Kyushu is located in the southwest of Japan and is best known for its active volcanoes, sandy beaches and natural hot springs. If you are planning to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Kyushu is the place for you. We flew to Kagoshima, the southern tip of Kyushu and drove clockwise towards Kumamoto and Fukuoka and then back down to Kagoshima. We drove approximately 1000km in 10 days! It was quite an experience. My boyfriend and I love long road trips as it reminds us of fond memories when we were in the USA. Our holidays usually include long scenic drives outside the city!
We packed our trekking gear for this trip because we were eager to scale some mountains and volcanoes. Unfortunately, we did not manage to trek up any volcano because of a recent eruption and earthquake. So we drove around and took plenty of pictures instead. Kyushu in the summertime is filled with lush greenery and clear blue skies. A local told me that summer weather gets better in September because the humidity is lower!
Explore // Trekking up active volcanoes
This would have been the highlight of the trip, if not for the recent earthquake. There are many volcanoes and mountains in Kyushu, so put on your hiking shoes and climb away. The largest active volcano as well as the most prominent one is Mount Aso, located in the Kumamoto Prefecture. It is said that the central crater group of Mount Aso includes five different peaks - Mount Taka, Mount Naka, Mount Eboshi, Mount Kijima and Mount Neko. I can only imagine trekking up all five different peaks. What a majestic volcano!
Be reminded to check the volcano's main website and daily weather forecasts if you are planning to hike around the area. Since these are active volcanoes, expect occasional eruptions and entry restrictions due to the emission of toxic volcanic gases. Safety first!
Do // Indulge in natural hot springs
Kyushu is home to many natural hot springs, or also known as onsen in Japanese. You will find many hot springs as you travel around Kyushu, but the city of Beppu in Ōita Prefecture, Northeast of Kyushu, is probably the king of hot springs. If stripping down to your birthday suit while dipping in hot water with strangers is not quite your thing, you would be pleased to know that Kyushu has many public hot spring foot bath areas as well. Foot baths are perfect for relaxing aching calf muscles after a long hike or long hours of shopping.
During my trip, I overcame my fear of public nudity and visited different hot springs everyday. I came home with softer and fairer skin! Woohoo! Though the effects did not last very long, I am still fairly amazed at the wonders of natural hot spring water. To be honest, I was very hesitant to bare it all at a hot spring, but trust me when I say that the pros outweigh the cons. No one is going to remember you anyway! The hot water will surely melt away every bit of anxiety, stress and fear.
Though I did not visit Yakushima Onsen, I did try the volcano sand bath at Ibusuki Onsen! The idea of being buried in hot volcano sand sounded extremely daunting at first, but I really just went with the flow. We were told to quickly remove our slippers and lie still on hot sand while the staff piled on heaps of hot volcano sand. I laid still for a total of 15 minutes, the recommended time, and I was completely soaked in perspiration when I came out. Goodbye toxins! I highly recommend pairing the sand bath with a good soak in the onsen. Ah, life is good...
See // Spend a day with flowers at Nokonoshima Island Park
Located off Fukuoka, Nokonoshima Island offers a quiet respite, ideal for a day of tranquil getaway. The garden was almost empty by the time we got there at 3pm. Most tourists have gone back to the city and we had the garden to ourselves. It is true that Spring may be the perfect season to visit the garden, but we still saw a variety of blooming flowers to admire and take a selfie with in early September.
Nokonoshima Island Park offers many quiet and serene picnic spots and I wished I brought along some snacks and a mat. Besides from admiring the lush greenery and sea of flowers that the garden offers, we spent our afternoon lazing on wooden swings, chasing fluffy rabbits, talking about life and watching ferries create big waves in the ocean. This could possibly be one of my favourite dates! :)
Eat // Sumptuous Japanese Breakfasts
What is a trip to Japan without big and hearty breakfasts? On most days, I was stuffed to the brim like a turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. But hey, I am not complaining. I love big, sumptuous breakfasts! The variety of each breakfast never fails to amaze me every morning and I was thinking of Totto-chan the whole time. If you are familiar with the book, Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window, you will know that her mum would pack her lunch with "something from the ocean and something from the hills".
On the first day, I spent an hour in and out of the onsen and I came out hungry and I looked almost like a dehydrated plum. Note to self and everyone else - always hydrate before and after going to a hot spring! Thankfully, there was a food stall near the onsen and I ordered a bowl of cold somen. Oh, believe me when I say that the somen was the best tasting thing in the whole wide world. I kid you not!
Thank you, Kyushu, for being such a dream. I'll be back in December!
What do you think of natural hot springs? Yay or Nay? Tell me all about it!
The humans behind honey&gazelle Design Studio. When we are not frantically working, we share our mishmash of thoughts on design, life, and love here. Grab a cuppa and stay for a bit!