Bonus harian di Keluaran SGP 2020 – 2021.
Kyushu is Japan’s third largest island and offers rich culture and history, volcanic scenery, hot springs as well as modern cities. Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyushu, and the fifth most populated city in Japan. The city’s airport, Fukuoka Airport, is the gateway into Kyushu, offering international and domestic flights. Additionally, the airport is conveniently located only five minutes from Hakata Station, the transportation hub of Kyushu.
On this trip, I traveled through four cities in Kyushu: Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Kagoshima. Of the four cities, Fukuoka will host the 19th FINA World Championships 2022 Fukuoka in July 2023, and in August 2023, Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Kagoshima will host the 19th FINA World Masters Championships 2022 Kyushu.
These two swimming events were supposed to be held in 2022 but have been postponed to 2023. The FINA World Championships are second to the Olympics in significance, and is an important sporting event for swimmers as well as fans of aquatic sports. The FINA World Masters Championships, which is held after, typically draws more than ten thousand amateur swimmers from about 100 countries and regions, and is a world stage in which swimmers can showcase their swimming abilities. Fans and spectators to these swimming events should take the chance to explore Kyushu, and more information can be found here.
I started my journey in the north and moved southwards, exploring one city a day. I visited some of the major highlights of each city as well as participated in some activities along the way. While the pace of the trip can be slightly fast for the average traveler, it nonetheless provided me with a very nice overview of the four cities I visited. Those considering to follow this itinerary can choose to spend two nights in each city for a more leisurely travel pace.
Day 1: Industrial trade in Kitakyushu City
I started my trip in Kyushu’s northernmost city, Kitakyushu. The city’s proximity to the main island of Honshu and location along the Kanmon Strait – an important shipping route – has made it an important trade hub, both overland and sea, for centuries. Major companies headquartered in Kitakyushu include TOTO, the toilet manufacturer, Zenrin, a leading map making company in Japan, and Starflyer, a Japanese airline company. Manufacturing businesses found Kitakyushu’s prime location to be ideal for exporting their goods and many set up shop in the city. Today, numerous factories can be found along the coast, and night sightseeing cruises to see the lit up factories have become popular of late.
My first stop in Kitakyushu City was the TOTO Museum. TOTO is one of the leading manufacturers of bathrooms and toilets, and their head office and museum can be found in Kitakyushu. Established in 1917, TOTO has its humble beginnings as a ceramics manufacturer and is known for introducing a new style of toilet hygiene in Japan. Their trademarked product, Washlet, a warm water electronic bidet, is a household name domestically and is also internationally renowned.
A visit to the museum starts with an introduction to the history of the company TOTO, including an impressive display of their ceramics line. However, the most interesting part of my visit was seeing the evolution of toilets and the Washlet series. From product design to energy and water saving functions, a lot of research and development has gone into making a toilet that moves with the times. Of course, it would be a shame to not experience the toilets for real at the TOTO museum, which I did before leaving.
A 20 minute walk from the TOTO Museum is Tanga Market, which has been serving the local residents since it was established in the early 1900s. Fresh seafood and local produce are sold at Tanga Market, and the market was bustling when I visited. A walk through Tanga Market is highly recommended to get a feel of the local life in Kitakyushu. Stalls line the market’s narrow main street, some selling ready to eat local delicacies, and restaurants can be found on the quieter side streets. I was tempted to get some snacks, but I had to save my stomach for lunch.
Continuing on foot from Tanga Market, I arrived at Mojiko Retro Beer Restaurant, my choice for lunch, in about ten minutes. Locally made craft beer is available on tap here as well as yaki-curry, a local specialty. Created in the 1950s, yaki-curry was a fusion gratin dish made by baking leftover curry and rice. The dish was a hit and became a local specialty alongside fresh seafood and yaki-udon, a stir-fried udon noodle dish. Today, a basic serving of yaki-curry includes rice topped with cheese and an egg, covered with curry and then baked. I ordered a serve of yaki-curry and a glass of Mojiko Beer for lunch, which hit all the right notes.
After lunch, I walked to Kokura Station and took the train to the port town of Moji. Moji sits at the northwestern tip of Kitakyushu. The Kanmon Strait, which is a busy shipping route, separates Moji from the main island of Honshu. At their closest points, Honshu and Moji are separated by only 650 meters across the water!
