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Trip Report Kyushu Trip May 2013

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Trip Report Kyushu May 2013
I will try to trace our Kyushu trip for forum members and those interested in this part of Japan.
Here is basic itinerary
0-- Depart Hawaii, Hawaiian Air - Honolulu -Fukuoka Dep 1:50 PM

(9 hour flight)


1-- Arrive Fukuoka - 6:50 PM (next day)


2 - Fukuoka


3 - Fukuoka


4- Yufuin


5 - Yufuin


6 - Kumamoto


7 - Kumamoto


8 - Kurokawa


9 - Kurokawa


10 - Kagoshima


11 - Yakushima


12 - Yakushima


13 - Kagoshima


14 - Fukuoka
- Hawks Game!


15 - Return to Hawaii
Day 0-1
We left Kauai at 9:45 AM, got to Honolulu 10:20 AM and walked out to the gate to wait for the 1:50 PM departure to Fukuoka. Our plane was a Hawaiian Air Boeing 717, the seats being 2-3-2 configuration, the cost being $770 per person, Kauai> Fukuoka, round trip. Not quite as nice and new as the Airbus 320 we took to Tokyo last May but a nice double aisled plane with pretty good leg room in coach..
After departure there was room on the plane to stretch out in different rows as the plane was about 3/4 full. The flight time to Fukuoka is a little longer than that to Tokyo or Osaka being about 9 hrs plus. We arrived at 6:50 PM the next day with a lot of sunlight left, the weather being warm and clear.
The Fukuoka Airport is right in the city so the approach is exciting as it involves some steep banks right over the city. We literally breezed through immigration, picking up our baggage and through customs in less than 15 minutes. Fukuoka Airport is connected to the city by subway but we chose to taxi to our hotel, the Dormy Inn Premium Hakata Canal City, the fare being 650 yen at the drop and adding up to 1250 total to the hotel door. Our room for three nights added up to $352. breakfast included.This hotel was located next to Canal City and a short walk to the Gion subway stop so the location worked for us. This Dormy Inn also had a onsen bath floor with separate men and women's baths, also free laundry and free ramen after 9:30 PM in the dining room. We freshened up in our room, which was a double, small but efficient and clean, then went out trying to stay awake to at least ten o'clock before going to bed. Decided to eat at Ramen Stadium at Canal City. The ramen was delicious but the atmosphere was a little lacking as they had loud rap music playing of the "take your top off" mature rating variety and the demographic of the workers and customers definitely trended young.
The ramen was good and the shochu that went with it had its effect, and after eating we shopped a bit in some of the large sporting goods stores, went back to the hotel and to bed to be ready to get up early for the next day.

A brief side note here as a cautionary tale. The day before leaving I experienced some gum pain. Something I had had before and gotten over with no problem.No way I was going to cancel our vacation. This time however the pain got much worse so by day two I made the decision to seek out dental assistance. I found a good prospect through the use of google of an english speaking dentist and by afternoon visited his office. To make a long story short I had a root canal and subsequently had a tooth extracted the day after when it became apparent the infection was not going away. I feel lucky to have found a good dentist and the treatment and explanation of my condition was clear. To have a dental emergency on vacation is a scary thing and I don't know if a checkup beforehand would have made any difference. I could suggest taking a prescription of antibiotics and pain medication, legally prescribed "just in case" but that seems excessive. I feel lucky that being in Fukuoka for three days at the start of a two week vacation I was able to be treated and though going through a lot of pain at first and subsequent jaw soreness managed to enjoy the rest of my trip without having to cancel any ryokan stays or change our itinerary.Although at first I had to develop a system of eating small bites with chopsticks that I could push through a not so wide opening and chew

Next day Shofukuji Temple, Nakasu and Tenjin stroll, JR North Kushu Rail Pass pickup and Yufuin no Mori train reservation, Dentist visit, lunch at the Iron Chef Chen Ichi's son's Hakata Eki outlet.......

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    Great start to your TR. Sorry to hear about your dental problem. It would be very stressful for me to try to find a reliable doctor or dentist in a land where I don't speak the language. Glad it worked out for you.

