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Kyushu Travel Guide

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  • Photo: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Plan Your Kyushu Vacation

Kyushu's landscape couldn't be more varied, with active yet accessible volcanoes, numerous thermal spas, endless fields of rice and famous potatoes, forested mountains capped by winter snows, busy harbors along lively seacoasts, and pleasant seaside retreats.

Kyushu has been inhabited and favored for human settlement for more than 10,000 years, and ruins and artifacts thousands of years old

suggest that the region was the most important gateway for human contact between Japan and the rest of Asia. The most rapid anthropological changes occurred from about 300 BC to AD 300, when rice became widely cultivated and complex pottery and tools began to appear, thus conveniently framing the Yayoi period. Continuous trade with China brought prosperity and culture, and advanced ceramics were introduced—and then produced—by Korean masters who were employed and enslaved by the local fiefdoms of the 16th and 17th centuries.

It was also through Kyushu that Western knowledge, weapons, religion, and cooking methods first made their way into Japan. In the mid-1500s Nagasaki saw the arrival of fleets of enterprising and courageous European merchants and missionaries, and the resulting frenzy of trade in ideas and goods continued unabated until the Tokugawa Shogunate slammed the door shut on the whole show in the early 1600s. What brought things to a halt was a plague of panic induced by an alarming new phenomenon: Christianity.

The Portuguese and other Catholics not afraid to preach to the natives were expelled and permanently barred. The Dutch, however, were considered more money-minded, and therefore less threatening, and were permitted to stay—under scrutiny and isolation. They were housed within the enclave of Dejima, a man-made island in Nagasaki Harbor, where they were encouraged to keep bringing in coveted goods but were constantly guarded and watched. For the next 200 years, this profitable little arrangement would be the only form of contact the West would have with Japan until the arrival of Perry's forceful "Black Ship."

Today Kyushu is a fascinating mix of old and new, nature and culture. Much of the remote and rugged interior—such as that surrounding Mt. Aso's fuming cone—is still an isolated wilderness, yet the amenities of modern life are well supplied in cities and coastal resorts.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Diverse cities Fukuoka has vibrant nightlife, Nagasaki radiates old-world charm, Kumamoto's castle dominates the city, and Kagoshima's palm trees calm travelers.
  2. Gastronomy domain Find the sought-after Hakata ramen in Fukuoka. Nagasaki haschanpon(seafood and vegetable noodle soup), and Kagoshima haskurobuta tonkatsu(breaded pork cutlet). chanpon (seafood and vegetable noodle soup), and Kagoshima has kurobuta tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet).
  3. Inside the volcano Mt. Aso is notoriously active, as is Sakura-jima, across the bay from Kagoshima. Hot springs are found throughout Kyushu.
  4. Into the wild With its lava flows, outlying islands, rugged mountains, and national parks, Kyushu is an adventurer's dream. Most trails require only good shoes, water, and some time.
  5. Remote access Bullet trains now extend all the way to Kagoshima, and in another hour, you can be on the hot sand of Ibusuki's beaches.

When To Go

When to Go to Kyushu

In early spring it's pleasantly warm, and the greenery is at its best. May and June usher in heavy rains, and July and August are intensely...

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Check historic weather for your trip dates:

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