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. Website: Visit Kyushu Official Tourism Site

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. Kyushu has more than 1,400 surrounding islands. The interior is mountainous, with plains along the coast. The climate is subtropical. Agriculture, livestock raising, and fishing have traditionally been important parts of the economy. The Kitakyushu Industrial Zone in the north, across the Kanmon Straits from Honshu, contains a concentration of heavy and chemical industries. [Source: Tracy Dalby, National Geographic, January 1994]

People from Kyushu are regarded somewhat as barbarians because they eat horse meat — including horse meat sushi and sashimi — and speak dialects that other Japanese have difficulty understanding. In the 1960s a group of Kyushu farmers tired of being portrayed as bumpkins and fed with government restrictions dug up their rice fields are rallied around the battle cry: "Plant plums and chestnuts, and to Hawaii we will go!" People from Kyushu are also known for their grit, perseverance and toughness and were regarded as among the best fighters in World War II. People from southern Kyushu are regarded as lively, outspoken, personably individualistic, emotional and quick to laugh. People from southern Kyushu and Okinawa have a reputation of being big drinkers and partiers.

Kyushu, especially northern Kyushu, is Japan's fourth economic center behind the Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya region. Kyushu with Okinawa accounts for about 10 percent of Japan’s economy, which is the equivalent of the economy of some European countries, and for a while was larger than the economies of Australia and South Korea. There are large chemical, iron, semiconductor, auto and toilet industries. Kyushu also has large agriculture and fishery industries, producing about 20 percent of Japan’s crops. For a while northern Kyushu was known as Japan's "Silicon Island" because its semiconductor industry accounted for over 30 percent of Japan's total chip output. Kyushu is also a major car-manufacturing center, producing 10 percent of Japan's car output, with roboticized state-of-the-art auto technology.

Tourism and Transportation in Kyushu

Kyushu is connected to Honshu by road and rail via a bridge and undersea tunnels. Hakata Station in Fukuoka Prefecture is the terminus of the Sanyo Shinkansen. A relatively new shinkansen to Kagoshima opened in March 2011 connecting northern to southern Kyushu.The fastest trains cover the distance between Osaka and Kagoshima in three hours and 47 minutes, and between Fukuoka and Kagoshima in one hour and 20 minutes.

The 11½-mile-long Shinkansen Tracks tunnel, which runs underneath the Kammon Straits, is the forth longest tunnel in the world. The Kammon Tunnel was the world’s first underseas tunnel. Completed in 1958, it is 3,461 meters long and connects Kitakyushu on Kyushu with Shimonoseki in Honshu. Among the major sightseeing spots in Kyushu are Beppu in Oita Prefecture, a resort town famous for its hot springs; Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture; and Sakurajima in Kagoshima Prefecture. Okinawa Prefecture is a chain of 60 islands located far to the south of Kyushu.

Kyushu’s winters are usually mild (it usually snows only one or two days per year). Typhoons a1 and heavy rains in the late-June-early-July rainy season are concerns. Sometimes it can be oppressively hot and humid in the summer. Fukuoka City hosts the spectacular annual Dontaku (May) and Yamakasa (July) festival. Saga has a large balloon festival. There are rowdy festivals in Imari and Karatsu where people have been injured and died. There are numerous road races and marathons held year around Kyushu. The October Fukuoka City Marathon attracts a large number of participants from all over Japan. The Saga Cherry Blossom Marathon in April is popular.

Kyushu is noted as Japan's leading center for porcelain and ceramic production. Imari and Arita in Saga Prefecture, are home to Japan's most famous porcelain makers Imaemon and Kakiemon. Kyushu is also famous for its "onsen," or hot spring. Yufuin and Beppu in Oita Prefecture. Kumamoto and Kagoshima are popular destinations known for their volcanoes and hikes. Nagasaki is a well-known for its history and tragic wartime experience. Nearby is the home of the Hidden Christians and the Sasebo U.S. Naval Base.

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 on 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 volcanoes are in the middle; and the southern part of the island is associated with the birth of Japan.

History of Kyushu

replica of 2nd century B.C. Yayoi house
Kyushu's history goes back to mythical origin of Japan and its imperial family. According to tradition, it was in Kyushu that the Sun Goddess Amaterasu descended from heaven to establish the nation of Japan, and it was in Kyushu that e Japan's first emperor was born. Kyushu played a major role in leading Japan out of feudalism in 1868, and its local heroes helped point the way as Japan was molded into a modern nation.