My destination in Moji was Mojiko Station, where the old port town used to be and still retains a nostalgic atmosphere of its prime. Up until a mere 80 years ago when the undersea tunnel opened, Mojiko Station was the gateway station for rail entry into Kyushu. Train ferries made the connection between Shimonoseki Station on the opposite shore to Mojiko Station. The station building has been preserved as it was out of wood, and is one of only two stations in Japan to be designated important cultural heritage – the other is the red brick Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station.
Stepping out of the station, it felt like I was transported into a European-themed waterfront town. Well-preserved Western style buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries can be seen in the vicinity of the station serving as reminders of the area’s history as an important international trading port. I set off to walk around the Mojiko Retro district, visiting some of the buildings including the Kanmon Strait Museum, which I found to be particularly educational.
In addition to the retro district near the station, I also took the opportunity to visit the area at the base of the Kanmon Bridge. At the base of Kanmon Bridge, I got close to the Kanmon Strait and saw the rapid currents from the safety of the promenade, visited the Mekari Shrine, which is located right by the waterline, and went to the entrance to the 780 meter undersea pedestrian tunnel leading to Honshu.
After all the excitement learning about the maritime industry, I headed back to the station area for dinner. Seafood in general is one of Kitakyushu’s specialty thanks to the wide variety of fish found in the surrounding seas. Pufferfish or fuku as it is known locally, in particular, is a local delicacy in Mojiko, and a pufferfish feast awaited me at the fuku restaurant Shigeru. The restaurant was established over 100 years ago, and is currently helmed by the 4th generation owner/chef. One of the highlights of dining at Shigeru is being able to taste pufferfish prepared using various Japanese cooking methods, just like the dishes in a Japanese kaiseki multi-course meal. Some of the dishes I had were accentuated by the simplicity of the broth or the homemade vinegar sauce. Reservations are required to dine at the fuku restaurant Shigeru, and bookings can be made at any JTB travel centers.
To bring my day to a close, I made the short five minute walk to Premier Hotel Mojiko, my hotel for the night. The hotel is one of Aldo Rossi’s, an Italian architect, designer and Pritzker Prize winner, last works before his untimely death. Today, visitors can enjoy the architecture as well as look forward to the in-room design, which feature colorful window frames and furniture, bringing together a blend of classic and modern styles.
Day 2: Ways to enjoy sustainable tourism in Fukuoka City
My second day was spent in Fukuoka City, partaking in sustainable tourism. Rather than staying in the city center the whole time as most visitors tend to, I spent the first half of my day in Kitazaki, which is close to the city center of Fukuoka and is famous for flowers, fruit and seafood. I took the train to Kyudai-Gakkentoshi Station and rented an electric bicycle or e-bike from the nearby Toyota rental car shop. I was initially apprehensive about the cycling course, but my fears were quickly put at ease as the e-bike made cycling very enjoyable and easy.
My first cycling stop was about a third of the way into my ride, where I could enjoy a farmnic, a portmanteau for farm and picnic, experience. There, I got to join an organic vegetable activity, which involved harvesting seasonal vegetables at a vegetable patch nearby, then eating the freshly picked produce by the sea. What made the activity interesting for me was meeting the temple priest who runs the organic farm program, and listening to how he manages the program and his ideas for the area, which is well situated for growing produce. The vegetables are grown with a special compost made solely from tea leaves, and the temple priest said that he goes through tons of tea leaves a year for the farm. Talk about zero waste!
One of the best things about the activity was eating the freshly harvested vegetables raw. We pretty much just wiped the dirt off and munched on vegetables as we went along, and I was just amazed at how sweet and crisp everything was. It made me think that my regular diet just paled in comparison, and I would happily be a vegetarian if I had access to fresh vegetables like that all year. After harvesting a sizeable amount of vegetables, we headed back to the coast to prepare the vegetables for our midday snack. Not only is the temple priest a good farmer, he is also an excellent chef. I ate so many vegetables even after I was so full, I just couldn’t help myself!
Soon, it was time to continue on the rest of my ride. I carried on along the coast, passing a stretch lined with small shops and cafes, which reminded me of the Shonan Coast near Tokyo. There were a few gentle inclines on the way, but nothing the e-bike couldn’t handle. Before long, I arrived back at the rental shop, returned my bicycle and got back on the train to central Fukuoka.
