KYUSHU is the southernmost and third largest of the four main islands of Japan. Covering an area of 44,256 square kilometers and home to 14.5 million people, it is known for its picturesque coastlines, pristine forests, smoking volcanos, landscaped hot springs, hot sand baths, geysers, geothermal plants, weird theme parks, Christian historical sights, subtropical scenery and high-tech factories that produce push-button toilets and a tenth of the world's integrated circuits.
Kyushu has been described as volcanic exclamation point on Japan's island tail. Traditionally regraded by most Japanese as a land of horse-eating barbarians and sometimes called the Tibet of Japan, it is still largely unspoiled and its people are said to be among the earthiest and friendliest in Japan.
Kyushu of course has its share of large cities---Nagasaki, Fukuoka, and Kagoshima, to name a few---but they are smaller, friendlier and more manageable than the big cities on Honshu. The seven prefectures of Kyushu are Fukuoka, Saga, Oita, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Kagoshima. The new Shinkansen to Kagoshima opened in March 2011. The fastest trains will cover the distance between Osaka and Kagoshima in three hours and 47 minutes, and between Fukuoka and Kagoshima in one hour and 20 minutes.
Kyushu with Okinawa accounts for about 10 percent of Japan’s economy, which is the equivalent of the economy of a European country, with large chemical, iron, semiconductor, auto and toilet industries. It also has large agriculture and fishery industries, producing about 20 percent of Japan’s crops.
In recent years Kyushu has become Japan’s gateway to Asia, welcoming more visitors from China, South Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia. There are now 27 airline routes connecting Kyushu with Asia if you include Yamaguchi Prefecture just across the Kannon Straits from Kyushu. Of the 1 million or so visitors in 2009, about 60 percent were from South Korea . Some pop in the fast boast from Pusan to play golf or enjoy a soak in a hot spring. Over 70,000 came from China, including 30,000 passengers on 24 cruise ships.
There are six national parks on Kyushu, including Saikai National Park, which resembles the Inland Sea National Park between Honshu and Shikoku. Most of the large cities are located on the north of the island; most of the mountains and active volcanos are in the middle; and the southern part of the island is associated with the birth of Japan. [Source: Tracy Dalby, National Geographic, January 1994] Website: Kyushu Tourism Promotion Welcome Kyushu
replica of 2nd century B.C. Yayoi house History of Kyushu: Nearly three times closer to Korea than Tokyo, Kyushu has traditionally been an important entry point for foreign influence. The Yamato clan that grew into Japan Imperial family is believed to have arrived in Kyushu from Korean. Kublai Khan staged his unsuccessful invasion of Japan on the shores of Kyushu. Europeans and Christians had their greatest inroads in Kyushu before they were kicked out of Japan.
Kyushu has never really fit in with the rest of Japan. Periodically the fiery inhabitants of Kyushu have rebelled against the Emperors and shoguns. In 1877 Kyushu's greatest hero, a samurai statesman named Saigo Takamori, led a rebellion against the Japan's national government only a month after it was created. The rebellion ended when Takamori slit open is his belly in ritual suicide instead of surrendering.
Access to Kyushu: Kitakyushu is connected by bridge and several tunnels to Honshu. The 11½-mile-long Shinkansen Tracks tunnel, which runs underneath the Kammon Straits, is the forth longest tunnel in the world.
The Kammon Tunnel, connecting Honshu with Kyushu, is the world’s first underseas tunnel. Completed in 1958, it is 3,461 meters long and connects Fukuoaka on Kyushu with Shimonoseki in Honshu.
bridge between Honshu and Kyushu Kitakyushu (northern Kyushu) is the northernmost city of Kyushu. Created in February 1963 when five smaller communities decided to form a single entity, it is home to about one million people and has little to interest tourists except for maybe the Tanga Market along the river. .
The towns that became Kitakyushu were originally intended to be the target of the Nagasaki bomb but were saved by cloudy weather that prevented the bomb-carrying plane from locating the bombing site. After World War II the area became a polluted center of steel- and chemical making. These days it is much cleaner and is now a leader in robotics, space-age materials, semiconductors and precision instruments.
The Toto museum at the Toto headquarters in Kitakyushu displays Toto’s latest high-tech toilets , an extra-wide seat for sumo wrestlers and great toilets from the company’s past. Websites: See Fukuoka Below Subway Map: Urban Rail Urbanrail.net
Space World (outside Kitakyushu) is a theme park where you can visits a space dome, ride on a roller coaster through black holes and galaxies, put on a space suit and slippers and have your picture taken in a mock-up of the moon. It also boast a Space Camp, with a training program similar to that endured by NASA astronauts. Website: Discover Space World Space World
Fukuoka and Hakata Area
Canal Street shopping area Fukuoka (50 miles southwest of Kitakyushu) is the largest city in Kyushu. Situated on Hakata Bay and comprised of both Fukuoka and Hakata, it is home to 1.2 million people and is known for its delicious sea food. silk textiles, clay dolls and exciting festivals such as Hakata Dontaku. Fukuoka bid to host the 2016 Olympics but didn’t get past the second round.
