With its wild nature, ancient volcanoes, immersive cultural experiences and delicious local delicacies, Kyushu in Japan’s Southwest is that next hidden gem showcasing yesteryear that you are waiting to explore. We share with you our top 10 unique experiences that we bet you didn’t know about in Kyushu!
Did you know…..?
1. Ibusuki sand bathing – is the only natural sand bathing place in the world!
Known as sunamushi in Japanese, Volcanic hot springs line the coast of Ibusuki, in Kyushu, Japan, warming the sands to 50-55 degrees Celsius.
After relaxing in the hot sand, you can then go and soak in hot springs afterwards. To experience a sand bath, you wear a light cotton yukata, and lie a shallow depression in the beach. An attendant will protect your face with a towel and shovel the warm sand over you until you’re buried up to your neck in the black sand, with only your head exposed! After ten minutes or so, you emerge, warm and relaxed. You can take a shower at the beach or explore the nearby hot springs.
2. Boating in the Canals of Yanagawa – About an hour to the southwest of Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu, Japan, is famous for its network of canals, originally used for irrigation and to create a moat around the town’s castle. Exploring the canals on a small punt boat (donkobune) where the local boatmen often share stories and folksongs along the way.
3. The largest shimenawa (sacred rope), drum and bell in Japan! The shimenawa at Miyachitake Shrine in Fukuoka is 11m long, has a maximum diameter of 2.2m and weighs 3t, making it the largest shimenawa in Japan. The shrine is also home to a giant taiko drum with a diameter of 22m, and for a Big Bell made of copper weighing 450kg, together this shrine has three items which are the biggest in Japan.
4. Japan’s largest Otafuku mask – “smiling woman”
At the Kushida Shrine, the stage of Fukuoka’s traditional festival, Hakata Yamakasa, there appears a huge Otafuku mask, the largest in Japan. It is 5.3 metres high and 5 metres wide. It will be on display until the Setsubun period (from late January to around 10 February).
5. Kagoshima prefecture is the best tea producer in Japan (2019)
Kagoshima Prefecture has overtaken Shizuoka Prefecture, which has been the top tea-producing prefecture for more than 50 years, to become the top tea-producing prefecture in Japan. Kyushu is also famous for its tea production, with Fukuoka Prefecture producing Yame tea and Saga Prefecture producing Ureshino tea.
6. Kumamoto – Japan’s Number One Stone Steps / Shakainmisaka Yuhodo
The “Misaka” stone steps leading to Shaka-in Temple in Kumamoto Prefecture are the highest in Japan at 3333 steps.
Many people try to climb all the steps, and there are rest stops and toilets along the way.
7. The largest producer of shochu liquor in Japan: Miyazaki! (and has been for 6 years in a row!)
The most famous liquor in Kyushu is shochu (distilled alcohol). Miyazaki Prefecture has the largest amount of shochu produced in Japan. There are many kinds of shochu such as potato and barley. Also, Kagoshima prefecture is second, and Oita prefecture is third in Japan.*The amount recorded in 2019 was 123,974 Kilolitres or 123,974,000 Litres.
8. This spectacular gorge in northern Miyazaki, Kyushu, Japan, was formed over 100,000 years ago after eruptions from nearby volcano Mt. Aso.
The gorge’s 80-100 metre-high basalt cliffs line a chasm, just 3 metres wide at its narrowest point. The dark abysses are complemented by vivid greenery in early summer and red-tinted leaves in autumn.
You can see the gorge from above and below, along paths and bridges that span the river. For a unique and up-close look at the gorge, rent a boat at the south end and row along the Gokase River, through the ancient rock columns. You can also walk the perimeter of the gorge on the paved path that runs along its edge. The path is about one kilometer long and leads to Takachiho Shrine. It is part of the longer Kyushu Olle Takachiho Course, which is best suited to experienced hikers, taking around 5 hours from the town’s information center.
You can see the 17 metre high Manai Falls from above or from a row boat below, as the waters splash into the river.
9. Hiking in Aso Kuju National Park
Whether you’re after an exciting hike near an active volcano, getting up close and personal with wildlife, or just relaxing in lush fields of green, Aso Kuju National Park has something for everyone. Located in central Kyushu, Japan, this vast park is named after the mountains and active volcanos surrounding it. Established in 1934, this is one of the oldest and most beautiful national parks in Japan.
10. White sand and turquoise water
It’s not the Whitsundays, it’s not the Caribbean, it’s not Micronesia or the Pacific. This is in Kyushu, Japan! Amami is home to the first meteorite crater discovered in the Japenese archipelago, a fact that not so many people know. Thousands of years later, today, this stunning destination is a prime spot for the beach, scuba diving and windsurfing in Japan. The coral reefs along the coast give Kurasaki Beach a unique colorful landscape and blue waters. It is also one of the rare spots campers can enjoy a stay by the seaside, either to enjoy the night sky or the sunrise.
Dreaming of exploring Kyushu? Chat to our team to tailor your own curated journey or join our small group tour, Walking in Kyushu.
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.