Separated from the island of Honshu resides the subtropical island of Kyushu. A land sculptured and battered with mountainous terrain, volcanos, therapeutic hot springs and hot sand baths contrasted against stunning beaches, gorges and forests. Visit Japan’s monolith volcano Mount Aso (reaching 1,592m above sea level) or drift through Takachiho Gorge, a lava formed gorge, now a water canal encompassing towering volcanic basalt grey walls and a waterfall. Kyushu is simply nature’s paradise. This list compiles of a range of my favourite natural sites and activities in Kyushu!
- Fukuoka Prefecture
- Saga Prefecture
- Nagasaki Prefecture
- Kumamoto Prefecture
- Oita Prefecture
- Miyazaki Prefecture
- Kagoshima Prefecture
Kawachi Wisteria Garden
Who would’ve thought that cascading mildly poisonous flowers of pink, white and purple would be so alluring. Located in Kitakyushu city, the Kawachi Wisteria Garden is home to 22 variants of wisteria, captivating non-gardeners like myself to contemplate my own pitiful backyard. Take a blissful walk and capture those Instagramable photos of the popular wisteria tunnel, as well as the vast compounds of wisteria trees that structure a purple flower canopy and an incredible view of the valley and sea. Near the end of November, the garden will be open to showcase the 700 trees that reveal their autumn coloured leaves.
Shuttle busses can be boarded from Yahata Station to Kawachi Wisteria Garden.
<Open Wisteria Viewing>
- Late-April to Early-May
- Mid-November to Early-December
- Late-April to Early-May: 1,500 yen (18+)
- Mid-November to Early-December: 500 yen
Located in Hakata Bay is this little bundle of paradise. From Meinohama Port in Fukuoka, board the ferry for a 10-minute transfer to Nokonoshima Island. You’ll be surrounded by picturesque views of Fukuoka City and Hakata Bay, as well as seasonal flowers that sequentially change the scope and colour of the island as each season passes by. The island hosts many facilities and experiences: camping, electric bikes, swimming, volleyball, golf, soccer, rabbit & goat petting zoo and even grass sledding. If two-minute noodles aren’t sufficient enough, then dine-in at many of the local Japanese restaurants and cafes on the island.
During Winter not many flowers have bloomed, therefore, I’d recommend visiting during the other seasons, especially spring to see the cherry blossoms.<Website>
Terraced Rice Fields of Hamanoura
Visit here between Mid-April to Early-May! Watch over jagged flooded fields that watch over the sun setting the Genkai Sea. Only during dusk in April and May, you’ll see colours of warmth shimmering amongst the rice fields of Hamanoura. During the summer, the tetris terraces will be lush green, and the warm summer breeze evokes complete composure. This spectacular observation spot is a must-see for anybody driving by car within the Saga prefecture.
Try to avoid visiting during April 29 – May 6 (Golden Week), as many Japanese holidaymakers will visit the site.
Located nearby Sasebo and Hirado within Saikai National Park are the Kujuku Islands. Sail through the bay with the Kujukushima Sightseeing Cruise or lookout at any of the observational towers: Ishidake (Film location for The Last Samurai), Tenkaiho or Yumihari. The bay has 208 scattered green islands that are teemed with life, your visit at the peninsula will be met with plenty of seabirds and the occasional fish leaping out of the water. While on land, you’ll laze yourself on pristine white beaches and bake under the sun. During Autumn, Oriental Honey Buzzard birds will be seen migrating from China to Indonesia.
From Sasebo Station, a free shuttle bus to Kujuku runs several times during the day.
Mount Aso National Park
Home to the largest caldera in Japan, totalling 100kms in circumference, visit Mount Aso National Park! Find yourself lost in breathtaking views of the volcanic landscape and mountain ranges in Kyushu sprawling with lush green grasslands around. Some tours can allow you to get up close to the Nakadake Crater, however, this area is often closed for visitors to access – due to risky volcanic activity and the poisonous volcanic gas. The Nakadake Crater can be reached from JR Aso Station by bus or by car. Activities such as paragliding, hot-air ballooning, helicopter tours, kayaking, onsen bathing or horse-back riding are just a glimpse of many activities available to experience the National Park. Other hotspots in the Aso National park is the Kamishikimi Kumano Imasu Shrine and the Volcano Museum and Kusasenri Grassland.
- Mount Aso has scenic drives, but during winter, the roads are dangerous and some roads will be closed off.
- Horseback riding is only available between March – December.