Fukuoka is considered the main rail gateway and the main political, economic, cultural and communications center of Kyushu. It doesn't have many sights but is does have a nice atmosphere and a reputation for being welcoming to outsiders.. Tenjincho is the main business center. Higashi-Nakusu, located on a delta between the Naka and Hakata Rivers, is the main entertainment area.
Websites:Fukuoka Tourist Information Site Fukuoka Tourist Information Site Expat’s Guide to Fukuoka May’s Fukuoka City Guide ; Fukuoka Tourism Fukuoka Sights Map: Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO Japanese Lifestyles Japanese Lifestyles Subway Map: Urban Rail Urbanrail.net Hotel Websites: Fukuoka Tourist Information Site Fukuoka Tourist Information Site JapanHotel.net JapanHotel.net Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels (click hostels for good map and description of hostels) Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Fukuoka is accessible by air and by bus and by train from Tokyo (eight hours) and Osaka (four hours) and other Japanese cities. The southern terminus of the main shinkansen line is in Hakata. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Sights in Fukuoka: Fukuoka Dome is the home of the Daiei Hawks. It has synthetic turf, a retractable roof and seating for 48,000. Kyushu National Museum---Japan’s first new national museum in more than a century---opened on October 2005. Housed in a spectacular, irregular-shaped, glass building designed by the populist architect Kikutake, it boasts a fine collection of art, crafts and technology taken mostly from the archives of the Tokyo National Museum and has first rate exhibitions. One interesting feature of the museum is they way art from Japan from one period of time is matched against art from other places such as Egypt or Europe from the same time period.
The Fukuoka Fish Market is one of the livelier markets in Japan. Located in the docklands of Nagashima, it is the fifth largest in Japan. Much of sea life---including squid, shrimp, aomono (blue-skinned mackerel), and sea bream---is caught the plankton- rich waters off of Fukuoka. Between 3:00am and 6:00am seafood is brought in by fishermen and auctioned off to wholesalers who in turn sell it from their stalls to restaurants and shops between 6:00am and noon. Visitors have traditionally not been welcome but a new viewing area was set up when the market was refurbished. There are good fish and sushi restaurants around the market.
Ohioro Park is relaxing place with a large lake, the Fukuoka Arts Museum, and a wooded area once occupied by Fukuoka Castle. Seaside Momochi is the home of the spectacular silver-topped Fukuoaka Dome, a jet ski course, a waterfront shopping area and 234-meter-high Fukuoka Tower. Rakusuien Garden and Marine World Umino-nakamichi (with 350 creatures including 10-foot sharks, manta rays and dolphins in a sea tunnel and 61 tanks) are also worth a visit. There are also some shrines, temples and museums.
Nakassu is a modern shopping district. Inside one old brown building is Shogetudo (www.shogetudo.jp), a place to get exquisitely-made Hakata dolls. One of the last of its kind, the shop is devoted almost solely to dolls. It has been around since the 1930s and each doll it sells is unique. The dolls vary in size from a few inches tall to life size and range in price from $30 for small kimono-clad bride to hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a 30-centimeter-tall, elaborately-painted Noh actor.
Hakata doll Hakata (part of Fukuoka) is famous for its traditional Japanese dolls, made with a kind of local clay that is ideal good for dollmaking. A center of dollmaking since the Edo Period, Hakata is the home of skilled craftsmen who hand produce exquisitely-detailed and realistic-looking miniature geisha girls, sumo wrestlers, Kabuki actors and samurai warriors.
The are about 100 members of the Hakata Dollmakers Association, most of them operating out of small workshops. The small Kawasaki factory in Fukuoka offers tours. Popular dolls sell for between $64 and $2,400 and specialty custom-made ones sell for as much as $8,000.
Hakata Machiya Folk Museum (near Kushida Shrine, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka) has displays of Hakata dolls and other crafts. There are special top exhibits and performances of Hakata tops. Websites: See Fukuoka above
Yanagawa Dazaifu (near Fukuoka) contains several very old relics and some old shrines and temples. The belfry of Kanzaonji Temple contains a bronze bell made in the 7th century and now regarded as a National Treasure and the oldest bell in Japan. Temmangu Shrine honors a famous poet-scholar and is noted for its thousands of Japanese plum trees that bloom in late February and early March.
Dazaifu in many ways is a nicer place to visit than Fukuoka. It has a pleasant rural feel and is moderately touristy in a nice way, namely it has an interesting tourist pedestrian street with some charming shops and places to eat. The Kyushu National Museum is something to behold. Reached from one side through a long tunnel-like escalator, it is huge architecturally-impressive, glass-and-steel structure and Japan’s forth national museum (the other three are in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara). It has a permanent collection related to the history of Kyushu and temporary exhibition. It worthwhile just walking around the building’s lobby and strolling around outside and enjoying the building’s architecture.
Tenmanhu hosts a New Year Fire Exorcism festival in early January and Spring Water Poetry Festival---featuring a re-enactment of poets and nobility reciting poems as they float cups of sake down small canals in a garden---in early March. Komyoenji temple has pleasant white pebble and moss gardens and is a nice place to enjoy autumn leaves. In other parts of town are ruins of temples and government structures. The Water Fortress is a 1.2-kilometer-long wall in the northeast part of the city that was built as a defense for invasion from Tang China or Korea. Its name refers to the 60-meter-wide, four-meter-deep moat that once ran along the wall. Ono Fortress was built on Mt. Shiojo to the north of Dazaifu in the 7th century to protect the city. Part of the stone-and mud embankments and 70 warehouses remain today. Website: Dazaifu City site Dazaifu City Getting There: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Yanagawa (one hour but train south of Fukuoka) is town with 44,000 people, famous its canal boat ride which follow a four-kilometer course, mostly in canals surrounding Yanagawa castle, passing under 12 bridges.
