Kyushu: Culture and Landscapes

Uncover the secrets of Kyushu, an island steeped in culture, natural beauty, and historical significance while discovering Japan's past and present on this 7-day guided tour. Leading this specially curated itinerary is Laura Hagler, our Global Basecamps’ Senior Japan Travel Specialist. Beyond a wealth of expertise in planning Japan trips, Laura brings a passion for Japanese culture fostered during the five years she spent living there. She will use this insider’s perspective to help you delve deep into the histories of her favorite sites and immerse yourself in the culture of this captivating country.

Admire breathtaking natural features like the waterfalls at Takachiho Gorge and the ancient caldera surrounding Mt. Aso. Walk in the footsteps of some of Japan's first foreign visitors in Nagasaki, witness the artistry of geisha, be entranced by traditional Kagura dance, and taste local delicacies on this once in a lifetime trip.

This unique tour has one group departure date: May 16 - May 22, 2020 with limited spaces available. Optional extensions can be arranged before and after your trip if you'd like to visit other destinations while in Japan.

Daily Itinerary

1: Fukuoka Arrival

Fukuoka Arrival
Daily Summary
  • Tour: Arrival Tour in Yanagawa and Fukuoka
  • Accommodation: Fukuoka Nishitetsu Grand Hotel
  • Meals: D

Arrival Tour in Yanagawa and Fukuoka

Your journey begins at 12 pm when you'll meet Laura and your travel companions at Fukuoka's Hakata Station. From here, your group will take a train to the peaceful canal town of Yanagawa, known as the Venice of Kyushu. Here, you'll have an opportunity to enjoy a boat ride on the Yanagawa River. Afterwards, there will be some free time to explore the area either on foot or using a rental bike.

Later in the afternoon, you'll take a walking tour of Fukuoka's Kawabata and Nagahama streets. Kawabata, the area's oldest shopping street features 130 fantastic shops where you can find an array of traditional goods and souvenirs. Nagahama is home to Fukuoka's largest fish market as well as some of the finest ramen in the city.

You'll spend the evening dining at a local izakaya, a Japanese style pub offering a diverse menu of local dishes.

Fukuoka

Fukuoka is an attractive destination for both foreign and Japanese visitors. A modern city on the rise, it is fast gaining a reputation for its culture, entertainment, and future thinking. Fukuoka boasts the country's largest hotel, longest bar, biggest cinema complex, and the most advanced baseball stadium. Canal City, an architecturally stunning complex containing a hotel, cinema, and shopping area built around a semi-circular strip of water, is well worth a few hours exploration.

If you are after something more traditional then the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum may be right up your alley. Fukuoka is famed for its folk crafts, which are on display at the Folk Museum. Try fugu, the local delicacy, at your own risk! Fugu (aka, blowfish) is a notorious dish served throughout Japan, but is said to be the most delicious and affordable here in Fukuoka. If fugu doesn't strike your fancy, you can get a snack from one of the many yatai street vendors or pull up a chair for a bowl of Fukuoka's famous Hakata ramen.

2: Fukuoka

Fukuoka
Daily Summary
  • Tour: Full Day Tour in Fukuoka
  • Accommodation: Fukuoka Nishitetsu Grand Hotel
  • Meals: B, L

Full Day Tour in Fukuoka

Rise and shine! After a filling buffet breakfast at the hotel, your group will meet at 8 am and board a bus to Hakata. On the way, you'll stop for a biking tour of Noguchi Valley, Magarifuchi Dam, Dam Park, Karan Falls, and Wakkiy Sukinosato, a shop where local farmers directly sell their produce including rice grown near the clear waters of Mount Sefuri. After the biking tour, you'll continue on to Hakata by bus for a tour of Shogetsudo Puppet Hall Museum. Shogetsudo Puppets, created by master craftsmen, have over 400 years of history and are world-renowned. The museum provides a fascinating glimpse into this traditional art form and you can try your hand at painting your own puppet!

Next, travel by bus to Jokyu Soy Sauce Factory where you can explore the factory and sample the products made there.

Later, your group will be treated to a private dance performance by geiko (highly skilled performers commonly known as ‘geisha’) at the Traditional Performing Arts Center in Hakata.

There are many restaurant options in the area for you to enjoy dinner, and we'll be happy to provide suggestions!

3: Fukuoka - Nagasaki

Fukuoka - Nagasaki
Daily Summary
  • Transportation: Train Station Transfer
  • Tour: Guided Tour in Nagasaki
  • Accommodation: Nagasaki Oedo Onsen Hotel
  • Meals: B, L, D

After breakfast, your group will head to the train station where you'll continue on to Nagasaki. Upon arrival, there will be a one-hour lunch break before heading to Heiwa Peace Park.

