One thing I promised myself after leaving university was that I was going to visit Japan. I considered myself pretty cultured and educated. I read books. I was able to work a washing machine without having to call my parents. But was I well travelled? No. So Japan it was. But I didn’t want to just go for two weeks. I wanted to stay a lot longer. Luckily, I was able to teach English there, which meant I got to experience the true culture of this amazing country.
Mainly, Japan is made up of 4 large islands; Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku. Kyūshū Island is the southernmost island and offers an amazing selection of sights and experiences. It’s where I lived and although I got to travel to the rest of the country, I thought I’d share 5 reasons why Kyūshū is somewhere you need to visit.
Kumamoto Castle, Kumamoto
Located in Kumamoto city, this beautiful castle is a prime example of classical Japanese architecture. Built in the 1400s, it has been the site of many important historical events within Japan. It’s considered one of the three most important castles in the entire country and it’s truly a sight to behold.
Suizenji Gardens, Kumamoto
Whilst in Kumomoto, you need to also visit the Suizenji Gardens. The government has classed it as an historic site of scenic beauty and for a very good reason. The sloping hillsides envelope miniature idealized landscapes of famous areas in Japan, including Mount Fuji. There is also a temple and small lakes containing large carp. Breathtaking and truly serene.
Sand Baths, Ibusuki
The only natural heated sand baths are located in the south of Kyushu in Ibusuki. On Yunohama Beach the sand is heated underneath by hot springs that run close to the surface, allowing a unique and relaxing experience. You are basically buried in this sand, as you lie there and enjoy for 15 minutes.
Tug of War, Sendai
A surreal experience that occurs usually autumn time in the small town of Sendai. Watch 3000 people take part in a massive game of tug-of-war using a massive 400 metre rope! You can even take part, allowing you to really feel the buzz of this traditional oddity. Afterwards, you can take a piece of the rope home as a memento.
Furosato Onsen, Kagoshima
At the base of (active) volcano Sakurajima (Cherry Blossom), there is a hot spring which is quite amazing. These ‘onsen’ usually require separate rooms for males and female as nudity is the norm, but this outdoor spring lets you retain your dignity and sit with your partner in volcanically heated spring water. There’s a shrine located by the water and you are able to see Kinko Bay, which is jaw dropping. It is recommended to visit just as the sun sets for a truly memorable view.
Of course, the other islands offer their own amazing experiences, but for me Kyūshū is truly a tropical marvel and living there was something I’ll never forget.