Okinawa is Japan's southernmost prefecture, consisting of a few dozen, small islands in the southern half of the Nansei Shoto, the island chain which stretches over about one thousand kilometers from Kyushu to Taiwan.
The city of Fukuoka, also known as Hakata, is the major city in Kyushu and not only the center of administration and economy in the Kyushu region but also a terminal for air routes and railroads, occupying a central role in travel, information processing and entertainment. Around Hakata Station, lots of office buildings are rising, and restaurants and hotels stand close together. Fukuoka's major commercial district of Tenjin, are hopping seven days a week. The city's public transit is fully developed with a well-functioning bus and subway system making transport to the rest of Fukuoka Prefecture and Kyushu fast and convenient. Fukuoka City's unique charm is its blend of a big-city feel with beautiful natural spaces. For visitors it offers a wild nightlife and endless shopping opportunities, a chance to visit traditional shrines and historical sight, several festivals and special events to take your breath away. Twelve months a year, Fukuoka always has something to offer.
Beppu Tour of Hell
The Tour of Hell along a path in the Kannawa area is the highlight of the sightseeing in the Beppu spa. From the eight famous spots, we will visit three: the Sea Hell made up of bright cobalt blue hot water, the Blood Pond Hell where hot water containing red melted clay gushes out, and the Tornado Hell, a fiery geyser that erupts every 20 minutes.
The city of Hirado is located on Hirado Island in the northwestern part of Nagasaki Prefecture. It prospered as a castle town ruled by the feudal lord Matsuura. In 1609, the Hirado Dutch Trading House was established there, and as the area had an excellent natural port, Hirado became the central stage for trade with other countries, such as China, Holland and Portugal. At the site of the Hirado Dutch Trading House there still remain old stone walls, called the Dutch Walls. The walls, which were built in the early 17th century, are 2 meters high and 30 meters long. Also located nearby is the Dutch Well, which was built around the same time as the walls. Sakikata-koen Park commands a superb view of Hirado Port and is a famous spot for Hirado tsutsuji (azaleas). The tombs of William Adams, an Englishman who contributed to the development of foreign trade in Hirado (taking the Japanese name of Miura Anjin), and his wife are located in the park. Also inside the park is a monument to St. Francis Xavier, the man who first introduced Christianity into Japan.
Nagasaki City, which is the heart of the Nagasaki-hanto Peninsula, is a port city that developed all the way up along the steep slope of a mountain, while it also stretched out horizontally, hugging Nagasaki Bay. The line of visitors attracted to its many tourist spots never ends. Such spots include Peace Park which tells of the facts and memories of the horrible damage that was inflicted by the atomic bomb and continues to appeal to the world with its wish for peace, and the nation's oldest wooden Christian church, O-ura Tenshu-do, which even today exudes an exotic atmosphere.
Unzen is the name of the region in the center of the Shimabara-hanto Peninsula, Nagasaki Prefecture which belongs to the volcanic region of Mt. Unzen-dake. Its principal peak is Mt. Fugen-dake and the area is part of Unzen-Amakusa National Park. In 1990, Mt. Fugen-dake erupted after 198 years of silence. In addition to the volcanic activity of the region, Unzen is famous for one of the populous onsen destination. The Unzen-onsen is on the southwest side of Mt. Unzen-dake, at 700 to 800 meters above sea level. Sulfuric gas colors the ground red and yellow where fumes have burst forth, and more than thirty hot springs are scattered throughout the deserted landscape of Unzen. An interesting story in the region is that missionaries were active in Shimabara in the early 17th century, and many of the local residents became Christians. However, the administrator of that time banned Christianity, and Shimabara became known for its harsh oppression of the religion. Today visitors can visit the huge natural cauldrons of Jigokudani or Hells Valley of Mt. Fugen release billowing clouds of gases.
Glover Garden is a nagasaki hillside residence where merchant Thomas Blake Glover lived at end of Edo era. It is Japan's oldest wooden, western-style building.
