Return to Wonder – Japan Endless Discovery
When you think of island paradises, Japan might not immediately spring to mind – but it will now.
Kyushu is one of the country’s four main islands, and it prides itself on its ‘endless energy, wild beauty and warm smiles’.
The lesser-known subtropical island is a far cry away from the big city lights of somewhere like Tokyo, boasting impressive surf spots, towering volcanic ridges, and quaint onsen towns.
There are so many places to go and explore on Kyushu, but here are some of our favourites.
This UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed garden in Kagoshima Prefecture, and the traditional home of the Shimazu clan located within the garden, was built way back in 1658. It’s easy to get blissfully lost here for a day, exploring the grounds and stately home.
Visible from Sengan-en is an active volcano called Sakurajima, as well as the Kinko Bay. The garden incorporates a principle called “borrowed scenery”, which makes it look like the surrounding landscapes are actually a part of the gardens.
Kokonoe Yume Otsurihashi Bridge
This 390-metre-long bridge located in Oita Prefecture sits 173 metres high off the ground, making it the highest pedestrian suspension bridge in all of Japan.
If your stomach can handle the height, walking along the bridge is an unforgettable experience. On a sunny day you can easily spot one of Japan’s 100 most beautiful waterfalls – Shindo Waterfall – and, on other days, fog can transform the bridge into a totally mystical landmark.
If you envisage surfing some waves, going on some epic hikes, or swallowing down some delicious oysters on your trip to Kyushu, then you absolutely need to head to Itoshima.
From Fukuoka City it takes less than an hour to get to the peninsula, which is considered a closely-guarded secret of the Fukuoka locals.
This small stretch of coast has a cruisey, laidback beach vibe. The magnificent beaches are lined with small, hip cafes, and often turn a stunning shade of orange as the sun sets behind them. It’s a perfect place for slowing down and unwinding.
In Oita Prefecture you will find a quaint onsen village called Yufuin that ticks all the boxes if you want to indulge in a bit of tranquillity.
Lake Kinrin, located on the east end of town, has both hot and cold spring water in it, which is why this lake has become known for the steam that often rises from its surface especially on winter mornings.
Yufuin also has a wealth of cafes, museums, and boutique Japanese shops that are perfect for whiling away an afternoon.
Aso-Kuju National Park
If you hike the volcanic ridges of the park’s Five Mountains of Aso, you may well end up at the impressive Aso Caldera – a natural miracle that was created by four major volcanic eruptions.
Once your feet are back on land, Aso-Kuju National Park, which spans Oita and Kumamoto Prefectures, is full of activities, from hiking through marshlands to relaxing in a traditional onsen bath.
The best way to really soak in the wonder of this natural gorge is from a boat as you row through it.
The Takachiho Gorge – which is a really narrow chasm in the rock – sits along part of the Gokase River in the forest of Miyazaki Prefecture.
Water from the Manai Falls splashes onto you as you row through it – which your camera might not love, but it sure does make an epic Instagram photo.
Kyushu’s Nagasaki Prefecture is home to a marine paradise – the Goto Islands. They’re a chain of over 100 islands and part of Saikai National Park.
Turquoise oceans and rolling hills surround you anyway you look, and there are so many unforgettable experiences on offer.
Foodies can tuck into a delicious dish of kibinago herring, which is a local Goto delicacy, while adventure-seekers can spend a day diving along the coral reefs. Or if you just want to spend a day in the sun, head to Takahama Beach on the west coast – which just so happens to have been voted one of Japan’s top 100 most beautiful beaches.
Kinsaku Nakane was a Japanese gardener who built a reputation for himself as being one of the most talented garden designers in the country’s history, and Keishuen Garden in Saga Prefecture was one of Nakane’s masterpieces.
The garden is full of the cherry blossom trees that Japan is famous for, but it’s particularly beautiful in the autumnal sunshine because of how the sun hits all the plants.
If you’re looking for a little slice of harmony, this garden shouldn’t be missed.
Return to Wonder – Japan National Tourism Organization www.japan.travel/en/au/