Back in central Fukuoka, I headed to Ristorante Kubotsu, an elegant restaurant serving Italian-style cuisine conveniently located near Tenjin Station on the subway. Ingredients of the dishes served at the restaurant is sourced from local farmers in Kyushu, and their names are featured on the menu. It was nice to see a fancy restaurant choosing to go local and recognizing local farmers, which I think is the right step towards sustainability in the food industry. There were a few courses for lunch, and each plate delicately decorated and flavorful. I enjoyed this lunch, and thought that it would make for a nice date spot.
After lunch, I went on a self-guided walking tour of Hakata’s Old Town, which starts around Gion Station on the subway. The walking guide can be found on the SARF (Sound Augmented Reality Format) app, which is available for download on smartphones. There are several routes to take and different places to see, and I took one which brought me to Myorakuji, a temple of the Rinzai sect’s Daitokuji school of Zen Buddhism. I participated in a zazen meditation at Myorakuji, an activity which typically takes about an hour and ends with tea and a snack. The monk explained the basics of zazen meditation before we started our session. Zazen is like practicing mindfulness meditation, which has been found to be effective for relaxation and reducing stress.
Following that, I headed to Tochoji, a temple founded by Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, in 806 upon his return from China. The temple also houses one of the largest wooden sitting statues of Buddha in Japan, which measures over 10 meters high and took four years to carve. At the base of the statue is a corridor lined with images of Buddhist hell, which then leads to a pitch black section where the so-named Buddha’s Ring lies in darkness waiting to be found by those who pass through. It is said that those who find and touch the ring will be able to reach paradise. I entered the corridor and stepped into the pitch black section nervously, and after a bit of fumbling along one side of the wall, I brushed against what I think was the Buddha’s Ring. So, fingers crossed I reach paradise when the time comes!
I walked around Hakata’s Old Town for a bit more after visiting the two temples, and then headed off to the quaint Shirogane neighborhood in central Fukuoka. There, large shopping malls fade away, and the scenery becomes decidedly residential with artisanal coffee shops and small, chic businesses dotting the neighborhood. I had dinner reservations at Watahan, an innovative French-style restaurant housed in a former traditional Japanese restaurant. There’s something to be said about traditional Japanese architecture that puts one at ease as I felt a sense of calm and peace once I stepped across the threshold into the foyer, and that feeling continued into the interior of the restaurant. Dinner was a lovely course meal featuring local ingredients served and prepared in the French-style. I thought this restaurant would be perfect for a special occasion or a nice dinner date.
To wrap up my day of local cuisine, I headed to Hotel Great Morning where I would stay the night. Located just five minutes on foot from Nakasu-Kawabata Station on the subway, Hotel Great Morning is one of a handful of sustainable hotels in Japan. The hotel’s philosophy is to provide guests with a great night’s rest so that they wake up in the morning feeling great, which is reflected in the hotel name. In addition to using quality, natural materials from bedding to furnishings, one of the biggest features at the hotel is F-CON, the windless heating and cooling panel system used throughout the property, which is said to be gentle on the body and environmentally friendly. In fact, I was so impressed with the F-CON system that I even asked the staff what the requirements for purchasing and installing one entailed.
Day 3: History in Kumamoto City
Moving on down towards the middle of Kyushu, I spent my third day in Kumamoto City, wandering around and checking out some of its famous sights. The city was hit by a large earthquake in 2016 which caused considerable damage to the city and its surroundings, and the loss of many lives. Kumamoto Castle, the city’s most famous spot, suffered great damage during the earthquake and reconstruction work has been ongoing since.
I started my day visiting Kumamoto Castle first. The castle’s main keeps were finally opened to the public in 2021 upon completion of major restoration works after the earthquake in 2016. The painstaking reconstruction process on the castle grounds is slated to take at least 20 years. Visitors can see cordoned stone walls as workers rebuild them; larger stones are identified and numbered so that they can be placed back in their right positions. A special viewing corridor, which will be removed when the entire restoration is complete, has been erected along the recommended route leading to the castle keeps, and allows visitors to see the ongoing restoration and scenery from an elevated point of view.