Nearly three times closer to Korea than Tokyo, Kyushu has traditionally been an important entry point for foreign influence. Fukuoka City has numerous ancient excavation sites such as Korokan that indicate Kyushu's importance as a major trading center for the region. The Yamato clan that grew into Japan Imperial family is believed to have arrived in Kyushu from Korea. Kublai Khan staged his unsuccessful invasion of Japan on the shores of Kyushu. Europeans and Christians made their greatest inroads in Kyushu before they were kicked out of Japan. For a long time Nagasaki, which is in Kyushu, was essentially Japan's only window to the outside world for almost three centuries. .

Kyushu has never really fit in with the rest of Japan. Periodically its fiery inhabitants 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.

Beginning of Japan in Yayoi Period (400 BC – A.D. 300) Kyushu?

The Yayoi Period (400 BC -A.D. 300) is named after the Yayoi-type of wheel-turned pottery vessels produced during this period, which in turn was named the northern section of the University of Tokyo campus where archaeological investigations uncovered the first examples of Yayoi pottery in 1884. The Yayoi people are believed to have come from the Korean peninsula about 300 B.C., and first established themselves on the southern island of Kyushu, and later mixed with the Jomon people and spread northward to Honshu. By 300 A.D. they had spread out over much of present-day Japan and trade with the various kingdoms in Korea brought the industrial arts of weaving, metalworking, tanning and shipbuilding to Japan.

In Yoshinogari on Kyushu people began settling in permanent settlements and cultivating red-grained rice — both of which were important cultural developments — in the Yayoi Period. Around Yoshinogari were deep forests of pasania (a kind of beech tree), Japanese evergreen oak, sawtooth oak, and camphors, and plains of Japanese pampas grass and lalang. The general ecology has been determined by examining seeds, remains and wooden tools and structures at at the Yoshinogari ruins. There is some debate over what the climate was like. Plant type, the condition of plants, global geography and environmental issues are all taken into consideration. At present, the general consensus is that temperatures were about one degree C lower than they are today. [Source: Yoshinogari Historical Park]

Yayoi Period advancements associated with wet-rice farming : 1) switch from hunting and gathering to farming and cultivation and more settled lifestyle; 2) the introduction of metal tools superior to the stone tools of the Jomon culture; 3) food cultivation became stable and efficient, able to support larger populations and allowed settlements to become fixed and grow; 4) Extra food supplies became an economic commodity controlled by an elite group of people. The control of rice and metal resources led to a clearly stratified society. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website,]

Kyushu Rice and Mythical Origins of Japan

Kevin Short wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: “The story of Japan as a nation has to start in northern Kyushu. From the coast of Saga and Fukuoka prefectures it's short hop across the straits to the island of Tsushima, from where you can see the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. Paddy rice agriculture and iron-making, the two great elements that played pivotal riles in Japan's early development had to arrive here via this route. [Source: Kevin Short, Daily Yomiuri, February 2010]

“Classical mythology also points to Kyushu as a logical starting point for a Japanese civilization based on wet-land farming, Japan's original creation myth takes place around Awajishima island, at the eastern end of the Seto Inland Sea, and the historic civilization also developed in the Kinki (Osaka) region. The cycle of myths that relate to the development and transmission of agriculture, however, are set in central and southern Kyushu.

“In this myth cycle Amaterasu the Sun Goddess obtains rice seeds from the food goddess, and plants them in sacred paddies which she lays out in her home at Takamabara, “High Plain of Heaven." Later when all is ready , she dispatches her grandson Ninigi down to earth to found an imperial dynasty, After several generations and various adventures in Kyushu the heirs to the imperial line set out n a great journey eastward, sailing through the Seto Inland Sea and ending up in what is now Nara (near Osaka).

“Early Chinese historical sources, unfortunately, provide little insight as to where the Japanese state developed. The first source to offer detailed information on Japan, an historical document called the Wajinden, or “Account of the Wa”, was compile in th year 280, and was based n diplomatic missions sent by the Chinese government several decades earlier. The envoys reported visiting a kingdom known as Yamatikoku, ruled by a shamanese queen named Himiko. The account notes that the people of this kingdom were wet rice farmers using iron and silk, but not keeping domestic cattle or sheep, Himiko lived in a substantial palace, and assumed the throne after a long period of civil war.