Guided Tour in Nagasaki

Your walking tour of the Peace Park will culminate in a visit to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. There, you can learn more about the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945.

In the afternoon, visit Glover Garden, an open-air museum exhibiting the mansions of several former foreign residents and merchants. Take in the beautiful scenery and explore the unique period architecture before traveling to Nagasaki’s Chinatown for some free time and a delicious dinner.

In the evening, spend some time at the Inasayama Observatory to see the stunning views. Finish with a mountaintop night-view walk before checking into your hotel for a relaxing night, perhaps having a luxuriating soak in the hotel's open-air bath.

Nagasaki

Often described as one of the most picturesque cities in Japan, Nagasaki's proximity to the sea and topography give the town a certain appeal. Nagasaki has a cosmopolitan atmosphere with a lot to offer for a relaxing few days in this part of Japan. Of course, Nagasaki famous for being the target of the second atomic bomb at the end of World War II. The A-bomb hypocenter and nearby museum are well worth a visit in order to understand the history of the area.

Nagasaki was for many years the only port in Japan open to the West and you can see evidence of this throughout the city. Among the shrines and temples are Catholic churches and European style buildings. This blend of cultures is something rarely found in other areas of Japan. At night, you can get great views from Inasayama, accessible by a cable car that takes you up the 330m hill. The local specialty is shippoku which combines European, Chinese, and Japanese food in a lot of small dishes eaten around a circular table. Other local foods include chanpon (seafood, meat and vegetables with noodles) and sara udon (similar to chanpon but with a thicker sauce).

4: Nagasaki - Aso

Nagasaki  - Aso
Daily Summary
  • Tour: Nagasaki - Kumamoto - Aso
  • Accommodation: Aso Sozankyo Ryokan
  • Meals: B, L, D

Nagasaki - Kumamoto - Aso

After an early breakfast, you will depart the hotel at 7:00 am to travel to Oura Church, the oldest standing Christian church in Japan. After visiting the church, the group will then travel via bus and ferry to Amakusa Kaisenkura dolphin habitat. There, you will be able to go on a dolphin watching expedition.

After a break for lunch, you will make your way to Kumamoto and visit Kumamoto Castle, considered one of the three premier castles in Japan. Though restorations are underway, some areas of the castle grounds are inaccessible due to damage from the earthquakes in 2016.

You'll continue on to Aso, check into your ryokan for the evening, and enjoy a traditional dinner. Be sure to relax in the soothing onsen before you turn in for the night.

Aso

The ancient yet still active Aso volcano, located in the middle of Kyushu, is one of Japan’s most impressive geological formations. The awe-inspiring caldera is one of the largest in the world measuring a mighty 25 by 18km. Within the caldera crater are five mountain peaks. Visitors can hike or take a cable car to the highest summit, Naka-Dake. From there you can peer down into the bubbling hot crater cauldron. Further down the slopes, the Aso caldera gives way to open pastures and grasslands excellent for walking and hiking. Of course all this volcanic activity means there are plenty of hot spring baths available, the best of which are in the onsen resort of Kurokawa.

5: Aso - Takachiho

Aso - Takachiho
Daily Summary
  • Tour: Aso Guided Tour
  • Accommodation: Ryokan Imakuni
  • Meals: B, L

Aso Guided Tour

In the morning, your group will travel via bus to Nakadake to enjoy a light hike from Kusasenri to Aso-san Nakadake Crater. Once there, you have an hour of free time to bask in the natural beauty of the caldera.

At 12:00 pm, the group will head to a nearby restaurant for lunch before continuing on to Jigoku Onsen (Suzume No Yu - a famous hot spring with water believed to hold healing and rejuvenating properties). At Suzume No Yu, you can learn more about earthquakes, such as the one that struck the area in 2016.

Late in the afternoon, enjoy a boat ride on Gokase River through the magnificent Takachiho Gorge. It is said that the volcanic basalt columns of the gorge resemble dragon scales. Be sure to look for the famous waterfall Minainotaki, which should be stunning against the backdrop of spring foliage. Leaving the Gokase River, you'll travel to your ryokan for a bit of down time before dinner.

Afterward, the group will visit Takachiho Shrine to watch a Kagura performance. Kagura, an energetic form of music and dance known for its colorful costumes and intricate moves, is dedicated to the Shinto gods.

6: Takachiho -Minamioguni

Takachiho -Minamioguni
Daily Summary
  • Tour: En Route to Minamioguni (Amano Iwato & Takamori)
  • Accommodation: Yumerindo Kurokawa Onsen
  • Meals: B, L, D

En Route to Minamioguni (Amano Iwato & Takamori)

After breakfast, the first stop will be the Amano Iwato Shrine where you will learn the legend of Amaterasu and how she briefly deprived the world of light. Take the path down to the river and Amanoya Sugawara Shrine where you will see piled stones marking the area as a mystic power spot!