The main keeps themselves had extensive work done to repair the fallen roof tiles and internal frames added to make the structure earthquake resistant, which can be seen inside. The original main structure was burnt down during the Satsuma Rebellion, Japan’s last civil war, and was left in shambles after. While the current main keeps are a modern concrete reconstruction rebuilt with the help of donations, it is nonetheless still impressive.
Inside, a museum detailing the castle’s history from its beginnings with Kato Kiyomasa who built the castle, through to the Hosakawa clan who ruled the area for the following two centuries, to contemporary times after the abolishment of the feudal system, can be seen as one goes up the six-story building.
While the displays are mostly in Japanese, the Kumamoto Castle Official app for smartphones provides excellent English translations, which makes a visit to the castle very educational. The app also provides audio translations of the videos that play on the screens in the museum.
After visiting the main keeps, I made my way to Sakuranobaba Josaien, a pleasant outdoor spot a stone’s throw from the castle keeps. Souvenir shops and restaurants selling local specialties can be found there, and a daily show performed by a samurai troupe, the Kumamoto Castle Omotenashi Bushotai, can be seen as well. As it was a nice place to stroll and take a break, I took the opportunity to sample some local Kumamoto snacks. Also available was a nice selection of local craft beer, which allow for an opportunity to try the local brew or make for a nice souvenir.
For lunch, I went to SAKURA MACHI Kumamoto, a shopping mall in the city. It was a nice place to rest and relax, and there was also a rooftop garden terrace from where one can see Kumamoto Castle from a distance. I visited Kokutei, a local ramen restaurant which serves Kumamoto Ramen. From what I understand, Kumamoto ramen has a tonkotsu pork broth with the addition of garlic oil, making it a rich broth that is also silky smooth thanks to the addition of the oil. Also, Kumamoto ramen noodles are slightly thicker compared to the thinner noodles typically associated with ramen.
With my belly filled, I got on the tram and headed to Suizenji Jojuen Garden, a beautiful landscape garden about three kilometers southeast of the castle. Constructed by the Hosakawa clan who ruled the region for two centuries from Kumamoto Castle, the garden contains a large pond, from where natural spring water bubbles up from underground, and walking trails.
Not far from the entrance of the garden is the Kokindenju no Ma, a traditional thatched roof building, which was originally a building on the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Since the late 16th century, the building has been used as a study, a tea room as well as a place to interpret and study the old style of poetry. Today, it is open to visitors and used as a tea room where one can enjoy tea and sweets in a historic building. Several of the original fixtures of the building remain to be seen, such as the pillars.
One fun activity that visitors to Kumamoto Prefecture can do is to look for the bronze statues of the popular manga ONE PIECE created by Oda Eiichiro, who was born in Kumamoto. The statues of Luffy and all the other members of the Straw Hat Pirates were erected across the prefecture in support of the rebuilding of Kumamoto after the devastating earthquake which hit the prefecture in 2016.
Back in central Kumamoto, I took a walk through the Kamitori and Shimotori shopping arcades. The covered shopping arcades were pleasant to stroll through and gave me a glimpse into the life and shopping habits of the locals.
To round up my day, I headed to my hotel KKR Hotel Kumamoto, where I would have dinner and stay the night. The hotel is located beside the castle grounds, and one of the draws of staying there for me was being able to see Kumamoto Castle from there. The castle is illuminated in the evenings, and I enjoyed the lovely castle night view at the restaurant during dinner as well as from my room.
Day 4: Outdoors and nature in Kagoshima City
My last day in Kyushu was spent in Kagoshima City, the capital of Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Kyushu. Since long, Kagoshima Prefecture was the gateway into Japan from the south, and engaged in trade with China, the Ryukyu Kingdom now known as Okinawa, as well as other Pacific countries. Western culture only entered Kagoshima in the 16th century.
Much of Kagoshima’s success is related to the local Shimazu clan, one of the most powerful feudal clans in the country’s history, who ruled Kagoshima then known as Satsuma for almost 700 years. The powerful Shimazu clan were receptive to foreign culture, importing weapons and industrial technology, and were instrumental in overthrowing the shogunate and installing a new government after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Several prominent leaders during the Meiji Period, which followed the Meiji Restoration, were from Kagoshima and they included Okubo Toshimichi and Saigo Takamori.