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    Wow, how scary to go to a strange dentist and have a root canal in a foreign country - so glad it all worked out for you. Looking forward to the rest of your report...maybe you will inspire me to write a little about Shikoku....

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    Terrific start to your report and loving the detail. Got to love the Dormy Inn's for what they offer at the price you pay and that onsen is a godsend at the beginning and ending of your day. Auwe, what a terrible thing to happen on a trip with your dental emergency and glad it turned our fine in the end. Very anxious to hear more of your report. I can already see that this is going to be a good one.

    Aloha!

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    Day 2 Fukuoka
    Woke up very early (4:30ish) sleep cycle timing and or trip excitement and waited for Dormy Inn breakfast to start at 6:30. Interesting breakfast buffet with choice of egg (scrambled, up or omelet) and many small dishes of various salad, fish vegetable combinations, as well as the croissants, miso soup, salmon and other japanese breakfast mainstays such as a green salad. They also offered fruit vinegar shots which was a trend I hadn't seen before.
    After breakfast and freshening we went out to see Shofukuji Temple
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4804.html
    I missed it the last time we were in Fukuoka and since that time have developed a interest in tea cultivation. Historically Eisai planted some of his first tea seeds he brought from China here and also helped start the zen movement that would be adopted by the Kamakura samurai class who would further develop the tea ceremony.
    It is a large complex and we strolled the grounds for a while. Some really cool architecture and landscape design, with some very good bamboo fencing and screening around some of the outer temple structures. The surrounding neighborhood was an interesting mix of very old and some more modern structures.
    By around 11:30 it was time to visit the dentist who was one station down the JR line to Mt Aso. We took a taxi to Hakata Station and picked up our North Kyushu 5 Day Passes which I had pre bought online ($97 each). I found out later the the Kyushu rail passes can be bought inside Japan as well unlike the Japan Rail Pass which has to be bought outside of Japan. You can't however buy North Kyushu passes in southern Kyushu. At the same time I made our reservations for the Yufuin no Mori sightseeing train to Yufuin getting seats in the first car.
    I'll fast forward to after the dentist which was a relief to have been treated. Maybe the pain medication helped as we visited a restaurant I had researched located back at the Hakata Station area. It was part of the ex Iron Chef Chen Kenichi's Shisen Hanten group. A epic lunch set with a lot of local ingredients such as mentaiko which is every where in Fukuoka. It is pollack roe that looks like pink paste. Wonderful in rice as a topping for ramen or in gyoza. Great room on the 10th floor of a multi use building with a sweeping view of the city.We could even see planes on the airport runway in the distance. I also visited his restaurant in Akasaka ,Tokyo and I think I like the Hakata room even better
    http://www.jrhakatacity.com.e.bv.hp.transer.com/gourmet/sisen/
    After lunch we jumped in a cab (550 yen) back to the hotel to freshen up and then set out on foot through the Nakasu Kawabata shopping arcade which is a little old fashioned but has some good shops. We worked our way through the Tenjin area which has some big new complexes such as Riverain which contains the Asian Art Museum. Also the Acros building which features green wall architecture and cultural /tourist facilities and performing arts facilities.
    We ended up at the Fukuoka Prefecture Museum of Art in Suzaki Park near the Tenjin center. An interesting exhibit on Marie Antoinette after which we took a taxi back to the hotel (550yen)
    We were feeling a little tired after a long day so we went out later and picked up some various prepared dishes at a place called Gourmet City just down the block and relaxed back at the room for an early turn in.

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    Day 3 -Fukuoka
    Day trip to Arita.
    After another buffet breakfast at the Dormy Inn we headed to Hakata Station and got on the Limited Express toward Huis Ten Bosch getting to Arita Station in about 85 minutes. Some nice countryside on the way with a lot of agriculture and greenhouse production. Arita itself is in a hilly more forested setting.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e8300.html
    Our timing was such that the annual ceramics fair which takes place during golden week had just ended. A lot of stores were closed and the Prefectural Kyushu Ceramics Museum about a 15 minute walk from the station, was open but had about 4 other visitors while we were there for about and hour. We really enjoyed the museum and seeing the various representations of the ceramics from this area.
    From the museum we hailed a cab and got dropped off at Tozan Shrine. Again here a beautiful shrine in beautiful weather we were the only visitors.

