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Kyūshū 九州

Mount Sakurajima facing Kagoshima
Mount Sakurajima facing Kagoshima.

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Kyūshū is Japan's third largest island, after Honshū and Hokkaidō, and is home to approximately 13.5 million people - 10.5% of Japan's population. It is just a bit smaller and less populous than the Netherlands, the Western country with the strongest historical ties with Kyūshū.

The island is divided in 7 prefectures : Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Ōita, Miyazaki and Kagoshima. The largest city is the twin town of Fukuoka-Hakata.


Kyūshū's proximity to Korea and China conferred it an important role in Japanese history. Based on archaeological evidence it is believed that around 500 to 200 BCE a large number settlers from eastern China and/or Korea invaded Kyūshū, importing with them rice paddy cultivation, bronze tools and weapons, and large domestic animals (cattle, horses). They progressively spread eastwards on most of Honshū and Shikoku, supplanting the original Jōmon people (=> The Origins of the Japanese people).

Things to see

Visitors to Kyūshū coming from Honshū by train will most likely arrive at Hakata/Fukuoka, the island's main hub.

The island's most famous city for foreign visitors is probably Nagasaki, due to the dropping of the second atomic bomb in human history on 9 August 1945. There is much more to it than that, though. Nagasaki was the only city allowed to trade with Europeans (specifically, the Dutch) during Japan's 220 years of self-imposed isolation. When Japan was forced to open some of its ports to Western powers, Nagasaki became of the the treaty ports and its Western settlement up in the hills has was too far to suffer nuclear devastation.

Christianity came to Japan via Kyūshū with the arrival of Portuguese missionaries and St. Francis Xavier in 1549. Catholic communities grew around Nagasaki and Kagoshima. But it is Shimabara that is remembered in history books for its Christian peasant rebellion of 1637-38, which ended with the beheading of 37,000 rebels and sympathizers.

History buffs will appreciate the ancient city of Dazaifu, the castle town of Kumamoto, as well as Kagoshima, home to many of the Satsuma samurai that brought the Tokugawa shōgunate to its demise.

Kyūshū has its lot of natural attractions. Mount Aso, at the core of the island, is the largest volcano in Japan, with a caldera of roughly 100 km in circumference. Kagoshima's Sakurajima is the country's most active volcano, which means a lot when one knows that there are 36 currently active volcanoes in Japan.

Kyūshū's most original destination might well be Beppu, an onsen resort town famous for its "Hells" (boiling hot springs with naturally colourful water due to its high mineral content) as much as for the thermal virtues of its waters.

Off-the-beaten-track, just south of Aso-san, Takachiho is one of Japan's most sacred place in Shintoist mythology. This is where the Japanese emperors received the Imperial Regalia, symbol of their power, from Sun Goddess Amaterasu. Apart from the shrines and the local matsuri, the superb Takachiho Gorge make the trip worthwhile even to people with little interest in mythology.

outstanding Nagasaki is one of the best known Japanese city among Westerners. That is where the first Europeans arrived in the 16th century, but also the only port that remained opened to foreign trade during Japan's two and a half centuries of...Read more
Shimabara Castle
very good Shimabara has one of the largest castle keep in Japan, built after the famous Christian rebellion that resulted in Japan's closed door policy for the next 230 years. The volcanic activity of Mount Unzen also make of Shimabara one of Japan's...Read more
Mount Aso
Mount Aso
very good Mount Aso is the largest volcano in Japan, and one of the largest in the world. An eruption that took place from 300,000 to 90,000 years ago created a huge caldera, 25 km across from north to south and 18 km across from east to west...Read more
outstanding Beppu is associated in all Japanese minds with one thing : hot springs. This small town of 140,000 inhabitants in out-of-beaten track Oita prefecture would definitely not figure on a tourist map were it not for the astonishing geothermal...Read more
very good The twin cities of Fukuoka and Hakata were originally distinct cities, but merged in 1889 to form the largest city in Kyūshū and 8th biggest city in Japan. Fukuoka was a castle town, although only a few fragments walls of the castle remain...Read more
very good Dazaifu was the administrative capital of Kyūshū during the Kofun (300-710) and Heian (794-1185) periods. Heian poet and scholar Sugawara-no-Michizane (845-903) was forced into an unfair exile from Kyoto to Dazaifu, where he died two...Read more
very good Kumamoto is famous for its castle, one of the largest in Japan, the outstanding Suizen-ji Jōju-en Garden, and the local speciality, raw horse meat ("basashi"). Kumamoto is conveniently located, about halfway between Shimonoseki...Read more
very good Capital of Japan's southernmost prefecture, Kagoshima (pop. 535,000) faces the Kinko-wan Bay and the Sakurajima Volcano, menacing to erupt at any time. Kagoshima enjoys a sunny subtropical climate and has a relaxed...Read more
Takachiho Gorges
very good Miyazaki prefecture would be bypassed by tourists altogether were it not for the little town of Takachiho, one of the most sacred places in Japan, filled with myths and legends. Situated in the center of Kyushu...Read more

List of hot springs resorts in Kyūshū

  • Beppu Onsen, Beppu City, Ōita prefecture
  • Furusato Onsen, Kagoshima city, Kagoshima prefecture
  • Kurokawa Onsen, Kumamoto prefecture
  • Sakura Sakura Onsen, Kirishima city, Kagoshima prefecture
  • Unzen Onsen, Nagasaki prefecture
  • Yufuin Onsen, Ōita prefecture
  • Yunoko Onsen, Minamata city, Kumamoto prefecture
  • Yunotsuru Onsen, Minamata city, Kumamoto prefecture

Wa-pedia's Rating System

Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

good : moderately interesting - nice for a quick stop
very good : recommended - to visit if you have time
outstanding : outstanding place - really deserves to be seen
must-see : best of the country - shouldn't be missed
best in Europe : one of the world's great cities (beyond rating)

Natural attractions

good : interesting
very good : recommended
outstanding : highly recommended
must-see : world-class
※ : UNESCO World Heritage site UNESCO

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