“The problem with the Chinese account is that there is no firm information on where Yamatikoku was located. “Based on various interpretations no less than 10 sites, including one in northern Honshu, have been proposed as location sites. Most scholars narrow the candidates down to two contenders: Kyushu and the southern Nara basin. Proponents of the Kyushu theory lace Himiko's palace in eastern saga Prefecture at the expansive archeological site of Yoshinogari. Unfortunately for the Kyushu supporters, the discovery in 2009 of even more extensive remains at the Makimuku site in Nara has made that area the current favorite."


Canal Street shopping area
Fukuoka (80 kilometers 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 City is the capital of Fukuoka Prefecture and is a major player Japan's dynamic hi-tech research and development sector. For a while it was known as a leading world center for research in advanced computer chips, nuclear fusion, and robotics but has lost that role a bit as Japan has become more centralized around Tokyo. Tapping into the Kyushu region’s long tradition of openness to the outside world and receptivity to foreign ideas and products, Fukuoka in some respects serves as Japan's test market for fashion design and new products. Its universities are highly active in student and cultural exchanges, particularly with Asia. Fukuoka’s government officials have worked hard to building constructive relationships in the Asian-Pacific Region.

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.. Tenjin is the main business center. Nakusu, located on a delta-island between the Naka and Hakata Rivers, is the main entertainment area, spreading out into Tenjin and Hakata Ward.

Canal City Hakata in downtown Fukuoka is one of the main shopping mall complex. It has a multiplex movie theater. Some internationally known performers make a stop in Fukuoka. The city has several large entertainment facilities and hosts rock, jazz, country and western and Japanese classical music concerts. The November Sumo wrestling tournament is held in Fukuoka. "Yatai" or outdoor food vendors, are well known, serving things like "Hakata ramen" noodles.

Tourist Information Office is located in Hakata Station, the main train station in Fukuoka. You can get maps and pamphlets here. The staff speaks English. Hakata station is right next to the shinkansen bullet train station and is a couple of stops by subway from the airport. Websites:Fukuoka Tourist Information Site ;Fukuoka Now Map: Sightseeing map PDF Fukuoka Properties Subway Map: Urban Rail Hotel Websites: Fukuoka Tourist Information Site Fukuoka Tourist Information Site Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth 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 from Tokyo and Osaka is in Hakata. It is also where you catch the shinkansen to Kagoshima in southern Kyushu. Hakata Station, the main train station in Fukuoka, is right next to the shinkansen bullet train station and is a couple of stops by subway from the airport.Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Sights in Fukuoka

Fukuoka Dome is the home of the Daiei Hawks. It has synthetic turf and seating for 48,000 and one of Japan's largest retractable sports stadium. It hosts international concerts, sports programs, and trade promotional events. The Softbank Hawks professional baseball team plays there.

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. Ohori Park, modeled after China's famed West Lake in Hangzhou. Ohori Park has a specially paved two-kilometer jogging path along with bicycle and walking paths along the scenic lake. Rowboats are available for rental on the lake. 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 in 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. There is a man-made beach facing Hakata Harbor. Hikers enjoy the trails at the Citizen's Forest.

Nakasu is a modern shopping district. Inside one old brown building is Shogetudo (, 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.

Museums in Fukuoka

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.

Fukuoka Asian Art Museum is a unique institution which focuses its collection and exhibition programming on modern and contemporary Asian art. This museum opened its doors in 1999, with hopes to elicit dialogues across Asian visual cultures. In addition to residency and public education programs, the museum organizes the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, an international contemporary art exhibition. Location: Riverain Center Building 7F and 8F, 3-1 Shimokawabata-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka 812-0027 Tel: +81-92-263-1100

Mitsubishi Estate Artium is an art gallery on the 8th floor of Inter Media Station (IMS), a giant shopping mall in the heart of Fukuoka. The gallery has a genre-free approach to curation, featuring a range of art in addition to photography, fashion, design, architecture, and film. Exhibitions generally run for a month at a time and feature local artists, as well as those active in Tokyo and internationally. Location: IMS 8F, 1-7-11 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka 810-0001, Tel:+81-92-733-2050

Chikugo Museum is a public multi-purpose town cultural center, designed by Kengo Kuma. Opened in 2013, it providea a flexible public space for the community to come and grow together. Today, it offers art, craft, and language classes in addition to music events and art exhibitions. There are permanent works of art installed indoors and outdoors. Location: 1131 Tsushima, Chikugo-shi, Fukuoka 833-0015, Tel: +81-942-52-6435