Oura Catholic Church
Oura Catholic Church (Oura Tenshudo) is the Nagasaki's oldest Catholic church, designed by French priest at end of Edo period and completed during early meiji era. Only western-style structure to be listed as national treasure.
Nagasaki Peace Memorial Park
Nagasaki Peace Memorial Park built around site of epicenter of blast from atomic bomb dropped on nagasaki on 09 August, 1945. Park contains commemorative tablet marking site of detonation, cross-section of ground that conveys horror of blast, peace stature that serves as expression of hopes for world peace, and museum with materials about atomic bomb.
Kumamoto, situated roughly in the center of Kumamoto Prefecture, is the government and economic center of the prefecture. From the early 17th century to the end of the 19th century, Kumamoto was prosperous as a castle town. The Shira-kawa River and its branches run through the downtown area around Kumamoto Castle. Therefore, the city is called "City of Woods and Fresh Water." Most of Kumamoto Castle, which was designated as a National Historical Site, burned during a war in the late 19th century. The castle tower was rebuilt about 40 years ago. Personal belongings of its lords in different generations, armaments of olden days, etc. are displayed inside the castle tower. The Suizenji Joju-en Garden with a teahouse removed from the Kyoto Imperial Palace is located to the southeast of the castle. The garden, featuring the spots of "Tokaido Goju-san-tsugi," or the Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido, using the rich subsoil flow of Aso, is a popular place for relaxation for people of Kumamoto and visitors as well.
Mt. Aso is an active volcano located in southern Kumamoto Prefecture with one of world's largest calderas and sommas. It is a symbol of Kumamoto Prefecture, which is called "Land of Fire"
Beppu is located in the central part of Oita, on the coast of Beppu Bay faces the sea. It is one of Japan's most famous hot spring resorts, producing more hot spring water than any other resort in the country. Hot water gushes at many spots in the city. The Beppu-onsen Spa consists of eight hot spring areas. There are many modern spa resorts also supplied from the rich sources in those areas. Beppu offers an unmatched range of baths to be enjoyed, including ordinary hot water baths, mud baths, sand baths and steam baths. In addition, the Hells of Beppu are several spectacular hot springs for viewing rather than bathing. The Tour of Hell is the highlight of sightseeing in the Beppu Spa. Eight spots including the Umi-jigoku (sea hell) made up of bright cobalt blue hot water, the Chi-no-ike-jigoku (blood pond hell) where hot water containing red melted clay gushes out and the Tatsumaki-jigoku (tornado hell), a geyser, are usually on the itinerary of the tour.
Miyazaki City is located in the central part of Miyazaki Prefecture and is the rail terminal city for southeastern Kyushu as well as the government and economic capital of the prefecture. Due to the mild weather, phoenix trees and palm trees can be seen everywhere, which gives the city the atmosphere of a bright southern resort. The place to see in the city is Miyazaki-jingu Shrine, built deep in the woods, with a Torii gate (shrine gate) made from simple, plain wood. It is a very unique shrine as it is built only with cedar. Heiwadai Park is northwest of the shrine. Sixty meters above sea level, the park commands a superb view of the city and the Sea of Hyuga. Northeast of the city, on Hitotsuba Beach, stands Sea Gaia. The resort has a golf course, tennis courts, the Miyazaki City Phoenix Zoo, and the World Convention Center Summit, which provides space for international conventions. Hotels, cottages, and condominiums are also part of the facility. There is a free shuttle bus between the facilities.
Kagoshima, the administrative, economic, and cultural center of Kagoshima Prefecture, is a castle town dating back to the 14th century. Kagoshima and its suburbs are located in the northeastern part of the Satsuma-hanto Peninsula, and face Kagoshima Bay, which is also called Kinko Bay. In the city, you can still find many historic spots associated with the Meiji Restoration, a time when political reforms were undertaken to transform the country from feudalism into a modern unified nation.
