From the 8th until the 15th November, Isabel and I visited the southernmost of Japan’s major islands – Kyushu. To explore and experience the majority of the island I organised the trip to travel from Miyazaki to Nagasaki via Nobeoka, Beppu and Fukuoka. Again, we were extremely lucky weather-wise and it was sunny throughout our stay.
As soon as we landed In Miyazaki, it felt different to the rest of Japan I had experienced, mainly because of the palm trees everywhere. It felt much more Mediterranean and tropical. The next day we went to Aoshima, where there was a beach and a small shrine on an island. It was wonderful. I could smell the ocean as soon as we went off the train. The town itself is a small little ocean town, the real highlight is Aoshima Island.
The island is surrounded by a rock formation, locally called the “Devil’s washboard”, which looks absolutely fascinating. The walk around the island was very relaxing and as it was around 22°C and sunny it felt like summer rather than mid-November. I went into the water and it wasn’t that cold!
The shrine on the island was small, but very beautiful. Afterwards, I had some Mango ice cream which was delicious. Since Mango is the local fruit in Miyazaki, they have everything mango favoured.
After our trip to Aoshima, we went to Nobeoka. Nobeoka is not that exciting, but it is the best location to take the bus to Takachiho. Takachiho is a small town in the middle of the mountains, most famous for its gorge. The gorge is a 20 minute walk away (and quite a way down) from Takachiho centre and absolutely stunning. There were many people paddling around in the gorge, but we decided to just follow the path and explore the area that way.
Walking alongside the gorge, I could see how the many myths about Kyushu being Japan’s origin came into being (http://takachiho-kanko.info/en/).
The next station was Beppu, which is a famous Onsen (hot spring) town in Japan. Our stay there was wonderfully relaxing. The first night we went to one of our local Onsen, Takegawa Onsen, which was a little more rustic but great to relax. The next day we explore one of Beppu’s ‘Hell Ponds’, the Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell). It looked exactly how I imagined Onsen to look like.
Afterwards we went to the Kannawa Onsen and tried their grass steam, which was extremely relaxing.
The next day we travelled to Fukuoka, which for me was a gateway to get to Dazaifu to visit the local academic shrine the Dazaifu Tenmagu. So I did not see that much of Fukuoka, but Dazaifu and its shrine were beautiful (and the local mocha delicious!).
Our last stop Nagasaki, was a rather depressing last stop for our journey, mainly because of it’s connection with the atomic bomb, which fell on the 9th August 1945. Today, there is a Peace park near the hypocentre with many statues and a statue at the centre itself. After walking through the park, we went into the Atomic Bomb museum. It is a great collection of various items which depicts the events leading up to the dropping of the bomb and its aftermath. It was shocking to see not only daily items that were melted in the heat, but also various human remains that have melted with objects. As depressing as walking through the museum and reading the testimonials of survivors was, it is important to remember and learn about these events so that they cannot happen again.
Although the city was almost completely destroyed, within the last 60+ years it has flourished again and was very lively and vibrant.
The trip to Kyushu was a wonderful experience. It was different to the other parts of Japan I have seen and gave us a last bit of warmth before the winter in Kyoto.