Much of the route is quite scenic. In some sections there are willow trees and gardens. In others there are rows of samurai houses. Some have steps to water, a holdover from days when people collected water from the canals. The boats hold about 10 people and are propelled forwards by guides with poles.
Yanagawa has many old buildings and large number of shrines and temples for a town of its size. It also hosts several water-related festivals throughout the year. Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels (click hostels for good map and description of hostels) Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books
Saga (on the JR Nagasaki line south of Fukuoka) is a small city between Fukuoka and Nagasaki. There isn’t much to see there but there is some nice countryside around it. At low tide the Ariake Sea near Saga becomes a huge mud flat filled with mudskippers. Off the coast are vast nori (seaweed farms). Saga Castle has some stone walls, moats and open grassy area but the main building doesn’t look much like a castle. It looks more like a large nicely-restored traditional Japanese building. Inside is a nice museum, some handsome displays and tatami mat rooms with slide doors and shoki rice paper walls. Few displays are in English.
Yoshinogari Historical Park (between Tosu and Saga on the JR Nagasaki line south of Fukuoka) is an interesting historical park that brings to life the Yayoi Period (400 B.C. to A.D. 300) with a museum with an interesting display of burial jars and different areas with replicas of Yayoi structures. The entire area is quite large. One can get around using a small bus or on foot.
At the Yoshinogari site moated villages began appearing along with evidence that these villages were starting to unify into a primitive state in the early Yayoi period. In the middle Yayoi period a large circular moat was built around a large area that encompassed several villages. The main village had a designated area where priests lived and high officials met. There were burial mounds for leaders and cemeteries filled with burial jars.
In the late Yayoi period Yoshinogari was the largest known moated village in Japan, It was encircled by a large outer moats dug down in a “V” shape. Inside was special inner areas, some with very large buildings. The large outer moat was designed to protect the entire village from outside enemies; an inner moat inside protected a smaller area. The outer moat had a total length of 2.5 kilometers and encircles an area of more than 40 hectares, an area the size of 30 baseball fields.
Structures include watchtowers, used to spot enemies and display the village’s greatness; semi-subterranean pit dwellings, used as residences and workshops; and platform buildings, used for storage and as residences. The area with the largest buildings is believed to have been a sacred area, where priests lived and carried out rituals, and political leaders held meetings. Large separate areas are thought to have been a marketplaces and a place where ritual objects were made.
Noblemen and ordinary people alike were buried in ceramic jars comprised of two jars placed with their open ends together and sealed. When a person was buried a pit was dug and one earthen jar was placed in the side of the pit, the body with legs bent was placed inside and the other jar was attached in such a way that it extended into the pit, which was then filled in. Noblemen were buried with distinctive bronze daggers.
There are two entrances. At the east entrance is a large information and service center, where snacks, drink, souvenirs and information is available. At the far north of the park is Kitanaikaku, with burial mounds thought to be the resting place of successive Yoshinogari rulers. Inside a museum burial jars have been restored and displayed in rows as they were found.
A short walk to the south is Kitanaikaku, believed to have been the most sacred place at the site. This was the main political center and where festivals were held and ceremonies and ritual were carried out. Some large buildings and watchtower are located here. Nearby at Naka no Mura is where it is believed ritual objects for festivals were made.
Minaminaikaku is another area with a lot of buildings, including a number of pit dwellings that have replicas of Yayoi period furniture and crafts. Judging from the scale of defenses, including watchtowers , a fence and a circular moat this area is thought to have been where a ruler lived. To the west is Kuratoichi, thought to be Yoshinigari’s main commercial area. A large market and storehouses were located here.
Karatsu (west of Saga) is a nice town with a castle and a pine-tree-lined beach. Nagoya Castle (a 30 minute drive from Karatsu and 1½ hours from Fukuoka) was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late 16th century as a base to mount his invasion of Korea. The large castle grounds and what was virtually a city around it---made of over 120 camps of participating daimyos (warlords) located with a three kilometer circumference of the castle--- were built in an astonishing short period of around two years, with much of the work done in a five month span of time.
The castle covered 170,000 square meters and was second in size only to Osaka castle. At its peak 100,000 people lived in the castle and surrounding daimyo camps. The site today is made up mainly of large stone walls and embankments and covers a fairly large area. It is nice place to wander around and offers some views of wind turbines and the sea. There is a good historical museum with some models of 16th century Japanese and Korean ships and other things.
Glover park NAGASAKI (on the west side of Kyushu) is home to 440,000 people and has more old European-style building than anywhere else in Japan. A charming place with a long, colorful history, it is unfortunate that it is known mainly as the site of an atom bomb explosion. It is difficult to find traces of the atomic bombing. Street car service for the city started up three months after the blast.
