Kyushu Island another side of Japan

Kyushu Island another side of Japan
PHOTO: Shutterstock.com

Anime, fashion, cosmopolitan cities and vending machines are some of the things that come to mind when Japan is mentioned.

When I visited Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, it was another image that struck me - technicolour trees, flowing rivers, hills and mountains.

Kyushu is a nature lover's dream. During my trip in October and November, my first stop was the Yabakei Gorge in Oita prefecture.

The entire gorge is a burst of vibrant colours as autumn leaves turn, which you can observe from a riverside restaurant in the small town there.

The main thoroughfare is lined with quaint stalls and shops. It's not crowded so you can Instagram without people photobombing your pictures.

Our next stop was Saga prefecture's Mifuneyama Rakuen Garden, two hours' drive from Fukuoka airport, with trees dressed in resplendent colours and small stalls at every bend offering locally grown produce, handmade crafts and titbits.

Friendly vendors made visitors feel at home.

At night, there was a light show but we didn't have the time. Instead we saw the one in Nagasaki prefecture's sprawling Dutch-inspired Huis Ten Bosch theme park, a recommended treat for young couples.

The Japanese appear to be very aware of the changes of the season. For dinner in Oita prefecture's Mikuma Japanese Inn, I was served a meal specially made by the chef using fish and vegetables commonly found during autumn. Similarly with the kimonos.

Women choose kimonos in autumn colours and decorated with autumn flowers and tree motifs.

There's also the water. You can take a 50-minute cruise (¥1,400 / S$17.43) on the Pearl Queen yacht around the "99" Kujuku-shima Islands in Nagasaki prefecture.

There's a romantic punt ride along the slow-moving Yanagawa river in Fukuoka prefecture. The Yanagawa boatman sings traditional Japanese songs while steering.

What's a trip to Japan without a visit to a castle?

The nation's best is Kumamoto castle in Kumamoto prefecture. It will help visitors to appreciate feudal Japanese architecture, and shed light on feudal Japanese aristocracy and society.

We ended our visit of Kumamoto with a traditional multi-dish dinner in one of the city's finest - the Aoyagi Japanese restaurant. To complete the experience, a lady in geisha attire performed a classical dance specially for us.

Those who seek a bit of urban adventure can head to Fukuoka City, the most populous city on the island.

A place popular among visitors and workers is the Nakasu Food Stall street which opens after sunset until the wee hours of the morning.

Halal food is a bit difficult to come by, so I headed off to the Canal City Mall where I had the best seafood sushi dinner in a small sushi bar.

This media trip was organised and sponsored by the Japan National Tourism Organisation Singapore Office (www.jnto.org.my), with support from Singapore Airlines.

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