With its fusion of ancient traditions and cutting-edge modernity, Japan is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing places in the Orient. Join us as we explore some of the countries least travelled areas.
From the modern port city of Fukuoka, with its famous Hakata Ramen, to historic Kunisaki and its monk trails, the fisherman and farmer culture of Ojika paired with its traditional rural lifestyle, is just the beginning. Experience a secluded and unspoilt island paradise on UNESCO forested Yakushima, known as the ‘island of ancient forests and water’ and a world away from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s megacities. Kyushu is an island of vast contrasts exploding with natural beauty – Japan’s hidden and ancient isle.
Welcome to Kyushu! Your expert local guide will meet you on your arrival at Fukuoka Airport, and you will then head into the city to start exploring.
Laidback Fukuoka is the largest city on Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, and exploring it is a feast for the senses. Take in the sights and smells as you stroll along Nakasu Yatai Street – an avenue of street food stalls where each stall has about eight seats around a counter, like a tiny restaurant. You will have some time to explore at your own pace, with your guide providing local recommendations depending on your interests – gourmet or architecture, local art or hidden backstreets. You will then gather for a group meeting while sampling some local cuisine. Enjoy tasting some of the local specialities as your guide runs through the itinerary and plans for the days ahead. You will then head to the port for your first unique travel experience – a ferry to what is sure to be a highlight – Ojika Island (6hrs). Sleep overnight on the ferry which houses its own onsen onboard! Cabins are twin share with shared facilities. As the lights of Fukuoka are left behind, you will awaken to the sun over the small Goto Hanto string of Nagasaki prefecture islands. (D)
Overnight on Ferry – Basic Cabin or similar
This morning your ferry will arrive at the tiny island of Ojika. Ojika Island is a peaceful paradise with historical sites, scenic beaches and a rustic countryside life that will make you feel you have stepped back in time. The island is home to only 2500 people, most of who are farmers and fisherman living a simple life, in harmony with nature. Central to Ojika’s culture, is Omoiyari, a concept that revolves around showing consideration for others, and looking for ways to show kindness to those around you. This type of generosity means a fisherman might provide some fish for his neighbour, who in turn might reciprocate by leaving him some seasonal vegetables the following morning. The people of Ojika believe that generosity leads to greater happiness, and their lifestyle reflects this.
Your local guide will show you around this tiny island and you will be able to witness it go about its traditional ways as it has done for so thousands of years. You will have the chance to explore by bicycle, visiting breathtaking view spots, stunning coastline, local fisherman’s homes and farmers’ fields. The friendly locals welcome any visitors with open arms, and your day will be spent basking in the local hospitality. Your accommodation for the next two nights, will be in a ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn), run by a local family. Here you will be treated to a seven-course feast of locally sourced produce, and you will learn the origins of this mouth-watering food and how it is prepared. In the evening after dinner, your group will head off to enjoy the only karaoke bar on the island – an experience not to be missed! (B,D)
2 nights in a local home – Ojika Goen-Ojika (small family run ryokan)
Enjoy breakfast at your ryokan this morning before departing to visit the lively local fish market, where you can learn more about some of the fresh seafood you ate the previous evening.
You will then take a ferry (approx. 45 min) to neighbouring Nozaki Island, a small uninhabited island where the only inhabitants are wild deer and Japanese wood pigeons. In the seventeenth century, this island became a sanctuary for Christians fleeing persecution. It is the perfect place to explore on foot and you will be able to stretch your legs as you follow a gentle trail to Nokubi Church. In 1868, Japan lifted the ban on Christianity and the Christian community built this church as a permanent reminder of their faith. It is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the country.
You will stay on Nozaki Island for about four hours, giving you plenty of time to explore and enjoy the natural beauty, and become acquainted with the wild Japanese deer who live here. You will then take the ferry back to Oijka Island. Tonight, you will enjoy dinner at your ryokan and then have the evening at leisure. (B,L,D)
Enjoy breakfast at your ryokan before saying farewell your hosts and travelling by jet ferry to Sasebo (approx. 1.5 hours). Once in Sasebo, you will have a chance to experience the Japanese train system as you travel from Sasebo to Yanagawa (approx. 3 hours). Yanagawa is known as “the Venice of Kyushu” due to its large number or canals, originally part of an irrigation system, but later fortified into moats when the city was turned into a castle town at the beginning of the 17th Century. This was prior to the start of the Edo period at the beginning of the 17th century, and the castle was referred to as the ‘Water Castle’ due to all these canals that stretched across the town. Relax and enjoy the view as you take a canal cruise to get acquainted with this historical city.
Next, you will enjoy an Unagi (eel) lunch. As you taste this local delicacy, you will learn about the history of this traditional food and its effect on the body (and soul).