Nagasaki is relatively small and hemmed in by steep mountains. The main downtown area is around the train station and the few flat areas around Nagasaki Harbor. The fringes of the cities, mostly residential areas climb up steep slopes. At various locations around the harbor are large ship building facilities. Nagasaki doesn’t have a subway system. It is liked to the rest of Japan by the JR train system, which also serves as commuter train but mostly it services by trams and buses. The trams are kind of cool, they cost ¥120 per ride but sometimes are pretty crowded.
History of Nagasaki: The setting for the famous opera Madam Butterfly, Nagasaki was only place in Japan that was open to the West during nearly 300 years of isolation between the early-1600s and the late-1800s. Used first by the Portuguese, beginning in 1571, and later by the Dutch, its was the arrival point for Christianity, Christian culture and Western technologies like shipbuilding, mining, printing, photography, medicine and railway transportation.
Nagasaki's foreign population was restricted to Dejima, a 130-acre artificial island built in 1634. Deijima is no longer an island bit it does contain few old relics (a Dutch sundial and couple of European cannons).
17th century Nagasaki Nagasaki was also an important Christian center. For a time was known as “Small Rome in Japan.” In 1597, 26 Catholics, including six foreigners and a 12-year-old Japanese boy were crucified as a result of a decrees against Christianity passed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. All 26 became saints.
In July 1982, Nagasaki experienced a flood that killed nearly 300 people. Major landmarks such as the Meganebashi Bridge were washed away. Busy restaurants were inundated with 2.2 meters of water
Information and Orientation: Nagasaki is fairly concentrated and easy to get around in on foot. The main tourist office (☎ 0958-23-3631) is in JR Nagasaki station. Nagasaki has a tram system that charges ¥100 per ride and ¥500 for a one day pass. Entertainment The main shopping and entertainment areas are the Maruyama district and Hamano-machi arcade.
Websites:Nagasaki city tourism guide Nagasaki city tourism guide Nagasaki Prefecture site Welcome to Nagasaki Map: Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO Hotel Websites: Nagasaki Prefecture site Welcome to Nagasaki JapanHotel.net JapanHotel.net Nagasaki city tourism guide Nagasaki city tourism guide Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels (click hostels for good map and description of hostels) Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Nagasaki is accessible by air and by bus and by train from Tokyo (11 hours) and Osaka (7 hours) and other Japanese cities. The shinkansen ends in Fukuoka-Hakata. The fastest train from there is the limited express. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Sights in Nagasaki include Our Catholic Church, the oldest wooden Gothic building Japan; Glover Mansion, a 19th century residence owned by a British merchant; and Sofukuji Temple, a 17th century Chinese-style building with a gate and a main hall designated as National Treasures.
Fukusai-jin Zen Temple is shaped like a turtle and contains an 18-meter-high figure of the goddess Kannon. Inside is a pendulum that shows the rotation of the earth on its axis. There are also numerous other shrines, temples, gardens, museums and old mansions owned by European and Japanese merchants. Jurokuban Museum is housed in a 19th century mansion and contains old clocks, telescopes and other antiques. Reproductions show what the city used to look like. Dejima Island has long been absorbed by Nagasaki city and has not been an island for centuries. The Dejima museum is currently closed. There are good views from 322-meter-high Mt. Inasa-yama, which can be reached by cable car.
Chinatown in Nagasaki is about two blocks long and overpriced and touristy. The main snack that is offered is a fatty piece of pork stuffed into a sort of soft bun sandwich. It is tasty and is sold between $2.50 and $3.50 by a number of vendors. There are also a dozen or so Chinese restaurants and souvenir shops that sell Chinese sweets, panda key chains, butterfly-bottom shirts and the like.
The Dutch Slopes between Chinatown and Glover Gardens is a pleasant place to stroll around even though some of the flagstoned streets are quite steep. There are many old Western-style houses that have been converted to this or that. Several allow you to take a look inside and have small museums. Glover Gardens is nice enough. It covers a large portion of hillside and has grassy areas, tree, bushes and gardens and offers nice views of the harbor. Nicer views can be had for free by walking about a half kilometer up a path from the upper entrance of Clover Park to an observatory on the top of small mountain. One can also drive to this observatory. The night time views of a lit up Nagasaki are especially good, there are also good nighttime views from the observatory reached by the ropeway (cable car) on the other side of the harbor.
Nagasaki and the Atomic Bomb
Nagasaki is known mostly as the place where a second atom bomb was dropped on Japan on August 9, 1945. On August the 10,000-pound Fat Man plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki at 11:02am August 9th. It exploded 1,650 feet above the ground, produced a blast almost twice as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb (the equivalent of 22,000 tons of TNT). A Fat Man bomb was exploded in the first nuclear test on July 16, 1945. A third was waiting to be used if necessary.
The Nagasaki bomb was dropped from a B-29 flown by Maj. Charles Sweeney. It was exploded over the largest Roman Catholic cathedral in the Far East. Steep fills limited the damage primarily to the Urakami valley. About 35,000 people were killed instantly and another 35,000 died over the next few months. The victims included 250 Allied prisoners of war. One survivor from Nagasaki said, "May body seemed all black; everything seemed dark...I thought, 'The world is ending.'" There were also reports of blackened horses standing in instant death.