Yakushima is a subtropical island off the southwestern coast of Kyushu and part of Kagoshima Prefecture. Because of its abundance of nature, Yaku-shima Island was inscribed as a World Natural Heritage Site for the first time in Japan in 1993. Seventy-five percent of the whole island is mountainous. It is covered by an extensive cedar forest that contains some of Japan's oldest living trees. Trees more than 1000 years old are affectionately called yakusugi (a combination of Yakushima and sugi, the Japanese word for cedar), the most ancient of which may be over 7000 years old. Continuing up around the coast to the mountaintop, as the altitude increases, the climate changes from that of a subtropical zone to that of a subarctic zone, and the plant systems change in the same way, as if nature in the Japanese Archipelago were condensed. Experiencing much rainfall throughout the year, the island is covered with deep green forests. Most tourists come to the island to hike through the forests and see the ancient cedar trees. A stay at one of the island's pensions will enable you to experience some of the local cultures.
Iriomote is part of the subtropical Yaemyama island chain. It is actually the second biggest island in the whole of Okinawa but has a population of only 2,000. The island only has access from the sea and the main reason for its small population is the fact that the majority of the island is covered in dense protected jungle and mangrove. It is very popular to visit the island during winter season to escape from harsh winter of Japan's main islands.
Ishigaki-jima Island is the main island in the Yae-yama archipelago, which is about 420 kilometers southwest of Naha on Okinawa Main Island. Ishigaki-jima Island is 90 kilometers around, and covered with mountains, including Mt. Omoto-dake, rising 526 meters above sea level, the highest in Okinawa. The coral reef sea there is famous throughout the world and there are many scenic marine spots on the island, such as Shiraho, noted for a variety of colored coral that can be seen covering the bottom below the transparent waters, and Kabira Bay where the ocean's blueness is said to be the brightest in Okinawa. In the suburbs of the city of Ishigaki spread the sugarcane fields, beyond which are the lush green mountain areas where Mt. Omoto-dake is found. The jungles of tropical plants, such as mangroves, are quite valuable, as well as the stands of Yae-yama palm trees that are truly unique, growing wild only on the Yae-yama Islands. There are a number of sightseeing spots where you can relax and enjoy beautiful scenery, like the Tamatorizaki Observatory, and the scenic Hirakubo and Ugan capes, accessible by a rental car or bike.
Naha is the largest city in Okinawa Prefecture. Located in the southern part of Okinawa Main Island, it is the political, economic and transportation center of the prefecture. Kokusai-dori Avenue is surely the most crowded place in Naha. This approximately 1.6-kilometer-long street is lined with department stores, restaurants, coffee shops, general shops, clothing shops, travel agencies, banks, and of course souvenir shops which account for about 40% of the businesses and facilities on the high traffic street. The market, known as the "kitchen of Naha," is always full of energy and excitement with old women called "Obaa" working actively amongst the brisk talking venders. Naha once prospered as the outer port of Shuri, which flourished as the capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In those days, Naha had much trade with China and Southeast Asia. Among the major remains of the Ryukyu Kingdom is Shuri Castle, the ruins of the Castle of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The New Center is a new area for business and shopping in Naha. Many local families go there to enjoy shopping at the large DFS Galleria Okinawa, where tax-free overseas brand items are sold, as well as to visit the nearby movie theaters and restaurants. Other attractions include the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum where the nature, culture and art of Okinawa can truly be appreciated.
Taketomi Island is an island just off the coasts of Ishigaki Island to the east. As Taketomi Island is fairly small, it is often visited as a day trip from Ishigaki. This tiny subtropical island has an example of a perfectly and beautifully preserved traditional Ryukyu village which would have been found all over Okinawa. The traditional Ryukyu one-story houses are characterized by red tiled roofs, stone walls and the lion-like Shiza at the gates whose duty is to ward off evil spirits. Other traditional homes inside the village are used as restaurants and shops selling local food and crafts. There are no rental cars on Taketomi, and most visitors either walk or rent a bicycle to travel through the village's white sand roads and to the nearby beaches along the western shore of the island.