For lunch, your group will drop in at a local restaurant to enjoy some delicious Takachiho beef before moving on to Takamori. The main event of the afternoon will be a visit to Yamamura Shuzo Sake Storehouse, where you can taste some delicious local sake.

Continuing on to Oguni, you'll have dinner at Yumerindo Kurokawa Onsen Ryokan. There, you can settle in for the night enjoying the view of the surrounding river and perhaps another onsen soak.

Kurokawa Onsen

Kurokawa is a small hot spring village nestled in the countryside near Mount Aso. A day trip to the mountain will give you have plenty of time to take in fantastic views of the world's largest caldera. There is some great hiking and walking to enjoy both in Aso and Kurokawa Onsen, including the Suzume Jigoku (Sparrow's Hell) which is a bubbling valley of sulfur pools - the source of all that hot spring water. After hiking and exploration, you can get a special pass from the tourist information center allowing you to visit a number of local hot spring baths. Alternatively, you can relax in the baths at your ryokan.

7: Minamioguni - Fukuoka Departure

Minamioguni  - Fukuoka Departure
Daily Summary
  • Tour: Nabegataki Falls & Waita Onsen
  • Transportation: Kumamoto - Fukuoka
  • Meals: B, L

Nabegataki Falls & Waita Onsen

Following a lovely breakfast, your group will head to Nabegataki Falls for a refreshing stroll. Then, you will travel to Waita Onsen Town to learn about the local steam-cooking technique, partaking in a wonderful lunch of steamed whole chicken.

Alas, it's time to say goodbye to your travel companions as your journey comes to an end. You will board the bus to Kumamoto and take the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Kumamoto Station to Hakata Station. We hope you've had an amazing time exploring both the unique sites and lesser known treasures of the wondrous island of Kyushu!

Accommodation

Fukuoka Nishitetsu Grand Hotel

Fukuoka Nishitetsu Grand Hotel

Fukuoka Nishitetsu Grand Hotel is a well-situated hotel with beautiful, sophisticated decor and a lovely Japanese style garden near the breakfast area. The hotel is located between Akasaka and Tenjin in the center of Fukuoka, making it very accessible for travelers. Nearby attractions include Kushida Shrine and Fukuoka Castle. A buffet breakfast is served every morning at the property.

Nagasaki Oedo Onsen Hotel

Nagasaki Oedo Onsen Hotel

Nagasaki Oedo Onsen Hotel Seifu is located in an ideal spot from which to discover Nagasaki. From here, guests can enjoy easy access to all that the city has to offer. Visitors to the hotel can take pleasure in touring the city's top attractions: Inasa Goshinji International Cemetry, Hirano Clinic, and Inasayama Observation Deck. Each Japanese decor-inspired room boasts a beautiful view of the Nagasaki night skyline. Yukata robes are available for guests to wear during their stay and there is an on site onsen (hot spring).

Aso Sozankyo Ryokan

Aso Sozankyo Ryokan

For travelers who want to take in the sights and sounds of Aso and its surrounds, Aso Sozankyo Ryokan is the perfect choice. The hotel has easy access to the attractions such as Aso Farm Land, hiking, and much more. The hotel offers fantastic facilities, including hot spring bath and garden, to help you unwind after an action-packed day.

Ryokan Imakuni

Ryokan Imakuni

Ryokan Imakuni is located just five minutes away from Takachiho-Kyo Gorge and Takachiho Bus Centre. The Ryokan is surrounded by nature and wonderful mountain views. Each room has tatami (woven straw flooring), TVs, and low tables with cushions. Enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast every morning as you relax and plan your next adventure!

Yumerindo Kurokawa Onsen

Yumerindo Kurokawa Onsen

Facing the Japanese garden and the river, eight tatami mat rooms in the main building offer the ultimate comfort. Yumerindo Kurokawa Onsen includes a balcony in every room, providing guests with the perfect location to enjoy the view of the surrounding river. Seating areas also feature electric kettles and a green tea set, which can be enjoyed before taking a dip in the on-site hot spring bath.

Pricing and Details

Starting from $ 4,398 per person

*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.

Price Includes

  • Full support before, during & after your trip
  • Meals as mentioned
  • Accommodation as mentioned
  • Tours/activities as mentioned
  • Transport as mentioned

Price Excludes

  • International & domestic flights
  • Travel insurance (highly recommended)
  • Entrance visas when applicable
  • Other services not mentioned
  • Tips and gratuities to guides, drivers
  • Taxes and fees

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