Unlike Hiroshima, which had major military installations and little of historical value, Nagasaki had few military targets but many old Christian-European monuments (ground zero was right above the largest Christian church in Japan). Many parts of the city were spared because they were shielded from the blast by mountains and hills.
Nagasaki was originally the secondary target and the only reason it was bombed was that primary target was covered in clouds. The plane flew over the main target, Kokura (present-day Kitakyushu) three times without finding a target before take off for Nagasaki, which was not far away. Nagasaki was also covered but clouds but a gap opened up and the Mitsubishi Arms Work was sighted and became the target. After the bomb was dropped the plane flew to Okinawa, its tanks almost empty of fuel.
Riding in plane behind the plane carrying the Nagasaki bomb, William T. Lawrence wrote of the New York Times on August 9, 1945: "The winds of destiny seemed to favor certain Japanese cities...We circled about them again and again and found no opening in the ick umbrella of clouds that covered them. Destiny chose Nagasaki as the ultimate target." See World War II, History.
Hypocentre Park contains a black stone column that marks the place where the Nagasaki atom bomb exploded. Nearby is a section of the wall of the original Urakami Cathedral. A replacement was built in 1959. Urakami, the district that was at the epicenter, is now a suburb that looks like any other in Japan.
Nagasaki Peace Park (north of Hypocentre Park) is laid out near ground zero to commemorate its destruction by atom bomb. The Nagasaki Peace Statue looks like something from the Soviet Union.
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (near Nagasaki Peace Park) is a $62 million complex with relics and photos from the bombing, displays describing Japanese atrocities in World War II and videos of Koreans and Western POWs explaining how the were brought to Japan as forced laborers. Japan has been criticized for not owning up to its aggressive past, but this museum show very clearly the Japanese were both aggressors and victims.
The museum opened in 1996. It also has exhibits on the effects of radiation, histories of the global peace and anti-nuclear movements and testimonies of victims of the Ronneburg uranium mine in Germany, the Bikini Atoll test site in the Pacific and the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan.
Other Atomic Bomb Sites in Nagasaki: Nagasaki doesn't have a hallmark memorial building like the Hiroshima dome but it does have several small sites which can be visited. A map of them can be obtained from the Nagasaki municipal office. Most are within walking distance of the tram stations.
The sites include the rebuilt Urakami Cathedral, an air raid shelter at a primary school, Nyokodo (a house 500 meters from ground zero belonging to doctor who helped many victim in spite of his injuries), a bomb-damaged stone gate at the former Nagasaki Medical College and the one-legged torii gate, remains of shrine gate 800 meters from ground zero.
Site of Martyrdom is a spot on hill where 26 Catholics were crucified in 1597. A memorial and museum with Christian relics was built in 1962 to mark the 100th anniversary of their canonization.
Huis Ten Bosch
Huis Ten Bosch (an hour from Nagasaki near the town of Sasebo) is a reproduction of a 17th century Dutch town. Not only is it the forth largest theme park in Japan after Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studios Japan and DisneySea, it is also one of the most technologically-advanced and environmentally friendly tourist attractions ever conceived. It opened in 1992 and was popular for a while but crumbled under debt burden of $2 billion declared bankruptcy in 2003. It then reinvented itself as a resort aimed at families on multi-day visits by renovating spas and restaurants and offering cruises, The number of visitors, especially families, has increased in recent years. It now welcomes over 2 million visitors a year.
Covering 158 hectares, Huis Ten Bosch (pronounced "house-ten-bosh," meaning "House in the Woods") bills itself as a Dutch-themed "ecocity," with a computer-controlled energy conservation system and waste recycling program. Like much of Holland, Huis ten Bosch is built on land reclaimed from the sea. Dutch engineers were brought in to help set up dikes and four miles canals. Over ten million bricks were brought from Holland to make the buildings look authentic.
Among the brick lanes are replicas of the Dutch royal family residence, houses for ordinary people, working businesses, eight resort hotels, windmills, a castle with one million flowers, a museum of art, a museum of history, shops and restaurants that serve things like poffertjes (tiny pancakes), a forest park, porcelain museum and interactive media shows and computer-driven dioramas that produce lightning storms and threatening waves. The park is particularly attractive during the spring tulip festival when more than 1 million tulips are in bloom.
Of particular interest are Mysterious Escher building, which shows a 3-D movie using MC Escher's graphics, the Horizon Theater, which bring to life a sea-themed fairy tale, a tall ship museum and 105-meter replica of the Domotoren, Holland's tallest church tower, complete with a high-speed elevator and viewing platform. An entrance "passport " for the park cost ¥3,900 yen. A Prince 10 passport which provides entrance to three of four of the main attractions is ¥4,800. A King 30 passport which provides entrance to all the main attractions is ¥6,200. Website: Huis ten Bosch site Huis ten Bosch site
memorial to Nagasaki saints
Christianity and the Islands Around Nagasaki
With about 130 churches Nagasaki is Prefecture home to 15 percent of the Christians in Japan and most of the churches in Japan built before World War II.. Nagasaki was the focal point of Christianity after the arrival of Europeans in the beginning in the 16th century. Churches today are an important part of the daily lives of Christians living on the Goto islands, a chain of about 140 islands located about 100 kilometers west of Nagasaki City. There has been some discussions of designating these churches as World Heritage Sites.