Suizenji Jojuen Garden
Located in Kumamoto City and covering a total area of 64.6 hectares is…….Suizenji Jojuen Garden! This garden was once a traditional site for the Suizenji Temple, now it’s styled into a Japanese garden that represents the 53 stations and post towns of the old Tokaido highway from Kyoto to Tokyo. The site encompasses green hills fit for a hobbit, as well as a miniature Mt Fuji and a blissful natural pond. This is the perfect stop for any recovery after intense travelling around Japan – just halt and take a brisk walk along the park. I’m not the biggest fan of tea, but the Kokin-Denju-no-Ma teahouse inside the park will prepare traditional Japanese tea that travellers love! The park also has the Izumi Shinto Shrine that lookouts at the tranquil landscape of the park.
- 400 yen for adults
- 200 yen for elementary and high school students
Take the 30-minute tram ride from JR Kumamoto Station to reach Suizenji Garden.
Hells of Beppu
Welcome to Hell – a sentence you probably don’t want to hear during your lifetime. Located in Beppu within the Kannawa and Shibasekiboil districts, discover seven different Hell pools (hot springs) to look at and not bathe in – trust me, you’ll be parboiled from these hotties. Doesn’t sound interesting? How about boiling aqua blue water or boiling blood-red water? Matter of fact is, each pool is unique and contrasts from one to the other, making the new spectating sport of water watching – highly interesting.
400 yen per Hell pool (2000 yen for all Hell pools)
Try the steamed pudding made from the Hell hot springs! You’ll love it!
Carefully navigate your way on a boat through a chasm of volcanic basalt black cliffs that utterly minuscule you in comparison. Listen to the contrasting echo of a 17-metre high waterfall cascading down on the pristine Gokase River against the whistling of birds concealed under a blanket of trees. Despite the superfluous imagery, I can’t help but recommend people to visit Takachiho Gorge, it’s easily one of my favourite locations in Japan! You can either rent a boat or take the short trail along the edge of the gorge – or both. No matter which way, you’re destined to get spectacular shots and perspectives of this geological wonder! However, the trail also leads to the Takachiho Shrine that’s revealed beneath a grove of filtered light. Each night, the shrine hosts a one-hour night dance of the Yokagura Legend, showcasing masked dancers accompanied with traditional instruments.
Best to go by car or tour bus! During Autumn the gorge completely changes in colour, as the leaves become amber.
Sakurajima Volcano in Kagoshima
Go ahead and type in Sakurajima Volcano on Google and you’ll find out that recently this volcano erupted last month. This volcano frequently puffs a cloud of ash with volcanic lightning and stenches the atmosphere with that pungent smell of sulphur – love it or hate it, seeing a volcano in action is always one of natures wonders that I recommend for anyone to see at least once….obviously not up close and personal to an erupting volcano. The volcano is located south of Kyushu in Kagoshima, requiring a ferry or car to reach the volcano. There are plenty of tours provided to explore the volcano on foot, by bus or by bike. If putting boots on a volcano surpasses your adventure demeanour, then try the Kinko Bay cruises that traverse around the stunning bay with the volcano as the backdrop.
Try the free Sakurajima Volcanic Shore Park footbaths near the ferry terminal.
Located south of Kagoshima Prefecture is the wettest place in Japan. That’s probably not a selling point for most people, but this biodiverse island has nature at every corner from unique deers, monkeys and turtles to an abundance of waterfalls and 1000-7,200 yr old cedar trees. While between June to mid-July is mostly rain, during those months is also when turtles come to shore and lay their eggs. During August the eggs will hatch and a crowd of baby turtles panic their way through to the ocean. Most visitors come here for hiking or for rejuvenating in traditional Japanese hot springs. Popular areas are Shiratani Unsuikyo Valley and the giant Jomonsugi tree. Other popular activities are snorkelling, scuba diving, museums and the coastal rockpool Hirauchi Kaichu Onsens during low-tide. Accommodation is also on the island!
Bring your own toiletries/towels to the Hirauchi Kaichu Onsens.
What’s better than beautiful beaches during the Summer? For me, that’s beaches with not many crowds. Fewer crowds = prime time at the beach. The Amami Islands consists of a chain of eight islands that are closely compared to Okinawa, and for good reason. Offering beautiful white sand coastlines and warm turquoise blue water throughout the year. Amami is perfect for lovers of the tropics without all the hustle of crowds. Activities can range from canoeing around the labyrinth of mangroves in Kuroshio-no-Mori Mangrove Park, or diving and snorkelling in the Oshima Strait coral reefs. The island also hosts one of Japan’s best beaches, Tomori Beach! The beach is an easy ten-minute drive from the airport. Encompassing soft white sand and a turquoise sea brimmed with corals and aquatic life.
During the Winter months is best! Especially because venomous habu pit vipers are in hibernation!
Honestly, there are so many more locations I could’ve listed below, but now it’s up to you to decide which to choose from. Other spots that are worth checking out is Lake Kinrin, Nabegataki Falls or Okinoerabujima island. So go start planning your trip and come visit Kyushu!