After lunch, you will continue to Kagoshima. Across the bay, the active volcano Sakurajima looms, creating a dramatic backdrop to this seaside city. This evening you will enjoy a night walk exploring Tsurumaru Castle wall and Shiroyama Observatory amongst some other hidden secrets. (B,L)
Overnight Kagoshima JR Hotel or similar
Depart early this morning to explore Kagoshima. By now, you will be equipped with some local phrases, and your expert guide can share some suggested areas and locations to explore independently. You will then travel by fast ferry (2 hours) to Yakushima. This journey provides great views of the active volcano, Sakurajima, the most active of all the volcanos in the country. On arrival, enjoy an informative orientation walk to learn about the UNESCO island Yakushima, her fauna and flora and history (and future).
Yakushima is a subtropical island located in the south of Kyushu. Thanks to its geography and natural beauty, the island is a real paradise for hiking and outdoor enthusiasts. This tiny island is covered by an extensive cedar forest. Its giant trees, some of which are thousands of years old, are an impressive sight and contribute to creating a magical and mysterious atmosphere. Fully included in a protected National Park area, Yakushima has been declared a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site and constitutes a unique area of almost completely untouched nature and wilderness in Japan. (B,D)
3 nights Yakushima Green Hotel or similar
This trip is filled with many highlights but today will be very high on the list as you enjoy trekking the Shiratani Unsuikyou route of Yakushima. This part of the UNESCO park is incredibly special with its moss forest well known as the inspiration for Miyazakis film `Princess Mononoke’. This is a beautiful full day hike – approx. six hours. Some of these footpaths date back to the Edo period over 400 years ago. If the weather is clear, the views of the valley below are simply breathtaking. (B,L,D)
Distance: Approx 6km
Today is no less special than yesterday, as you again wake and explore this island home for one more day and enjoy some more great hiking – up to eight hours – as you visit the Yakusugi area with its +1,000 year old cedar trees. Weave through paths lined with huge rugged, twisted trees and roots. Traverse bridges and along train tracks. You will be rewarded with the awe-inspiring sight of Jomon Sugi, a 3000 years old Jomon cedar at the end of the path which sits at 1300m above sea level on the highest peak of the island. Jomon Sugi is the oldest conifer on the island and possibly the largest in Japan. (B,D)
Distance: Approx 20km
Today, retrace your steps back to Kagoshima and then travel to Beppu via ferry and train which is around six hours. Enjoy an orientation walk on arrival which includes the Beppu markets and Bamboo craft museum. You will have some free time to stretch your legs and try one of the local activities such as steaming your own food in a public steamer or visiting the different coloured local springs. Beppu is well known for not only its hot springs, but it’s hot sand. One of the most unique activities that you can try here is sand bathing, where you lie on your back and are buried in sand up to your neck. This activity is great for circulation and a very relaxing experience. After a couple of days hiking on Yakushima, you will welcome the opportunity to relax. Perhaps soak in your ryokan’s onsen before tasting some local sake – a well known cure for aches and pains! Dinner this evening, is at a local izakaya (a small Japanese bar) where you can enjoy a traditional dining experience amongst the locals. (B,D)
Overnight The Seaside Hotel Mimatsu-Beppu or similar
Prepare for another stunning day today, as you enjoy time on the Kunisaki Trail. From Beppu you will head two hours by train and bus to the beautiful Iwatoji temple area. Our chosen trail is around six hours and along the way you will enjoy some Japanese religious history as you pass by gravestones, ancient stone structures, and amazing temples. It truly is an open-air museum you are surrounded by on today’s walk, and with wonderful trail views that stretch all the way to Honshu on a clear day. Tonight, enjoy a special final stay in Japan as you spend the night at a working Monastery. This monastery is the one of oldest, ancient temples on the Kunisaki peninsula with over 1300 years of history. Over 100 monks spent their time here training in Buddhism in the 1600’s. The 1000-year-old Zelkova tree here is a symbol of this monastery. Guests will be welcomed by the monks as you slip into monastic life and learn of the philosophy of Buddhism. After your final onsen in the spring feed baths, enjoy a basic but filling monastic dinner and learn more about the temple and the life of those who live here. (B,L,D)
Overnight MonjyuSenji Monastery or similar
Start your morning by praying with the monks before your vegetarian breakfast. Your guide is on hand to explain everything you are eating as each ingredient has its own story and significance. You have time to talk to the monks and learn about their life, morning prayers and meditation. You will experience a fire ceremony called ‘Gomataki’ which is to ward off bad luck and spirits from the body. The head monk will chant a Buddhist sutra with a burning plate of wood which has the names of our travellers written on it. It is said that the smoke of the fire will remove all evil and take it to the sky where the body can heal and bring only happiness. Take time to enjoy the area and temple surrounds before you depart for the two-hour trip back to Fukuoka where your tour ends on arrival. (B,L)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.