Oura Cathedral in Nagasaki is the oldest church in Japan and has been designated a national treasure. It was built in 1864 and altered in 1879. The Statue if the Blessed Virgin at the main entrance was sent to celebrate the revelation if believers. Urakami Cathedral was rebuilt in 1958 Statues of angels burned b the atomic bombing stand in front of the church. Other churches in the Nagasaki area include Tabira Catholic Church in Hirado City.
Oura Cathedral There are 29 churches scattered around the Goto islands. Three-story Kuroshima Cathedral in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture is one of 17 brick churches in Japan, all in Kyushu. Another, Aosagaura Church is on Shinkami-Gotocho, one of the Goto Island. It is built of bright red bricks and was designed and built by Yosuke Tetsukawa. Kashiragashima in Shinkami-Gotocho is the only church built of stone in western Japan. It is made of stone that followers excavated from the surrounding area. The church now has only 15 elderly members who meet for Mass every second and forth Sunday of the month. Websites: Kumamoto Prefecture site Visit Kumamoto ; Japan National Tourism Organization (PDF) JNTO UNESCO World Heritage Information ; UNESCO
Saikai National Park (west of Nagasaki) featured beautiful islands, splendid bays and beds of cultured pearls. The town of Sasebo is a starting point for boat trips to the islands Website: Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan
Hirado (west of Nagasaki) was many centuries the main port for foreign trade. Beginning in 1550 it was used by the Portuguese. From the early 17th century to the mid 19th century is was used by the Dutch. There are cultural relics from this period. Hirado Castle in Kameoka Park was restored in 1962. The top floor of the three-level ferro-concrete donjon offers outstanding views of the city and sea.
Shimabara-hanto Peninsula (south of Nagasaki) is where Japanese Christians rose up in revolt against the Japanese Shogunate in 1638, resulting in the suppression of Christianity in Japan. The force of 37,000 or so peasant Christians made their last stand against 120,00-member Shogun's army around Haro-jo castle. Little remains of the castle today. Website: Pictures of Shimbara Shimbara Pictures Getting There: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Unzen (on the Shimabara-hanto Peninsula, a two hour drive from Nagasaki) was a popular seaside and highland hot spring resort up until 1991, when a violent volcanic eruption produced a huge fire-ball-like wall of incandescent gas that killed 43 people including two of the world's most famous volcanologists. See Nature, Volcanos
Tourists can see bubbling "hells" and bath in water is piped in from these hot springs at onsens in the area. There are number of walks in the area and damage from the 1991 eruption can be seen. Some areas closed off though due to concerns about volcanic activity
Mt Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall was built to commemorate the 1991 eruption. It has both in house displays and organized field trips and is involved in studying the volcano. The facility is still in the process of being set up. Unzen-Amakusa Nation is the oldest national park in Japan. It was designated as such in 1934 It is famous for it azalea blooms in the spring, colored foliage in fall and rime frost in the winter. The azalea displays are particularly awesome around Nitta Pass. Websites: Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan ; Unzen Volcano University of Tokyo ; Unzen Tourism Unzen Tourism Getting There: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Kumamoto (1½ hours from Fukuoka) is often called the city of woods because of its abundance of green groves. Kyushu's third largest city, it is home to 565,000 people and has a lively nightlife scene, a good tram system and the tastiest horsemeat in Kyushu.
Worth checking out in Kumamoto are is the Buddhist Pagoda on Hanaokayama Hill, where Prime Minister Nehru of India gave some of Buddha's ashes to the Emperor of Japan; Hosokawa Gyobutei, a villa with a collection of kimonos and everyday items and a white sand garden; the house of the writer Natsume Soseki; and the Kiizumi Yakumo Museum, the former home of Lafcadio Hearn. There is also an art museum, crafts museum, and nature park.
Websites : Kumamoto Precture Tourism Visit Kumamoto Kumamoto City Guide Manyou Kumamoto Map: Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO Kumamoto City GuideManyou Kumamoto Hotel Websites: JapanHotel.net JapanHotel.netKumamoto International Convention Bureau Kumamoto International Convention Bureau Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels (click hostels for good map and description of hostels) Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Kumamoto is accessible by air and by bus and by train from Tokyo (10 hours) and Osaka (6 hours) and other Japanese cities. The shinkansen ends in Fukuoka-Hakata. The fastest train from there is the limited express. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Kunamoto Castle is regarded as the best of Japan's reconstructed castles. Designated as an Important Cultural Property, it contains a dozen turrets and towering stone walls and stairs that make the castle grounds into a three dimensional maze. It is a delightful place to stroll around especially in the cherry blossom season when white and pink blossoms blend with fresh green from giant elms and camphor trees. The museum has an interesting collection of weapons, maps and palanquins.
Kumamoto Castle was originally built by the feudal lord Kato Kiyomasa (1562-1611) and at its height had 130 walls, 49 turrets, 18 turret gates, 29 castle gates and 5-kilometers of outer walls. The original castle was destroyed by fire in 1877 and rebuilt in 1960. Many of the stone walls are original. From the top there are wonderful views. Near the base of the castle is the beginning of the Shinmachi shopping and nightlife area.