    This was the case through much of our vacation. Not very many western tourists in Kyushu. Walking the streets, in stores, in the breakfast rooms at hotels, excepting Kurokawa, we were the only western tourists. For the most part most of the tourists besides the Japanese themselves, were Chinese or Korean.
    Another thing we noticed was that there was not as much romaji print on the buses, street and store signs as one might find in the Kanto, Kansai areas.

    After visiting the Tozan shrine and seeing many of its large porcelain decorations we walked to the kiln and wall areas. We visited some stores that were open and had some good shopping and talked with one shopkeeper who showed us his upstairs showroom . We walked all the way back to the station making a few more shop stops on the way. We spent about 4 hours in Arita and felt we had seen enough to make it a worthwhile side trip. Short wait for a train back to Hakata Station, another trip to the dentist, and then back to the hotel to get ready to leave for Yufuin the next day. To do this we used the takubin service to forward our two bags to Kumamoto where we would catch up to them in 2 days.

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    Day 4 - Yufuin
    Had another delicious breakfast at the Dormy. Amazing the small bowls of various fish/salad mixtures they offered day to day. Paid about 25 dollars to forward our suitcases to Kumamoto and picked up our packs and caught a cab to the station (650 yen). Hakata station is large and we shopped for a bit until our train was ready. We got in line for our car and soon the platform got crowded with Japanese tourists heading to Yufuin. The Yufuin no Mori is a special sightseeing train and the configuration of the cars is such that you have a really good view through large windows. The front car has a front facing window that makes viewing down the tracks possible. This train has a festive air and drinking beer and eating ice-cream was the thing to do. The train hostesses were also more active than usual with anouncements and service. One hostess was helpfull in english pointing out on a Yufuin map they gave out points of interest. Her favorite was a place call B-Spoke a bakery that specialized in a kind of jelly-roll sponge cake, this seemed to be the current rage as when we did visit later they had a guard outside the building and they were sold out by 1:00 PM. another reason to go back…
    The ride was very scenic and you could hear the tree branches hitting the train ( Mori means forest in Japanese).
    Yufuin is a small town with a small station situated in a mountain valley plain dominated by a large mountain. Our hotel was a 750 yen cab ride from the station. a large western building surrounded by rice fields.
    Large Japanese style room with a roof top mens and women's onsen bath. Both had a view of the mountain. After getting settled we took it easy and used the onsen facilities and waited for our :630 dinner call.
    Wonderful dinner in hotel dining room, another onsen session and easy to bed.
    Day 5 - Yufuin
    Hotel breakfast, Japanese style then walk into town center and Kinrinko Lake. Yufuin is a small resort town with a lot of specialty stores and galleries. A lot of crafts as well . Quite a few ryokan tucked away off the main streets and a lot of rice fields and farming interspersed with some low key resort. When the day started there were few people but by the end the streets were crowded by bus tours. We had a cake/cookie coffee tea set then stopped at a place on a back street back to the hotel called Grandmas where we had a lunch of savory baked goods overlooking a rice field that was being planted by the farmer and wife. Very friendly people at Grandmas. Back to the hotel for more onsen watch the Tokyo Sumo on cable and another full dinner.
    Day 6- Yufuin / Kumamoto
    Slept in, then hotel breakfast, last onsen and taxi to the station for a limited express back toward Fukuoka where we changed trains at Tosu for a Shinkansen to Kumamoto. Left Yufuin around 9:45 and got to Kumamoto around 12:00. We stashed or packs in a locker and caught a local train to Suizenji Station close to the famous garden and then about a ten minute walk to that garden. Kumamoto is kind of nondescript but has a nice feel., broad streets weather was sunny and warm. Shopping street before garden entrance then garden. Nice landscaped garden island in the middle of the city with the mini Mt. Fuji and a historic teahouse where you can still have tea and look out at the view reserved for the nobles. Walked back to the station where the JR official let us know we could catch the Aso Boy limited Express back to Kumamoto Station instead of waiting for the local. Nice gesture helped to save us 20 minutes and shows how a rail pass can come in handy to jump on any train. Kumamoto Station is out of the city center so we retrieved our bags hopped in a taxi and got to our hotel, the Comfort Inn. Thanks Hawaiiantraveller for this hotel rec, it was modern and centrally located to the shopping district. We freshened up the headed to the Bus Center to get our Kurokawa ticket reservations for the day after. We walked around the city center that has a covered shopping plaza areas and had some fun shopping and snacking and stocking up on some groceries and snacks. Our bags were waiting at the hotel and were slowly filling up with the souveniers and gifts we were picking up along the way.
    Day 7- Kumamoto
    This was going to be a rest day but turned out to be busy. We headed to the castle to get a head start on the bus tours and really enjoyed the place. The interior palace reconstruction, the various turrets and towers you could climb were all very interesting. There was a group of actors in period costume posing for photographs that made for a fun time. Getting a early start was good as it was getting busy by the time we were leaving around 11:30. We walked over to the Hosokawa Mansion which is a period samurai mansion that is open for touring.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4504.html
    After sometime enjoying this uncrowded mansion we hailed a cab to take us to the Shimada Museum.
    http://www.shimada-museum.net/eng.html