Two places not to be missed in Kagoshima City are visiting Sengan-en, a sprawling landscape garden constructed by the Shimazu clan, and Sakurajima, an active volcano that erupts regularly.
First on my visit list after arriving in Kagoshima was Sengan-en. Constructed by the Shimazu Clan in 1658, this beautiful landscape garden located along the coast, and offers visitors lovely strolling paths with panoramic views of Sakurajima, which is not far away. One of the highlights at Sengan-en is visiting the family house in the garden. The villa originally contained over a hundred rooms, but only a third of the original complex remains to be seen today. The house, where the family lived, was also where dignitaries and important guests were hosted. Visitors to the house can see simple Japanese style rooms, luxuriously decorated rooms combining Japanese and Western styles, and enjoy the scenery of the garden and Sakurajima as the family and their guests would have back in the day.
Adjacent to the garden complex is the Shoko Shuseikan Museum, where visitors can learn about the Shimazu clan and their efforts to modernize Japan in the 19th century. Reminders of the family’s endeavors towards industrialization that can be seen include the foundations of a reverberatory furnace and the building which houses the Shoko Shuseikan Museum. These spots alongside other sites spread out across Japan form the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution, which was designated world cultural heritage in 2015.
From Sengan-en, I made my way to Sakurajima by ferry. One of Japan’s most active volcanoes, Sakurajima is constantly smoking and erupts frequently. I found it interesting that weather forecasts in Kagoshima include the wind direction above Sakurajima, so that residents will know if the ash will be flying in the direction of their homes. Due to its active state, there is a two kilometer no-entry zone around the volcano’s craters.
I rented an electric bicycle to explore the island. There are a number of sights on Sakurajima, including a coastal walking path which allows for close up views of the lava zone created when Sakurajima erupted in 1914, a free foot bath near the waterfront with views of the craters, and a few observation points from where one can get good views of the craters.
Equipped with my rental bicycle, it was off for lunch at Ofukuro-no-aji Shun. It was new for me to learn that Sakurajima radish (daikon) is one of the largest radish varieties in the world. The heaviest Sakurajima daikon weighs a staggering 31.1 kilograms and holds the Guinness World Record for heaviest daikon! Fortunately for me, I visited during the radish season and there were still some Sakurajima daikon planted outside my lunch spot. To make it even sweeter, there was Sakurajima daikon on the menu which I made sure to try.
Post lunch, it was a ten minute cycle to Ougaku Tougei, a ceramics gallery and studio on Sakurajima. Volcanic ash is mixed in the clay as well as some glazes to create a unique product not found anywhere else. I found the ash glaze to be particularly attractive as it had a silvery sheen to it depending on where the light falls.
Instead of a pottery class at the ceramics studio, I participated in a volcanic ash art workshop instead. Volcanic ash is dyed into five different colors, then participants can use glue to stick them on a postcard, creating different shapes and shades. I found the workshop very interesting as I had never worked with volcanic ash before. This is definitely an activity for visitors of all ages, even children will get the hang of it easily. I completed my art piece in no time, and my instructor framed it before returning it to me.
Continuing on my bicycle ride, my next goal was to cycle up to the Yunohira Observatory at 373 meters. The observation point is the closest one can get to the craters, and the roads leading there are winding. However, thanks to the electric bicycle, I made it up to the top with minimal effort, albeit it did take some time to get up there. According to the cycling map I received from the rental shop, a round trip to the Yunohira Observatory would take 2 to 3 hours depending on fitness level, while a round trip around the island would take about 3 to 4 hours. I would definitely recommend cycling tights for those planning to tour Sakurajima by bicycle.
After adventuring on Sakurajima, it was time to head back to central Kagoshima for dinner. I took a walk through Tenmonkan, Kagoshima’s downtown core with its shopping arcades and long established department store Yamakataya. I settled for dinner at Meizan Taka, a small restaurant serving dishes made with local ingredients.
SHIROYAMA HOTEL kagoshima, my final hotel on this trip, sits atop a hill overlooking downtown Kagoshima and Sakurajima. Booking a room with a view of Sakurajima is definitely recommended. The hotel also has a lovely hot spring bath with excellent views and should not be missed. I, for one, enjoyed a relaxing bath after the day of cycling and walking.