Suizenji Park (Kumamoto) is one of the finest example of Japanese landscape gardening. Established in 1632, it contains simulations of the 53 stations of the old Tokaido Road (between Kyoto and Tokyo) complete with miniature models of Mt. Fuji, Lake Biwa and other famous places along the route.
The lovely thatch-roof Kokindenju tea room is located on a carp-filled pond and surrounded by geometric topiary known as hazo-zukuri ("box work") and rocks arranged into a dry waterfall. The tea house was built in 1612 and moved to Kumamoto in 1912 from Kyoto’s Hachijo Castle.
The garden is small, just over 7 hectares, but needs at least an hour to savor. During holidays and the flower-viewing season it is often crowded with tour groups. Many seeks out a small spring whose waters are said to bring long life. At the back of Suizenji there is special horse run used for displays of yabusame (mounted archery) at festivals held in late April, early August and mid October. Noh performances are held at the Izumi Shinto Shrine within the garden.
Amakusa Island church Hitoyoshi (70 kilometers south of Kumamoto) is charming castle town sometimes called “Kyoto of Kyushu.” The donjon was destroyed by a fire but the castle sits impressively by the Kumagawa River. There are a number of samurai houses and temples in the town. Boat trips are offered through the rapids of the Kumagawa River. Hitoyoshi is also famous for its sochu liquor. Websites: City of Hitoyoshi City of Hitoyoshi
Amakusa Islands (west of Kumamoto) is known for a spectacular drive along the five painted bridges that link the islands. This route is also called the "Pearl Line" because of all the cultured farms in the area. An unexplained phenomenon called "Shiranui', or the mysterious fire takes place on the waters of Yatsushiro Bay between the Amakusa Islands and Kyushu in early February. At first a red light appears far out in the bay. It is soon followed by a long stretch of blinking lights that span the dark waters for 16 miles.
Mt. Aso (halfway between Kumamoto and Beppu) is one of the world's most active volcanos. Part of Mt. Aso National Park, it contains a hissing and steaming crater that can be reached by a road and a cable car.
Mt. Aso is double-coned volcano with a huge 10-mile-wide, 15-mile-long caldera that was produced by a catastrophic explosion about 100,000 years ago. The outer rim of the caldera consists of a series of undulating plateaus, which contains small communities, roads, and farms with grazing horses and cattle.
Within the caldera are the Five Mountains of Aso: 1) 1337-meter-high Mt. Eboshi-dake, 2) 1238-meter-high Mt. Nishima-dake, 3) 1216-meter-high Mt. Naka-dake, 4) 1408-meter-high Mt. Neko-dake, and 5) 1592-meter-high Mt. Taka-dake.
Most of smoke, high-temperature gases and sulfurous fumes emanate from Mt. Naka-dake. Scattered around the perimeter of Naka-dake's crater are heavily-reinforced concrete structures, where tourists can seek refuge should volcanic bombs suddenly begin flying out of the volcano. These were built after sudden eruptions in 1958 killed 12 visitors near the crater. Another eruption in 1979 killed three people, one kilometer away, in an area thought to safe. In 1989 and 1990 the cable car was closed by a series of eruptions.
The Naka-dake's crater is 100 meters deep and varies in width from 400 meters to 1,100 meters. It is possible to walk along the southern edge. Try to climb to the crater at night. It is spectacular enough during the day with all the smoke spewing out, but at night you can see lava, hidden during the day by smoke, hissing out of fissures inside the crater.
There are three major hiking trails from the base of the volcano to the top. There are also a number of trails between the Five Mountains of Aso. Near Naka-dake's crater is grassy meadow with two small lakes and visitors centers has displays on volcano geology and shows films of major eruptions. On the road from Mt. Aso to Beppu are more smoking volcanos, spas, and a geothermal energy plant which can be visited.
Websites: Aso Volcano Disaster Prevention Council Aso Volcano Disaster Prevention Council Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan ; Aso Fan site Aso Fan Aso Tourist pamphlet (PDF) Aso Caldera Tourism Map: Map: Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO Japan National Tourism Organization (PDF) JNTO Aso Hiking Map Mappery.com Hotel Websites: JapanHotel.net JapanHotel.net Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels (click hostels for good map and description of hostels) Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: The JR Aso Station is on the train line between Kumamoto and Bepphu. Froe you can catch buses to a cable car station near the main crater. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
geyser hell Beppu (about 1 hour from Fukuoka) is a cheesy spa town with neon-lit hot springs, love hotels, pachinko parlors, sleazy night clubs and so much steam rising from geothermal activity it looks like the city is on fire. About 140,000 people live in Beppu and 12 million tourists visit every year. Among the famous people who have visited it in the past were George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin. These days it attracts a lot of Korean and Chinese tourists
Beppu if floating on top of a huge hydrothermal field, 800 feet below the surface, that developed after nearby 4,500-foot-high Mt. Tsurumi erupted in A.D. 867. Eighty percent of the town depends on tourism.