Kirin Beer Factory Tour and Tasting

Kirin Beer factories are located in nine places (Chitose, Sendai, Toride, Yokohama, Nagoya, Shiga, Kobe, Okayama, and Fukuoka).. Each factory offers free a tour that last around 80 minutes. The Kirin Brewery Company is one of Japan's four leading beer breweries. It was founded in Yokohama, a city that played a major role in Japan's adopting beer from the West and spreading it the rest of Japan. [Source:]

The brewery tours pass through a gallery with displays regarding the history of beer and Kirin and winds its way around parts of the factory, offering views from above through observation windows of various parts of the manufacturing process. As you watch, thousands of cans and bottles of beer go shooting through factory machines at incredibly high speeds! According to the guide, 2000 cans of beer are filled and packed each and every minute. Near the end of the tour, a series of panels of Kirin’s history are on display. Tours are usually conducted in Japanese, but an English guide may also be available.

Beer Production involves boiling down barley to make mash and removing the chaff so the wort can be squeezed out. The bitterness and fragrance of the beer comes from adding hops to the wort and boiling it down again. The entire process takes place in a preparation chamber installed with nine boiling kettles, each 12 meters in diameter. Top quality beer are often made using only the first press of the wort. Fermenting takes place inside 129 huge tanks for a period of one or two months. Visitors can try the first and second press of the wort for comparisons as well as up to three glasses of draft beer drawn straight from the fermenting tanks.

As the tour nears completion you arrive at the “tasting bar”. Here, you receive tickets that you exchange for three glasses of fresh beer—your choice. The selections on tap are “Ichiban-shibori”, “Lager”, and “Stout” (black beer). Location: 3601 Mada, Asakura-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Tel: +81-946-23-2132, Phone hours 9:30 17:00 Excluding Facility Closure Days Tour Hours: 10:20am to 3:20pm, starts every hour at 20 minutes past the hour. Closed Monday s however, it will be open if Monday is a public holiday , year-end/New Year’s holidays, equipment inspection days, etc. If Monday is a public holiday, the facility will be closed on the following weekday. Getting There: 1) From Kiyama Station on the JR Kagoshima Main Line or Nishitetsu Ogori Station, change to the Amagi Railway and get off at Tachiarai Station. Approximately 15 minutes’ walk from Tachiarai Station. From Tachiarai Station, walk left for about 100 meters and turn right at the KIRIN sign. Take advantage of the Kirin Garden Coupon discount ticket offered by Nishitetsu and Amagi Railways. 2) Free shuttle bus operating from Amagi Railway Tachiarai Station. The shuttle bus has a capacity of 30 passengers. The bus will be boarded on a first-come first-served basis. Please note that you may not be able to board the bus if it is full.

Near Fukuoka

Fukuoka Prefecture covers 4,986.4 square kilometers (1925 square miles), is home to about 5.1 million people and has a population density of 1,023 people per square kilometer. Fukuoka is the capital and largest city, with about 1.5 million people. It is on the northern part of Kyushu island and has 12 districts and 60 municipalities.

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


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. Toto Toilets, the maker of many of Japan's high-tech commodes, has a large presence in Kitakyushu

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. Modern Kitakyushu spreads out over a fairly large area. It was formed in 1963 by the amalgamation of the five northern Kyushu cities in Fukuoka Prefecture. It contains the main industrial area of Kyushu and is an example of a city that has grown dramatically as Japan industrialized. Among Kitakyushu's industries are shipbuilding; coal shipping; iron, steel, glass, chemicals, fishing; and the production of specialized textiles. These days the city 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. The Kitakyushu Manga Museum opened in 2012. It highlights the work of manga creators who were born or lived in the city, such as Leiji Matsumoto and Seizo Watase, and also has a large manga archive. Visitors are offered access to about 50,000 titles, The museum emphasizes seeing, reading and drawing manga. It also hosts a free manga class on weekends.Websites: Kitakyushu official tourism site; See Fukuoka Below Kitakyushu Metro Map: Urban Rail; Kitakyushu Tram Map: Urban Rail

Space World (outside Kitakyushu) is now permanently closed. It was 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.

Factory Tours in Kitakyushu

Factory Cruises Tours are offered of the sprawling industrial zones of Kitakyushu. In the mid 2010s the number of tours increased from twice a month to once a week. Some of the areas that organise the tours used to cause environmental pollution, and still have people suffering from the ailments related to this pollution. Since 2011, JTB have been running Factory Group Night View Appreciation Tours of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture. The tours involves bus, boat and train transport and a stop a mountaintop beer garden. [Source: unmissablejapan]

According to unmissablejapan: “The tour begins at the North Exit of Kokura Station at 5:50pm, and you are then taken by bus to a ferry terminal to begin a one hour cruise of the Doukaiwan Inlet, a narrow body of water lined on both sides by a mass of chemical and iron works. On return to dry land, the bus then takes you to Sarakurayama Mountain, a 622m high forested green space that towers over the city. Here you change to the Hobashira funicular railway, which takes you almost to the top of the mountain. For the last part of the climb, you ride on a slope car, that in three minutes whisks you up to a beer garden.

“From there, you can enjoy commanding views of the city below and the sea beyond. You can gaze down on far-off factories, residential areas, and even the Japanese mainland that lies on the other side of the narrow Kanmon Straits. Best of all, the tour price includes snacks and two free drinks. After an hour or so, you head down the mountain again, and the bus will take you back to Kokura Station where the tour ends. The whole trip takes around four hours, and costs ¥5,900. If that sounds a bit long, you can always just do the trip up the mountain yourself – the slope car from the summit runs until 9:50pm on Saturdays, Sundays and other peak periods, and the view from up there really is fantastic. Tours only run occasionally, so call JTB on 092-751-2102 for information about forthcoming tours, and to book. Kokura Station is 16 minutes (¥3,500) from Hakata Station in Fukuoka by shinkansen, or if you’re economizing, an hour and a quarter (¥1,250) on a semi-rapid train.

“Nishitetsu Inn Kurosaki is promoting itself as an ideal place to enjoy a dazzling view of heavy industry in comfort. Their special plan guarantees you a room with a panoramic view of the Kurosaki Industrial Zone, which lies at the western end of the Doukaiwan Inlet. Your room will be somewhere between the ninth and twelfth floors, and will face the inland side of the factories.One night costs ¥6,000 for one person, or ¥8,000 for two people sharing a room. You can check availability and book online here. The hotel is just two minutes from Kurosaki Station, which is about 15 to 25 minutes from Kokura Station on the Kagoshima Line (¥270)..”


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 the famous poet-scholar and deity of learning and culture Michizane Sugawara and is noted for its 6,000 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. 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. Dazaifu historically served as the main gateway between Japan and its Asian neighbors.

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. Websites: Dazaifu tourism site; Dazaifu Map Dazaifu City Getting There: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Ancient Dazaifu and Its Water Fortress

Aileen Kawagoe wrote: “Dazaifu was a very important military center during the Yamato years from the Kofun age [A.D. 250 – 538]. Armies sent to defend Japan's Korean kingdom of Mimana were launched from here against troops from the Korean kingdom of Silla and Tang dynasty China. An important branch of the Yamato imperial court was established in Dazaifu from 663 AD (after having moved from present-day Fukuoka). A government office was built in the late 7th century. Ruins of the government office may still be seen today in Dazaifu city. Dazaifu was a particularly important administrative center in the later Nara period. The city served an important function for conducting trade and diplomatic contacts with China and other Asian countries. Dazaifu hosted foreign embassies from China and Korea. Korokan, a guesthouse for foreign embassies, was established. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website,]

“Along a fortified line of defense the Yamato regime installed watertowers by which information on enemy movements could bequickly transmitted. One of these locations was Dazaifu city — the new military headquarters for the Yamato state, situated high in the mountains behind Hakata Bay. Dazaifu was protected by forts constructed by on peaks to the north and the south, as well as by what was called a “water fortress” (mizuki) built along the Mikasa River that flowed from Dazaifu to Hakata Bay.

“Called the “Mizuki (Water Fortress)” it was a fortress on a mound, 1.2km long and 14m high, surrounded by a bulwark. It had a moat with a width of 60 meters and a depth of 4 meters was dug and was filled with water on the sea facing the sea, hence the name, “Water Fortress”. Nihon shoki mentions that the water fortress was constructed in 664 and had high embankments for storage of water. Excavations of remains of eastern and western gates reveal the fortress’ original size and location. They also revealed that techniques used for the defense projects were similar to Korean ones, suggesting that at the helm of the engineering projects were skilled refugees from Paekche.

“Some historians believe the water that the fortress stored could be released against approaching enemy soldiers, which was a military defense strategy known at the time. Following the completion of the mizuki, Onojo castle was built in 665 performing a formidable defense role as the north fort in Dazaifu. These defense projects were usually built not only for their defense value, but to impress as well. Dazaifu remained an important military and administrative center for the Yamato government through the Heian and Nara periods and until the Kamakura period. Then Dazaifu's influence declined and vanished by the late Heian period becoming known only as a location for high ranking exiled courtiers."

Kyushu National Museum

Kyushu National Museum (in Dazaifu) is Japan’s first new national museum in more than a century. Opened in October 2005, it is housed in a spectacular, irregular-shaped, glass building designed by the populist architect and Kyushu native Kiyonori Kikutake,. The museum 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 the 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 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). The soaring entrance hall and spacious galleries are marvels. It worthwhile just walking around the building’s lobby and strolling around outside and enjoying the building’s architecture. Set against the mountains, the exterior glass walls of the museum, mirror the surrounding trees and skies. The museum has a permanent collection related to the history of Kyushu and temporary exhibitions. Whenever a major exhibition hits Japan — such as ones from the Louvre and the Palace Museum in Taipei — they usually make a stop at the Kyushu Museum.

The Kyushu National Museum’s exhibition program strives to address the history and the relationship between Japan and its Asian neighbors.It houses an impressive 3900-squaremeter permanent exhibition focused on international cultural exchange, and showcasing a wide range of treasures representing the long history of cultural exchange. If you’re traveling with young children, the Ajippa hands-on interactive center has activities oriented towards them. There is a museum shop and café where you can relax and get a bite to eat. Location: 4-7-2 Ishizaka, Dazaifu-shi, Fukuoka 818-0118, Tel: +81-92-918-2807 Getting There: The Kyushu Museum is just 35 minutes by train from central Fukuoka (Tenjin) and adjacent to the famous Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. Website:

Okinoshima: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Okinoshima (60 kilometers off the west coast of the Fukuoka Prefecture, nearest the cities of Munakata and Fukutsu) was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. It is home to Munakata Taisha Okitsumiya shrine, which honors a goddess of the sea who is mentioned in "Nihon Shoki" (The Chronicles of Japan), one of Japan's oldest official histories dating to the 8th century. Because of the large number of artifacts uncovered, the island has been called the "Shosoin of the sea," after the repository in Nara Prefecture erected to store the imperial family's treasures as far back as the Heian Period (794-1185).. [Source: Yohei Goto, Asahi Shimbun, May 6, 2017]

“Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region” is the official name of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Okinoshima has traditionally been visited only by men. Women are not allowed in it. The island has records of national ritual services that were held during the 4th to 9th centuries. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun: “These ritual services involved praying for maritime safety when intense exchanges were taking place between the polities in the Japanese archipelago, the Korean Peninsula and on the Asian continent. About 80,000 dedicated items, including golden rings and bronze mirrors that were excavated after World War II, have been designated national treasures. [Source: Masufumi Miyoshi, Yomiuri Shimbun, July 9, 2017]

According to UNESCO: “the island of Okinoshima is an exceptional example of the tradition of worship of a sacred island. The archaeological sites that have been preserved on the island are virtually intact, and provide a chronological record of how the rituals performed there changed from the 4th to the 9th centuries A.D. In these rituals, votive objects were deposited as offerings at different sites on the island. Many of them are of exquisite workmanship and had been brought from overseas, providing evidence of intense exchanges between the Japanese archipelago, the Korean Peninsula and the Asian continent. Integrated within the Grand Shrine of Munakata, the island of Okinoshima is considered sacred to this day. [Source: UNESCO]

“Okinoshima is an exceptional repository of records of early ritual sites, bearing witness to early worship practices associated with maritime safety, which emerged in the 4th century A.D. and continued until the end of the 9th century AD, at a time of intense exchanges between the polities in the Japanese Archipelago, in the Korean Peninsula, and on the Asian continent. Incorporated into the Munakata Grand Shrine (Munakata Taisha), the Island of Okinoshima continued to be regarded as sacred in the following centuries up until today.

“The entirety of the Island of Okinoshima, with its geomorphological features, the ritual sites with the rich archaeological deposits, and the wealth of votive offerings, in their original distribution, credibly reflect 500 years of ritual practices held on the Island; the primeval forest, the attendant islets of Koyajima, Mikadobashira and Tenguiwa, along with the documented votive practices and the taboos associated with the Island, the open views from Kyushu and Oshima towards the Island, altogether credibly reflect that the worship of the Island, although changed in its practices and meanings over the centuries, due to external exchanges and indigenisation, has retained the sacred status of Okinoshima.

“The Sacred Island of Okinoshima exhibits important interchanges and exchanges amongst the different polities in East Asia between the 4th and the 9th centuries, which is evident from the abundant finds and objects with a variety of origins deposited at sites on the Island where rituals for safe navigation were performed. The changes, in object distribution and site organisation, attest to the changes in rituals, which in turn reflect the nature of the process of dynamic exchanges that took place in those centuries, when polities based on the Asian mainland, the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Archipelago, were developing a sense of identity and that substantially contributed to the formation of Japanese culture.”

Munakata Taisha on Okinoshima

According to UNESCO: Munakata Taisha is a shrine that consists of three distinct worship sites – Okitsu-miya on Okinoshima, Nakatsu-miya on Oshima, and Hetsu-miya on the main island of Kyushu, all of which are located within an area that measures some 60 kilometers in breadth. These are the living places of worship that are linked to ancient ritual sites. The form of worshipping the Three Female Deities of Munakata has been passed down to the present day in rituals conducted mainly at the shrine buildings and safeguarded by people of the Munakata region. [Source: UNESCO]

“Okitsu-miya Yohaisho, built on the northern shore of Oshima, has functioned as a hall for worshipping the sacred island from afar. The Shimbaru-Nuyama Mounded Tomb Group, located on a plateau overlooking the sea that stretches out towards Okinoshima, is composed of both large and small burial mounds, bearing witness to the lives of members of the Munakata clan, who nurtured a tradition of worshipping Okinoshima.

“The Sacred Island of Okinoshima is an exceptional example of the cultural tradition of worshipping a sacred island, as it has evolved and been passed down from ancient times to the present. Remarkably, archaeological sites that have been preserved on the Island are virtually intact, and provide a chronological record of how the rituals performed there changed over a period of some five hundred years, from the latter half of the 4th to the end of the 9th centuries.

“In these rituals, vast quantities of precious votive objects were deposited as offerings at different sites on the Island, attesting to changes in rituals. While direct offerings on Okinoshima Island ceased in the 9th century AD, the worship of the Island continued in the form of worshipping the Three Female Deities of Munakata at three distinct worship sites of Munakata Taisha – Okitsu-miya on Okinoshima, Nakatsu-miya on Oshima, and Hetsu-miya, along with “distant worship” exemplified by the open views from Oshima and the main island of Kyushu toward Okinoshima.

No Women and Few Visitors Allowed on Okinoshima

Okinoshima has traditionally been visited only by men. It is deemed so sacred that women are not allowed there. Yohei Goto wrote in the Asahi Shimbun: “Ancient religious taboos persist in Okinoshima, one of them being that no woman should ever step foot on the island. Access to the island is restricted, and visitors are not permitted to disclose details of their trip or bring back anything, not even a flower or a blade of grass as a keepsake. [Source:Yohei Goto, Asahi Shimbun, May 6, 2017]

Sofia Lotto Persio wrote in Newsweek: Okinoshima Island and associated sites in the Munakata region of Japan, was described by UNESCO as an "exceptional example of the tradition of worship of a sacred island." The traditions and rituals performed on the island” date back “to the 4th century when Okinoshima became a spot for people to pray for safe voyages....These rituals, however, have never been witnessed by a woman. While there are few historical records explaining the ban, The Japan Times explained, experts believe it is due to the belief in Shintoism that menstrual blood defiles sacred sites. Other theories are that the ban came from a desire to protect child-bearing women from the dangers of sea travel. But whatever the reasons, there is no intention of uplifting the ban. [Source: Sofia Lotto Persio, Newsweek, July 10, 2017]

“Only male priests are allowed on the island except during an annual festival on May 27, when 200 visitors are allowed to land provided they undergo a cleansing ritual in which they strip naked and bathe in the sea water. When the men leave, they cannot take any souvenir or disclose details of their visit, as BBC reported.”

Meiji Era Industrialization in the Fukuoka Area: UNESCO World Heritage Site

“Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining” were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2015. According to UNESCO: “The site encompasses a series of twenty three component parts, mainly located in the southwest of Japan. It bears testimony to the rapid industrialization of the country from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century, through the development of the iron and steel industry, shipbuilding and coal mining. The site illustrates the process by which feudal Japan sought technology transfer from Europe and America from the middle of the 19th century and how this technology was adapted to the country’s needs and social traditions. The site testifies to what is considered to be the first successful transfer of Western industrialization to a non-Western nation. [Source: UNESCO ]

Components in the Fukuoka area: Area 8: Yahata in Fukuoka
Yawata steel works; Kitakyūshū and Nakama, Fukuoka Prefecture:
The Imperial Steel Works, Japan establishing political decision was made in 1897, started operation in 1901, "Heritage of Industrial Modernization" by METI.
Governmental Yawata Iron & Steel Works
The Imperial Steel Works: Office constructed in 1899
The Imperial Steel Works: Repairing factory constructed in 1900, the oldest steel structure in Japan, still under operation.
The Imperial Steel Works: Metalsmith factory constructed in 1900
Onga river Pumping Station constructed in 1910, still under operation.

