A Travellerspoint blog

Kyushu & Western Honshu

Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto, Miyajima & Hiroshima

View Round-the-world-trip on samandmarta's travel map.

We spent our first four days in Japan in Kyushu, the smallest and most southern of the three major islands of the country. It is not on the main tourist route, as it is a bit far from Tokyo, and we only stayed there because it was the most convenient point of entry from South Korea. Having said that, Kyushu ended up exceeding our expectations and we wished we had stayed there longer. There are many beautiful places to explore and they are mostly quiet and serene.

Our time in Kyushu started with the early morning arrival in Fukuoka, the island’s largest city. We spent one day in this town and were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful gardens, temples and Shinto shrines. All the sights were either empty or at most visited by a handful of locals, which made our day a very relaxing one.


The next day we took the Shinkansen down to a very special city in the south of Kyushu. Kagoshima is located right next to a small island with a very active volcano, called Sakurajima. The volcano erupts on average once every 8 hours, but the small eruptions do not usually cause harm to the city. However, it is not uncommon for ash to fall over Kagoshima. While we were not fortunate enough to witness this, we did see smoke raising from the volcano during our entire stay. We took the ferry to the volcano in the afternoon and enjoyed a peaceful stroll along its shore. To end the day we had a relaxing foot bath, fueled by the heat of the volcano, in a park on this island.


For a traditional Japanese experience, we headed to Kurokawa Onsen next. The secluded hot-spring village was the perfect spot to unwind and regain energy for our next adventures. We stayed in a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese guesthouse where floors are covered with tatami mats and eating and sleeping is done on the ground. There, we were served an amazing kaiseki dinner to our room. Kaiseki is the Japanese version of haute-cuisine, where you are served many tiny plates with different, artistically arranged dishes. If you thought this would not be filling, you would be wrong. Every 10 minutes or so, we were served another couple of plates, until we were grateful for the dessert which marked the end of the dinner. To make the evening even better, our ryokan also had it’s own onsens (hot spring pools). After some time in and out of the hot water, we went back to the room and slept like babies.


For our last day in Kyushu, we stayed in Kumamoto. The city’s landmark, the castle Kumamoto-jo, was unfortunately still under reconstruction, after being damaged by an earthquake two years ago. Instead, we visited the garden Suizenji-jojuen. The garden featured an extremely photogenic pond and even had a miniature Mount Fuji. We also loved Kumamoto’s cuddly mascot Kumamon. It was difficult to find a spot in the town where you could not see its cute face smiling at you.


After we had left Kyushu, we spent an afternoon wandering around the island of Miyajima near Hiroshima. The island is mostly famous for its Floating Torii, a large Shinto gate built in the shallow water in front of a shrine. There were, however, also many nice gardens and temples on this island to discover. For the first time in Japan, we had to deal with the big crowds that the major attractions draw, especially since it was a Saturday.


Sunday we spent in Hiroshima, where the main “attraction” is the city’s tragic history as the world’s first target of an atomic bomb attack. A beautiful park in the center of the city is dedicated to the victims of this event. Many monuments are scattered throughout the park, for the memory of the deceased and for a future world without nuclear weapons. The most impressive sight in the park is the Atomic Bomb Dome, a building that was almost in the epicenter of the explosion and one of very few that was not completely destroyed by it. The building was left unchanged since then, neither demolished nor reconstructed, as a memorial to the tragic event. We also visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where the gripping tale of the first atomic bomb attack is told. From the early development of nuclear weapons to the horrifying effect the bomb had on the civilians affected by it. We ended the day on a lighter note with a visit to the city’s castle, Hiroshima-jo.


Besides the many interesting sights and the beautiful weather, we were also spoilt by the amazing food during our first six days in Japan. Of course we had some great sushi, but we also enjoyed the many local specialties that can be found in every city. Fukuoka is the birthplace of ramen noodles and their tonkotsu ramen, with a broth made from pork bones, is incredibly flavorful. In Hiroshima, we had okonomiyaki prepared in front of us on a steel plate. These pancakes are filled with cabbage and bacon and topped with noodles and a savory sauce. Last but not least, we loved the dozens of little dessert shops at the Kumamoto train station. Based on things like bean paste, sweet potato or macha tea, these desserts were not as sweet as candy, but just as addictive. We apologize if this paragraph made you hungry.

Posted by samandmarta 19:00 Archived in Japan

Table of contents


Kyushu is by far our favourite part of Japan. When you go back, and I'm sure you will, visit Nagasaki and Beppu, too.

by irenevt

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.