Websites:Beppu City official site Beppu City Beppu Tourism Association Welcome to Beppu Map: Beppu City official site Beppu City Info Mao Japan Info Map Japan ; Beppu Tourism Association Welcome to Beppu Hotel Websites: JapanHotel.net JapanHotel.net Beppu Tourism Association Welcome to Beppu Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels (click hostels for good map and description of hostels) Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Beppu is accessible by ferry, air (Oita airport) and by bus and by train from Fukuoka and other Japanese cities. The trip from Fukuoka tales about two and a half hours. Fukuoka-Hakata is the southern terminus of the main shinkansen line to Osaka and Tokyo. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Spas at Beppu: Beppu's inns and hotels, and onsen baths utilized the 72,000,000 million liters of hot water that spills from out of the earth everyday from over 3,000 water sources in Beppu. The onsens are found into eight major areas:, which include the Hamawaki onsen area in the southeast, the Kannawa onsen area in the north, the Shibaseki onsen area near the small hell group, and the Myobam onsen area in the northwest.
The spas offer black sand baths, hot pools surrounded by trees and rocks, warm water swimming pools, mud baths, baths of graded temperatures, and baths scented with small floating bags of citron and orange peel. Takegawara Bathhouse is Beppu's oldest bath. Founded in 1879, it features wood floor, sunken baths, and tower pillars that support a roof as high a church. Water is also piped into farms and private homes to heat rooms, warm greenhouses and fuel brick and stone ovens. There are hot water hospitals and special centers where hot water is used to breed crocodiles and cultivate tropical plants.
Suginoi Palace (connected to the Suginoi Hotel) is the epitome of Beppu kitsch. A combination public path and amusement park, it features the Flower Public Bath and Dream Public Bath, both of which adorned with tropical plants and features sand and saltwater baths, water slides, a revolving Buddha game, a plastic ice rink and other amusements.
mud hell Hells at Beppu: Jigoku ("hell") is an all encompassing word that describes geysers, bubbling mud pots and bubbling hot springs with colored water. They are somewhat similar to the geysers and hot water springs at Yellowstone National Park in the United States except they that they are placed in little tourist parks, and in some cases surrounded by tacky, candy-colored images of dragons and devils that look like they belong at a miniature golf course.
Seven of the nine hells are in Kannawa district. The largest Umijigoku, has sea-colored water that is used to cook eggs. Bozu Jigoku (Monk Hell) gets it name from the fact its mud bubbles resemble the shaved heads of Japanese monks. Kamado Jigoku and Kinryi Jigoku features images of a dragon and a demon. Oniyama Jigoku is used for breeding crocodiles. Many of the hells are surrounded by rich gardens.
A smaller group of hells contains Chinoike-jigoku, which gets it's blood red color from undissolved clays, and Tatsumaki, which contains a regularly-performing geyser. Entrance to each hell is ¥400. A ticket that allows visits to all of them but one is ¥2,000.
Website: Beppu Hells Japan Guide
Other Sights in Beppu include the Hinokan Sex Museum, with erotic temple reliefs from India, fertility figures from New Guinea, Tibetan tantric statues, wooden phallus and moving copulated figures that are activated with the push a button; Mt. Takasaki Monkey Park, which contains about 2,000 monkeys in three tribes that come the park to be fed. There is also an African safari park, Marine Place Aquarium and cable care ride to 1,375-meter-high Mt. Tsurumi-dake.
Yufuin (17 miles inland from Beppu) is pleasant hot spring resort with with a wide variety of baths including some delightful outdoor ones. Shadowed 1,583-meter-high Yufa-dake volcano, it has a folk villages and a lake that is warmed by hot springs.
Kokonoe Yume Large Suspension Bridge Websites: Yufuin site (mostly Japanese) Yufuin resort Kyushu Tourist Information Welcome to Kyushu Hotel Websites: JapanHotel.net JapanHotel.net Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels (click hostels for good map and description of hostels) Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Buses run between Yufuin and JR Beppu train station. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Yabakei Gorge (north of Beppu) is famous for its strange rock formation, lush vegetation and a tunnel hewn through rock by a Buddhist monk who labored for 30 years. On Kunisaki Peninsula around the town of Usa are cliff-face carving and temples created by a religion that blended Shintoism and Buddhism and was banned by the Meiji government.
Kokonoe Yume Large Suspension Bridge (Kokonoemachi, Oita Prefecture) is the longest and highest pedestrian-only suspension bridge in Japan. Constructed as a cost of ¥2 billion, it towers 173 meters above the riverbed of Narukogawa Gorge. It can support 1,800 adults and offer scenic views of Shindido-taki falls and Kyusikei Gorge, which is known for its autumn leaves. Website: Joel Swagman blog Joel Swagman
Ryumon Falls (in Kokonoemachi) is 40 meters wide and drops 20 meter in two tiers. It has two natural water slides. One of the slides is 30 meters long and is covered with soft, slippery moss.
Image Sources: 1) map Japanese Guest Houses 2) 3) Ray Kinnane 4) 5) Fukuoka City Tourism 6) Association for the Promotion of Traditional Crafts Industries in Japan 7) Wikipedia, 8) 10), 11), 12), 13) 14) Nagasaki City Tourism, 9) Gensuikan, 15), 16), 17), 18) 19) 20) Kumamoto Prefecture tourism, 21) Aso Disater Prevention, 22), 23) Hotel Club Travel Club, 24) Joel Swagman
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays