This article will give you a short introduction to the three top destinations I discovered while traveling the island of Kyushu. Kyushu is the southernmost island of the four main islands in Japan. Due to its location, the people in this area are used to a warm sunny climate. Temperatures often climb above 35°C during the summer time.
The harbor-city Nagasaki is located on a small arm in the northwestern part of Kyushu. It is known for its tragic historical background as the second of two cities in Japan to experience an atomic bombing by the U.S. This makes it even more impressive walking down the streets, knowing almost everything in the city was built since 1945.
Local transportation in the city of Nagasaki is very convenient. There are public buses and street cars that serve every sightseeing spots. The fare for the street cars is a flat 120 yen each trip. If you want to travel a lot and don’t want to worry about ticket prices, you can get a one-day pass at every tourist location (e.g. youth hostels, tourist information centers) for 500 yen.
Nagasaki’s atomic bomb museum gives a brief overview of the tragic history of the city. Compared to other war museums, it offers a very neutral political perspective focusing on the stories of the people living in Nagasaki. It is located a few meters away from the hypocenter, the origin point of the bomb explosion. These days there is a large statue and memorial located at the hypocenter. The museum includes the beautiful site of millions of origami cranes which have been donated from people all over the world and represent a symbol for peace.
Next to the Nagasaki atomic bomb museum is the peace park, which contains beautifully arranged flower gardens and large statues. This park invites you to walk around, sit with your thoughts and process your impressions from the museum visit.
If you are still looking for something to do in the evening hours, you can enjoy the beautiful night view over Nagasaki. It is said to be one of Japans top three city night views. There are different guides available in English at the tourist information centers suggesting the best spots for this nighttime experience of Nagasaki.
Other things to explore in this city area is an abandoned island. Owned by Mitsubishi in the mid-to-late 20th century Gunkanjima Island was used to mine coal. Just be warned that the “normal” tour is only provided in Japanese. If you are still looking for something to do you can make your way up to the mountain Inasayama to get a view over the area (even by daytime).
Yakushima is a very beautiful and charming island located between two and four hours (depending on the type of ferry) away from Kagoshima. This tropical island will give you opportunities to explore outrageous hiking trails in the very high mountains on the one hand and beautiful tropical beaches on the other hand.
The round trip ticket for the most convenient ferry (Yakushima II) costs about 9,000 yen. You will leave Kagoshima Port at 8:30 in the morning and will arrive on the corresponding ferry port at about 12:30. During the four hours ride you can take a nap in inside areas of the ferry. If you are hungry you can take a lunch break at the onboard Udon restaurant.
After arriving on the island you can take the local buses to get around. The tickets can be very expensive (over 1,000 yen) to get from one end of the island to the other. It is cheaper to buy a bus pass for one (2,000 yen) or three (3,000 yen) days. The two-day bus pass costs the same as the three-days bus pass, so I recommend to get the one for three days. The bus pass can be purchased at the tourist information center, a 10 minute walk from the Miyanoura Port, or at most hostels.
Staying at this Yakushima Island will give the chance to explore the mountainous forests that the populate island. Try to explore the “Mononoke forest” (references the Ghibli movie Princess Mononoke) on the Shiratani Unsuikyo Trail. During the recommend two hours trail you will see beautiful waterfalls and stunning forests.
After a long hike I do recommend relaxing at one the beautiful beaches located on the island. Some of them are famous for snorkelling, so don’t forget your snorkel or rent one at a local outdoor shop.
Nichinan and Route 220
Everyone has the US coast in their mind when talking about stunning coastal highways. But Japan has something pretty similar, providing a beautiful scenery with palm trees, sand beaches and the blues waters. You can enjoy the stunning view shown in the following picture via Route 220 as you make your way towards one of the most beautiful shrines in Japan.
After arriving at one of the free parking lots it is a 25 minutes walk to reach the different shrines. The most known and famous one is the Udo Jingu shrine. It is located at the coast side, offering a expansive view of the ocean and the traditional shrine building located inside a cliffside cave.