Area 7: Miike in Fukuoka and Kumamoto
Miike coal mines, railway and ports; Ōmuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, Arao and Uki, Kumamoto Prefecture:
Miike Coal Mine and Miike Port
Miike tankō Miyanohara Pitno.1 pit completed in 1898, no.2 pit completed in 1901, Important Cultural Property
Miike tankō Manda Pit no.1 pit completed in 1902, no.2 pit completed in 1908, Important Cultural Property
Miike tankō coal mine industrial railway opened in 1891, extended to Miike Port in 1905, Important Cultural Property
Miike Port opened in 1887, Important Cultural Property, Important cultural landscape
Misumi West Port constructed in 1887, Important Cultural Property

According to UNESCO: “A series of industrial heritage sites, focused mainly on the Kyushu-Yamaguchi region of south-west of Japan, represent the first successful transfer of industrialization from the West to a non-Western nation. The rapid industrialization that Japan achieved from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century was founded on iron and steel, shipbuilding and coal mining, particularly to meet defence needs. The sites in the series reflect the three phases of this rapid industrialisation achieved over a short space of just over fifty years between 1850s and 1910.

“The first phase in the pre-Meiji Bakumatsu isolation period, at the end of Shogun era in the 1850s and early 1860s, was a period of experimentation in iron making and shipbuilding. Prompted by the need to improve the defences of the nation and particularly its sea-going defences in response to foreign threats, industrialisation was developed by local clans through second hand knowledge, based mostly on Western textbooks, and copying Western examples, combined with traditional craft skills. Ultimately most were unsuccessful. Nevertheless this approach marked a substantial move from the isolationism of the Edo period, and in part prompted the Meiji Restoration.

“The second phase from the 1860s accelerated by the new Meiji Era, involved the importation of Western technology and the expertise to operate it; while the third and final phase in the late Meiji period (between 1890 to 1910), was full-blown local industrialization achieved with newly-acquired Japanese expertise and through the active adaptation of Western technology to best suit Japanese needs and social traditions, on Japan’s own terms. Western technology was adapted to local needs and local materials and organised by local engineers and supervisors.

The 23 components are in 11 sites within 8 discrete areas. Six of the eight areas are in the south-west of the country, with one in the central part and one in the northern part of the central island. Collectively the sites are an outstanding reflection of the way Japan moved from a clan based society to a major industrial society with innovative approaches to adapting western technology in response to local needs and profoundly influenced the wider development of East Asia. After 1910, many sites later became fully fledged industrial complexes, some of which are still in operation or are part of operational sites.

“The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution illustrate the process by which feudal Japan sought technology transfer from Western Europe and America from the middle of the 19th century and how this technology was adopted and progressively adapted to satisfy specific domestic needs and social traditions, thus enabling Japan to become a world-ranking industrial nation by the early 20th century. The sites collectively represents an exceptional interchange of industrial ideas, know-how and equipment, that resulted, within a short space of time, in an unprecedented emergence of autonomous industrial development in the field of heavy industry which had profound impact on East Asia.

“The technological ensemble of key industrial sites of iron and steel, shipbuilding and coal mining is testimony to Japan’s unique achievement in world history as the first non-Western country to successfully industrialize. Viewed as an Asian cultural response to Western industrial values, the ensemble is an outstanding technological ensemble of industrial sites that reflected the rapid and distinctive industrialisation of Japan based on local innovation and adaptation of Western technology.”

Tours: Club Tourism International Inc. offers a three-day, two-night tour starting from the Kansai region, with visits including one to Mojiko Station in Kitakyushu. Kinki Nippon Tourist Co. offers a two-day, one-night tour starting from Tokyo and going to the Ashio copper mine site in Tochigi Prefecture, a mine that once boasted the largest copper output in Japan. [Source: Masanao Umezaki, Yomiuri Shimbun, August 14, 2014]

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: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization),, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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