    My wife had found a postcard advertising a special bead exhibition here so off we went. When we got there I discovered this museum features a collection of the art and writings of Miyamoto Musashi , the famous swordsman and author of the martial arts "Book of Five Rings" A nice small museum that also hosts local artist's shows, the bead artists being one who helped my wife create a unique piece from some antique beads she had bought in Yufuin. Also the museum had a great little gallery cafe where we enjoyed a lunch set of fresh quiche and coffee/ tea. To get back to town we hopped on a town bus, enter at the rear, take a numbered ticket, exit at the front paying the corresponding ticket amount on numbered board. We got off at bus center a few blocks from the hotel and stopped by Bar Vespa on the way for the most intensely mixed martini I've had for a long time, incredible liquor collection as well. Thanks again HT
    That night we ate near the hotel at a place call Za Wataya that has restaurants at major cities throughout Kyushu, some terrific bIbimbap and gyoza with beer. Afterwards some strolling through the bustling shopping arcades then back to bed for the next days journey to Kurokawa.
    We really enjoyed Kumamoto, kind of a sleeper city, small but a nice energy.
    Day 8- Kurokawa
    Checked out of the hotel and sent our bags on to Kagoshima Dormy Inn to meet in two days ( $25.) Headed to the bus station to catch our 10:30 bus to Kurokawa Onsen. Nice bus and a really fun ride through the outskirts of Kumamoto with a lot of agriculture up into the highlands of Mt Aso. A rest stop at a pretty lookout and a few more stops at the summit museum and the rope lift. Then back down into the town of Aso and then across a small plain and then back up into the mountains to get to Kurokawa. I had emailed ahead to the Sanga Ryokan about our arrival time which was around 12:30. Sure enough the driver picked us up and took us to the town information center. He had a laminated page that said he didn't speak english but to please enjoy the town until check in time when he would pick us up again after taking our bags to the ryokan leaving us free to stroll the town. Kurokawa is a small stretch of town along a river canyon. Some really fun little stores and cafes, we easily spent the time and then at the designated time met the driver and headed to the ryokan which is a little out of the town. A beautifully maintained older building we were shown our room where we put on our yukata and availed ourselves of some of the private,public and "mixed" baths. Bath,beer sumo match on tv back to bath until dinnertime where we ate in dining room a great Japanese dinner. Back to the onsen again. We had the chance to try all and my favorite I think was the mens public or "mixed". Other baths stone, cypress wood, rotemburo style, a stream running through the ryokan we could hear from our room in the main building, a really beautiful spot.
    A lot of western guests here as I think the Sanga has had the benefit of some good international press and advertising. The ryokan felt uncrowded though and it was easy to make reservations in the private baths.

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    Did you get to meet Kobiyamasan tending bar at the Vespa?

    Yes, just watching a bartender shake a martini in Japan is show all to itself. Am loving this report as you are bringing back so many pleasant memories. I almost punched one of those ninjas as he popped out from around a corner inside Kumamoto-jo with a boooo. When he saw my quick reaction(I almost false cracked him)his get away was not ninja quick and pretty awkward and we both started laughing, you had to be there.....

    Sanga is a nice place to chill out. Ahhhh beer, soak, sumo....what more do you need, lol. Did you guys get to try the private cypress bath by the riverside? We loved that one.

    Didn't realize the tree limbs brushed the train but it must be a beautiful ride as the drive was outstanding in the woods in and around the Mt Aso area.

    Anxiously awaiting more!

    Aloha!

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    HT,
    Kobiyamasan wasn't there but the young man behind the bar was diligent and attentive. Interesting how these small businesses in Japan pay so much attention to detail. The lighting, fixtures and decorations have such a personal custom touch. The music was perfect 1950's jazz ballads that the Mrs and I had fun with name that tune with.Thanks again for the recommendation.
    .
    Day 8- Kurokawa
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4575.html
    The second day we were up early for a bath before breakfast. After breakfast we conferred with the lady at reception and got her recommendations for the best ryokans to stop at for our onsen walk. Kurokawa has a deal with participating ryokan that for approx 1200 yen you get a wooden necklace badge with a spot for three stamps. You present this badge at any of the participating onsen to enjoy their baths. We chose to walk into town from the Sanga though we could have used their shuttle. I won't go into too much detail here but by 1:00 PM we had covered three great ryokan onsen, one of which was in a cave. We had a nice lunch at a place called the Warokuya Cafe, then after shopping a bit took the back streets and paths back to the ryokan where we relaxed and had another bath before dinner.We took one more bath after dinner and were feeling very relaxed so to bed for the next day

    Day 9 - Kagoshima- After another gourmet breakfast we caught the shuttle to the bus stop around 10:15 and retraced our route back to Kumamoto. I noticed at Aso station we could have hopped on a train to do the same thing but we already had the bus tickets and the arrival times were the same. We did take a taxi from the bus center to the railroad station and with a little luck got our next phase of Kyushu Rail passes , a reservation, and on to the Shinkansen platform just as our train was arriving. Short time later we were in Kagoshima where we taxied to the Dormy Inn where we checked in, collected our suitcases and freshened up. Later we went out and taxied to the hydrofoil terminal where we got tickets and reservations for the next days boat to Anbo on Yakushima at 10:20. We've been to Kagoshima before and enjoy the city so we walked back toward the station stopping to shop here and there and seeing some of the city sights. Kagoshima now has a series of sculptures depicting historical events in Satsuma history which are quite interesting.

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    Enjoyed following along on your trip.
    On which website did you book rooms with Dormy Inn for this trip?
    I could not find a home website of Dormy Inn to book rooms from (something like Toyoko Inn has). Although Dormy Inn shows up in agoda.com and japanican.com etc. I remember from reading HT's earlier Kyushu trip report that he booked Nagasaki Dormy Inn on Kayak.com. How about you?
    Thanks.

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    I am enjoying this report as well.

    Also curious about booking Dormy Inn - it seems with japanican you have to pay in advance?

    Also any reason that you sort of doubled back from Yufuin to Kumamoto and back to Kurokawa - so you could have another day or so to enjoy onsen?

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    Reading 54 and Mara-I was able to book Dormy Inn on booking.com for our upcoming trip. I had to guarantee the reservation with a credit card, but I don't have to pay until I check in at the hotel.

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    I forgot to add that I am enjoying your TR very much. It is interesting reading about what you did in an area of Japan I will probably never visit. I'm looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventure.

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    Reading, I used booking.com for the Dormy Inns. I'm pretty happy with their mobile apps .
    They take cc to hold the room but not paid until stay ,also cancellation options clearly described.
    I used japanican for Yufuin and Yakushima , they are pre paid in full although they do have cancellation options clearly spelled out. One thing about japanican is on Yakushima I had some transportation questions and used their help line and actually got an english speaking rep who was helpful.

    Mara, I had wished to continue on through Beppu to see the Bamboo museum, the hells and be able to say I'd been there. Also wanted to continue down and see the Buddahs at Usuki.
    We just didn't have the time so when I got the bus ticket to Kurokawa I made it round trip as I could see the way forward.
    I was overly ambituous with my expectations, wanting to climb Mt Hiko and Mt Yufuin,rent a car and see Takachiho,visit Chiran and southern Satsuma. So after my dental emergency I eased back on the throttle and think had a more enjoyable relaxing trip. Also now have a reason to return.

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    kalihiwai2 - thanks for your further explanation! I get it now...also good to know how to make a not pre-paid reservation at Dormy Inn. I never tried it because I don't believe in pre-paying....lol. I usually try to book direct with the hotel but have also used jalan and japanican once each. Will check out booking.com as well.....

    Yes, you need to return to see the Usuki Buddhas - I thought they were really interesting to visit - and Usuki is a cute little town worth a day as well imo. In Beppu I only stopped long enough for a sand bath at Takegawara.

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    Day 10 Yakushima

    After another Dormy Inn breakfast its off to the hydrofoil terminal in the harbor by taxi (750 yen). The hotel agreed to store our bags until we returned two days later. A cloudy day and we waited as the departure time got closer. They give you a check in time about an hour before departure when you choose a seat assignment. Hydrofoil was about $150 /person round trip.Next time I'd give the slow boat a try if we had more time. A modern clean boat, its a lot like getting on an airplane with assigned seats and seat belts we sat on the top deck. All inclosed, there is no walking the deck or feeling the wind on your face. In fact the ride was smooth and the speed was deceiving as there was not much vibration or chop.This service is suspended if the surf gets too high but fortunately we had a smooth crossing with one stop at Tanegashima. At the port of Anbo we found our way to the bus stop and had an anxious wait as the schedules had been changed so eventually a bus toward the Iwasaki Hotel came by after about an hour. Many similarities to Kauai where we live lush foliage with a mountainous interior, a ring road along the coast. Yakushima seemed larger and less inhabited, the mountains more formidable.
    We were dropped off by bus right in front of the hotel. An impressive structure in a impressive setting on a ridge looking out on a dramatic mountain scene. Modern western hotel with a spa and spacious grounds with nature trail and waterfall, range grove and a botanic garden. At first we seemed to be the only people there but that would change around 5:00 pm when Japanese tour groups started arriving. When Ieft the onsen bath the lobby had been transformed and men and women wearing the hotels tropical print yukata were heading to the onsen.
    Another delicious multi coarse dinner using local ingredients such as flying fish, crab and vegetables.
    My theory on this trip was we would alternate between ryokan/hotels with meal packages to budget hotels with western style facilities. This seemed to work well.
    Two days of huge dinners and breakfasts in a row seemed to be the max for us and made the next days western style bed and simple ramen/ women set dinner a treat as well.
    The hotel staff was very helpful in assisting our planning for the next days hike to Yakusugiland,which involved a bus transfer.
    They also gave me a precious current revised schedule in english, anyone using public transport on Yakushima look into getting the 2 day pass right away, the info is on the english bus information schedule. Revised times were posted in english at bus stops in laminated sheets. Really would have been good to have a car here to do more coastal exploring and making stops at some of the smaller sights.

    Day 11 Yakushima
    Up early for the hotel buffet breakfast in a large crowded room, plenty of seating though and a lot of western and japanese breakfast choices.
    The days hike was awesome as we got an early start and although the weather looked ominous we started out for the long 120 minute hike, which took us longer due to stopping here and there.
    The first sections of the trail are well laid out with walkways and even paved sidewalk but the upper part is really a trail that requires some scrambling up and down through roots and rocks, all this time we were in the mist of cloud that would lighten and darken as we went along. A river runs through the park that you cross multiple times on suspension bridges.
    We got back to the lodge just as it started raining. We met a few Japanese hikers in some great rain tear, pants and parkas who seemed undeterred by the weather. Also had some good interactions at the lodge with other hikers.
    I've really wanted to go to Yakushima for a while and I knew this was a exploratory trip, this was the one spot I really thought I wanted to spend more time at and was sorry I didn't . Don't know when I'll get back but a full week at least to do some of the activities available. Here is a link to a short video that shows Yakusugiland
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTDnD7L4Vno

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    Had to jump in and say how much I am enjoying this. Oh how I long to return. Smart idea about the martinis (Hawaiian recommends martinis for jet lag, this must have been why we suffered so - not enough martinis...)

    I like your idea of alternating bigger dinners with simple fare. And I really, really liked your idea of an "Onsen crawl" in Kurokawa.

    Any hotel staff that issue current revised bus schedules in English should be nominated for knighthood.

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    Speaking of Yakushima, on NHK World this afternoon there was a five minute program called Beginning Japanology. Today the subject was onsen and they showed one in Yakushima - evidently it is fed by the ocean and is only accessible when the tide is low...sounds pretty interesting....another one they showed was up in the mountains of Hokkaido, I think, and is only accessible in the winter by snowshoe....an awful lot to explore in Japan....

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    Day 12 Kagoshima
    The next day we awoke to stormy pounding rain, glad we had a chance to hike when we did. From blogs by local Yakushima residents I gather we were close to the start of the rainy season, and like our island Kauai, Yakushima has the reputation for being a rainy destination. After a 20 minute bus ride to Anbo we waited a short time and boarded the jetfoil . On the return trip we didn't make any stops so got back to Kagoshima around 1:00 PM. I had had ambitious plans to take a quick train down to Ibusuki on the sightseeing limited express train "Ibusuki no Tamatebako" train to max out our Kyushu rail pass usage. We also had talked about visiting the Naeshirogawa pottery village outside of Kagoshima mention in "Gateway to Japan", but instead we opted for a leisurely stroll along the river and the Tenmokan shopping district. We saw a reconstructed Samurai house and more public art. We had an excellent Italian dinner on the top food floor of the station building with a window seat looking onto the front station area.

    Day 13 Fukuoka
    The last days of a trip are always a little tough on knowing what to do when you are counting the final hours.
    We checked out early and took a taxi to the station for a 10:00 Shinkansen to Fukuoka. This was the first time we had travelled with our suitcases which had gotten heavier with the items we had picked up along the way. Fortunately we were the first into our car which wasn't crowded and stacked them in the space behind the last row of seats. A couple of hours later we were in Fukuoka back at the original Dormy Inn Canal City. They stored our bags until check in time and we headed off downtown to the Tenjin area for some shopping . Three major department stores are in close proximity some connected above and below ground and after a few hours the food floors started looking like deja vu all over again. Just wished we'd picked up more goodies now. I'm looking at my two jars of "Yuzu kosho" a citrus chile paste that is a Kyushu staple.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuzukosh%C5%8D

    After check in time had passed we headed back to the hotel to freshen up then head to the Hakata Gion subway station (5 min walk) to catch a train out to the Yahoo Dome near the bay side and catch a Fukuoka Hawks game. We wondered if we were going in the right direction for the first few stops as no one was wearing any baseball hats or looked like fans. By the time we got off the train we were in a stream of people walking the 15 minutes to the dome. It was a fun and neat experience. Getting tickets wasn't hard as a guard took us under his wing and help with the transaction but it would have been easy without. Lots of fans and a well attended game . We stayed about halfway through the game when the score was 10-0 , and decided to head back to the hotel. Another walk through Nakasu which is quite an eye opener at night, stopped for some nice green tea ice cream at a shop called Ufu.
    Then back to hotel and bed.

    Day 14 Back to Kauai
    Didn't leave to around 9:00 that night so checked out and stored our bags and did some more walking through areas of the city we hadn't seen before. Some fun small mom and pop stores and specialty shops.
    Taxi to the airport was easy and so was check in. The flight back was smooth and not that crowded. Only three people in business class and though our seats were comfortable, I had the feeling I had missed out on some opportunity to upgrade.
    Oh well we got home fine.
    Will put this report to bed now we had a great time and hope to get back to Japan again soon . World Heritage site of Shiretoko is on the list, that way we will have covered north and south.
    Thanks to those other forum members HT, rkwan and others for their recent Kyushu reports.
    Will have one more post about useful Kyushu links. We rented a phone and a MiFi from Rentaphone Japan that was very useful.
    I took an Apple Airport Express to use in hotel rooms with wired ethernet to make a wireless access area. I had wanted to try a gps and had a Japan Map sd card but just couldn't access satellites with my older garmin unit so stopped trying.
    I have a set of photos you can see at
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bananajoeskauai/sets/72157633529411154/

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    Aah what a treat. I'm back from a holiday to Scotland and about to throw myself into Kyushu planning, so most timely too.

    Glad you found a good dentist, and were able to enjoy the rest of your trip. I had a CT Scan on our trip last year, in a Kyoto hospital, was all clear though. An odd experience but felt very well looked after.

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    kalihiwai2, I'm curious about Yakushima, esp to hear such rave reviews from someone who lives in Kauai! Is it very beautiful? To us, Kauai is like paradise, and when I read about it in guidebooks I was wondering how it compares to Kauai and whether it's worth the hassle to get there. I'm planning to go to Kyushu in late March.

    Thanks

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    I waa also comparing the two islands after visiting Yakushima a year ago. The main difference to me is that Yakushima is quieter - smaller population, fewer hotels, fewer cars, fewer tourists.

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    JC98,
    Yakushima had always been a kind of obsession with me because of the similarities with Kauai, as well as the differences.( non volcanic, sub tropical native vegetation vs invasive, ancient trees)
    On our third trip to Kyushu we finally got there and you can read the trip report and look at the photos on Flickr.
    For us getting there was part of the fun, riding a hydrofoil and staying in Kagoshima a city we had enjoyed before.
    Yakushima is a less populated island and smaller island than Kauai although it seems just as large if not larger because of the geography.
    When we go again we would probably opt for a smaller hotel, rent a car, and hire a guide for a planned trek. http://yakushimalife.appspot.com
    There is not a lot of nightlife so unless you have an exclusive interest in hiking and nature (which admittedly you can find all over Japan ) you might not want to go that extra mile to get there as there are not a lot of the cultural attractions (shrines,temples,castles) as in other areas of Japan.
    I think this is part of the appeal though.
    The food is excellent with local specialties.
    Looking at your itinerary you might best use your four days in North Kyushu visiting
    Nagasaki/Unzen , Yufuin/Beppu, Aso/Kurokawa , all places you could spend a pleasant few days in.
    I’m interested in the Kunisaki Peninsula for a next trip.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4720.html
    Hope you have a good time.

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    kalihiwai, I must get my trip report from November posted since I spent time in both Yakushima and the Kunisaki Peninsula. It's coming, I promise!

    Meantime, regarding the Kauai/Yakushima comparison, I'd say they are quite different. Kauai's has many lovely beaches and good snorkeling, whereas Yakushima has only a couple of beaches and they aren't all that nice. (However, it does have a cool natural onsen by the sea that anyone can bathe for a donation of 100 yen in when the tide is right.) Kauai has hiking in the great Waimea Canyon and at Kokee, but there are many other things to do there; on Yakushima, it's ALL about the hiking, which is awesome. It takes a lot of effort to get into the most rewarding parts of Yakushima--by foot, of course--but that's the main reason to visit there, in my opinion. The moss forest on the Shiratani-Unsuikyo trail is incomparable. Both islands have excellent food; the small inn we stayed in on Yakushima served us amazing seafood night after night--so inventive, and the best I've had in Japan. Both islands require a car to get around most easily; you can circumvent Yakushima by car, but to get around the northern tip of Kauai you would have to kayak (which is a pretty awesome trip in itself). On Yakushima you can see island deer and monkeys up close and in great numbers; Kauai's wildlife is more of the bird variety, as I recall. Anyway, I love both places!

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