With that, my 4-day trip exploring north to south Kyushu came to an end. I met so many friendly locals, ate all the delicious food and vegetables, and enjoyed panoramic views on all four days of my trip. I couldn’t ask for a better introduction to Kyushu, and I know I will be back for longer next time.
Fukuoka Airport is the main airport serving the island of Kyushu and is ranked one of the top five busiest airports in Japan. The airport is directly connected to Hakata in central Fukuoka by subway, and the one way journey from Hakata Station to Fukuoka Airport takes about five minutes.
Kokura Station is the main transportation hub serving Kitakyushu City, and is a stop on the Sanyo Shinkansen.
To get to the TOTO Museum, take the Kitakyushu Monorail at Kokura Station and get off at Kawaraguchi Mihagino Station, which takes about four minutes. The museum is an approximately ten minute walk from there.
To get to Moji, take the JR Kagoshima Line from Kokura Station to the terminus, Mojiko Station. The one way journey takes about 15 minutes. Most of the sights visited in this article can be accessed on foot from Mojiko Station. The area at the base of the Kanmon Bridge can be accessed by rental bicycles, buses and the Shiokaze-go, the Kitakyushu Bank Retro Train line.
Hakata Station is the main transportation hub serving Fukuoka City, and is a stop on the Sanyo and Kyushu shinkansen. The Fukuoka City Subway Kuko Line provides a direct connection between Fukuoka Airport and Hakata Station in about five minutes.
To get to Kitazaki, take the Fukuoka City Subway Kuko Line bound for Chikuzen-Maebaru from Hakata Station and get off at Kyudai-Gakkentoshi Station. The one way journey takes about 30 minutes. The electric bicycle rental shop is located at the Toyota rental car shop a short walk from the station.
To get to central Fukuoka, take the Fukuoka City Subway Kuko Line from Kyudai-Gakkentoshi Station and get off at Tenjin (closest station to Ristorante Kubotsu), Gion (closest station to Hakata Old Town) and Nakasu-Kawabata (closest station to Hotel Great Morning) stations.
Kumamoto Station is the main transportation hub serving Kumamoto City, and is a stop on the Kyushu Shinkansen. The city center, where most of the tourist attractions are, is located about two kilometers from the station. The tram line which departs from Kumamoto Station is a convenient way to get around the city.
To get to Kumamoto Castle, take the tram from Kumamoto Station and get off at the Kumamoto Castle/City Hall tram stop. The castle is about a ten minute walk from there.
To get to Suizenji Jojuen Garden, take the tram from the Kumamoto Castle/City Hall tram stop and get off at the Suizenji Koen tram stop. The garden is less than five minutes away on foot.
To get to the Kamitori and Shimotori shopping arcades, take the tram from the Suizenji Koen tram stop and get off at Torichosuji tram stop.
Kagoshima-Chuo Station is one of the main transportation hubs in Kagoshima City, and is the terminus for the Kyushu Shinkansen. The city is served by trams and an extensive bus network. However, the City View Bus, which connects Kagoshima-Chuo Station with the various tourist attractions in the city, is the most useful for tourists. Kagoshima Airport, which is located about 40 kilometers northeast from Kagoshima-Chuo Station, has frequent scheduled flights to Tokyo and Osaka. The airport bus makes the trip in about 40 to 50 minutes.
To get to Sengan-en Garden, take the City View Bus from Kagoshima-Chuo Station and get off at Senganen-mae, at the entrance of the garden.
To get to Sakurajima, take the City View Bus from Sengan-en Garden, get off at Kagoshima Suizokukan-mae and it is a short walk to the Sakurajima ferry terminal. Frequently departing ferries connect Kagoshima and Sakurajima in about 15 minutes, and ferry service is 24 hours. On Sakurajima, the Sakurajima Island View Bus, a loop bus line for tourists, provides access to the Yunohira Observatory. Alternatively, electric bicycles are available for rent at Rainbow Sakurajima, a hot spring accommodation facility a short walk from the ferry terminal.
To get to downtown Kagoshima, take the ferry from Sakurajima back to Kagoshima, and from there, take the City View Bus to Tenmonkan.