To the south of the mainland lies Kyushu: a mystical island with a subtropical climate and verdant terrain. Dramatic landscapes surround you here - from mossy forests that are reminiscent of fairytale settings, to sweeping bays overlooking active volcanoes with calderas; not to mention unusual black sand beaches that line the coast.
Thanks to its active geothermal land that produces billowing steam and bubbling hot water, Kyushu has plenty of mineral-rich hot spring pools (‘Onsen’) in which to immerse yourself. By doing so, you will experience the quintessential Japanese cultural activity of onsen bathing, which is bound to be a highlight of a stay in this wonderful country. Our top choices of onsen areas are Kurokawa, with its traditional cobble streets that remain mercifully free of concrete hotels to this day, and Beppu. Producing the most hot spring water in the entire country, this spa city is also home to an array of steaming valleys, dubbed ‘Hell Valleys’, which offer spectacular views. While these are impressive, Mount Aso is arguably the most striking natural wonder in Kyushu with its vast caldera and otherworldly setting.
If you are after a taste of city life, we suggest visiting the coastal metropolis of Fukuoka, or Nagasaki with its poignant history and unique mix of Japanese and Western architecture. To add to these, the city of Kumamoto is worth visiting for a short break for its majestic castle is a sight to behold – even now, while it is undergoing reconstruction since the unfortunate 2016 earthquake. Kagoshima is also a lively town, bustling with activity and providing phenomenal views over the very active Sakurajima volcano, which is often compared to Mount Etna in Naples, Italy.
Yakushima is an absolute must-see if you appreciate pure nature as this tiny island is revered throughout Japan for its atmospheric cedar forests, some of which are believed to be over 7,000 years old. Due to the rarity of these ancient trees, this beautyspot has been declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site since 1993 - however, despite its impressive status it is a surprisingly under-visited location. This means that Yakushima is blissfully free of tourists, so it is paradise for keen walkers. While some consider the regular, almost daily, rainfall to be a downside of this remote spot, we believe that it can be a welcome relief from the heat in the summer months – plus, it keeps the greenery its beautiful shade of emerald, which is a huge plus.
Down at the bottom of Kyushu, the beaches of Ibusuki are renowned for healing 'sand bathing'. We highly recommend doing as the locals do here, and joining in as professional sand therapists bury you in hot volcanic sand for health benefits (from improving your circulation to ridding the body of toxins).
If you are a fan of the arts, do not miss out of the areas in this region that are well known for their beautiful ceramics. Arguably the most notable of these is Saga Prefecture, which is acclaimed for its pottery and porcelain (in the towns of Karatsu, Imari and Arita).
While this Southern island is not usually on the map for first-time visitors to Japan, we can assure you that you will enjoy a stay here - whether you spend your time walking through its great outdoors, enjoying scenic road trips, bathing in its hot springs or simply exploring and discovering its off-the-beaten-track gems. There is a variety of hotels in Kyushu, from spa hotels and luxury resorts to boutique hotels and traditional Japanese family guesthouses, so the region suits all types of travellers. One of our favourite luxury hotels here has to be Sankara in Yakushima, which is ideal for luxury honeymoons - so we recommend including this in your tailor-made holiday.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Leslie Siben, India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka