuri or Doll Festival in Fukuoka’s Yanagawa City, you’ll spot pretty, handmade balllike ornaments called sagemon. The Hina Matsuri is celebrated to pray for the health and happy future of young daughters.
The Kujukushima Islands – a group of 208 islands scattered between Sasebo Port and Hirado Island in Nagasaki prefecture are part of the Saikai National Park.
The Senteisai Festival commemorates the death of the child emperor, Antoku who drowned himself when the Taira clan was defeated in the Genpei War. On his death anniversary, court ladies visit his shrine and performed dances to worship him.
During the Nagasaki Lantern Festival, Nagasaki’s Chinatown area is lit with over 15,000 lanterns.
Tenzan Resort in Saga is an artifi cial ski field that offers skiing and snowboarding in winter, and grass-skiing in summer.
Kaikyo Yume Tower in Yamaguchi offers panoramic views of the Kanmon Straits, Ganryu Island, Hibiki Sea and Kyushu.
While the much-coveted blowfish is known as fugu in Japanese, in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, it is called fuku meaning happiness.
Sightseeing in Kyushu has never been easier with the Kyushu Shinkansen, a high-speed railway line that runs from Fukuoka city in the north to Kagoshima down south in approximately one hour and 20 minutes!
As a perk for foreign tourists, JR Kyushu offers a 3-day (¥14,000) or 5-day (¥17,000) JR Kyushu Rail Pass for flexible and economical travel. Given the fact that the regular fare for a roundtrip from Fukuoka to Kagoshima costs ¥20,000, this special pass is great value for money!
With the JR Kyushu Rail Pass, visitors can travel to the pottery-making cities of Saga, hot springs of Oita, grand Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto, surf beaches of Miyazaki, hot sand baths of Kagoshima and many other attractions around Kyushu.
Getting a JR Kyushu Rail Pass
The JR Kyushu Rail Pass by JR Kyushu is only available for foreign visitors to Japan. Purchase the JR Kyushu Rail Pass online (www.acprail.com/rail-passes/japan), at selected travel agencies outside Japan or, selected JR railway stations and travel agencies in Kyushu. www.jrkyushu.co.jp/english/
Complement your rail travel with the SUNQ Pass, which offers unlimited rides on almost all highway and local buses, and selected ferries within the Kyushu region. www.sunqpass.jp/english/
Yamaguchi’s Iwakuni City boasts a unique style of sushi that is prepared by layering rice, vegetables and other ingredients in a square mould instead of rolling them in seaweed.
Takeo Onsen, located at the foot of Saga’s Mt. Horaisan, is reputed for its excellent water quality. On its list of famous guests are the famed swordsman and ronin, Miyamoto Musashi, as well as the German physician Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold, the first European to teach Western medicine in Japan.
GETTING THERE AirAsia Japan has daily flights to Fukuoka from Narita International Airport in Tokyo. AirAsia X operates seven flights a week to Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport from Kuala Lumpur. Go to www.airasia.com for details.