Archive for April, 2020

Kyushu: Onsen Paradise – Unique Hot Springs You Can Enjoy

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Onsen (hot springs) are my favourite places to visit whenever I am in Japan. I make a point of going to one or more and if I can combine this with a stay in a Japanese ryokan then that is even better. Kyushu is known for its volcanoes and with the volcanic activity comes a huge variety of wonderful onsen that you can visit and appreciate. If you have never been to an onsen before you may not be aware of the etiquette around onsen use. Kumamon is the mascot of Kumamoto prefecture in Kyushu, this adorable bear-like character has a following around the world. To learn about onsen etiquette check out this video where Kumamon will show you the rules. I cannot recommend highly enough trying every onsen possible on your next Japan trip and in this blog post I would like to tell you about some of the more unusual onsens in Kyushu.

This video teaches you how to enjoy Onsen in the right manner!

 

Onsen Hopping in Kurokawa

Kurokawa_Onsen_Kyushu

Kurokawa is a 300-year-old hot spring town in Aso, Kumamoto which is home to 29 ryokans (traditional Japanese hotels) and onsen. Walking through the main streets of Kurokawa Onsen is like stepping back in time to Edo Period Japan. It’s grand wooden buildings and restaurants surrounded by lush bamboo and evergreen tree forests make the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and Kumamoto City fade away, providing the best form of relaxation in Japan. A much-loved Japanese pastime is onsen hopping, and Kurokawa Onsen takes it one step further by featuring their many open-aired baths (Rotenburo) in their suggested onsen hopping course. Ryokan guests and day trip visitors alike can purchase an Onsen Hopping Pass for 1,300 JPY per person to enjoy three out of 24 of the participating open-aired baths in Kurokawa Onsen. Once you’ve visited your three onsen (or more, you can purchase multiple passes) don’t forget to write your name on your wodden pass (tegata) and then hang it on one of the main streets’ display frames to leave your mark on Kumamoto’s top onsen town.

 

The Tea Bath

Tea_Onsen_Hot_Spring

Saga prefecture is known for green tea and in the onsen town of Ureshino one ryokan has taken this local ingredient to create an unusual hot spring bath. Warakuen, is a ryokan where you can enjoy a traditional stay, sleep on futons on tatami mats, wear yukata, and eat a special Japanese dinner. The hot springs at this ryokan are known for their skin-care properties and to further enhance this experience one of the baths is a tea bath. Local tea is soaked in the bath and you can enjoy bathing in this outdoor hot spring. If you are staying at a different property in Ureshino, you can still visit Waruken as a day visitor to try this unique hot spring and take advantage of the beautifying effects of the water.

 

Sand Baths of Ibusuki

Ibusuki_Sand_Bath

While immersing yourself in the relaxing hot springs of the Ibusuki area in Kagoshima is very enjoyable, you can also try a different sort of relaxation experience. The unique natural steam sand baths on the geothermally heated beaches of this region attract visitors from around Japan and the world. Lay down in the warm black sand while an attendant covers you with more sand. Listen to the ocean sounds while being enveloped in what feels like a warm heavy blanket. I recommend the hot spring property Hakusuikan as place to stay where you can visit the hot springs and sand baths at the property. Also enjoy a delicious meal and ocean views. This is an escape from the busy cities of Japan.

 

A Very Long Footbath

Longest_foot_bath_in_japan_in_Obama_city_in_Obama_city_Kyushu

Obama is a seaside town in Nagasaki with a mountainous backdrop. The name Obama means little beach in Japanese. The locals of this town have embraced the fact the town shares a name with a US President and around the town you may find statues or signs depicting the former President. However long before President Obama was even born, visitors have been attracted to this area to enjoy onsen. The hot springs in this area are extremely hot and the steam from the vents can be seen throughout the town. But perhaps the most famous attraction is the footbath, Hot Foot 105. It is 105 meters long and considered the longest in Japan. You can soak your feet while looking out over the bay and contemplate world politics or something more relaxing, up to you!

 

The Hells of Beppu and Unzen

Beppu_Hell

Hells (Jigoku) are hot springs for viewing rather than bathing. They are found in a variety of colours, different types of bubbling mud, sulphur, steam and boiling water. Truly what you might imagine a hell landscape would look like. Carly’s blog post on Beppu covers the interesting hells found in that region and my previous post on Kyushu food talks about the healthy and delicious steamed food (Jigoku Mushi) you can eat here. Unzen in Nagasaki Prefecture is another area where hells can be found.  This hot spring town is on a mountain and has a slightly gruesome history. From 1639 until the mid1800s Japan was closed off to foreigners, prior to this seclusion foreign missionaries had been converting locals to Christianity. After the closing of the country and expulsion of all missionaries, local Christians were persecuted by authorities. Those who were found continuing to practice the religion were put to death. One of the methods in the Unzen area was to throw them alive into the boiling hells. Today through the steam you can see a cross perched over the hells to remember the martyrs of this time. Despite this macabre history Unzen today is an escape from the busy cities and a chance to enjoy a stay in one of the many ryokans in the area. I would recommend Fukudaya with hot springs and delicious kaiseki cuisine, at night you can also take a walking tour with a local guide to see the stars and the hells in a different light.

 

Onsen by the Sea

Yakushima_seaside_onsen_Kyushu

Yakushima is a large island off the coast of Kagoshima. It is definitely worth visiting for hikes into mystical forests where you can discover trees that are more than 1000 years old or to have a relaxing time at a hot spring hotel near the sea. There is plenty of onsen with sea views at resorts in Kyushu but there are a few seaside onsens in Yakushima that are a bit different. These onsens are natural pools on rocky beaches right next to the ocean. In fact, at high tide, you may not be able to access the pools as they are covered in seawater. A donation of 200yen is required to use the pools and there are no changing rooms so you need to bring a bag to keep your clothes. The smaller pools are used to rinse off before entering the bigger pools. This is truly an onsen experience out in nature and a wonderful way to relax at the end of a day hiking and exploring Yakushima.

 

Summary   

There are so many beautiful, relaxing onsen in Kyushu for you to try. Do you think you will try one on your next Japan trip? If you have already been what is your favourite? If you get the chance to travel to Kyushu and visit one of these unique onsens, you will not be disappointed. A definite lovely addition to any Japan itinerary.

 

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Saga Prefecture: Porcelain Paradise

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Japan is known for its traditional arts and crafts, including origami, bonsai, and ikebana flower arranging. While pottery has a shorter history in Japan, its cups, bowls, and other products are renowned worldwide. If you have a particular interest in these products, Saga prefecture in Kyushu, Japan is a must-visit! We will introduce the three main centres of pottery in the prefecture: Arita, Imari, and Karatsu.

 

Arita

Shueyama-Shrine in Arita

 

Arita is widely known as the birthplace of pottery in Japan, the first wares appearing in the early 1600s with the discovery of kaolin stone in the area. it is unsurprising that pottery is the main tourist attraction in Arita, with a large number of shops and museums trading in the town.
Arita ware exhibits more delicacy in creation and decoration and is generally restricted to blue and white colouring. This approach is heavily influenced by Chinese-style porcelains. It is said that Yi Sam-Pyeong was the first creator of porcelain in Arita, and it is to Yi that the Sueyama Shrine is dedicated. This shrine is also known as the porcelain shrine after its porcelain toori gate (shrine entrance gate). Kaolin stone was first discovered at Izumiyama Quarry, which can be visited. The pottery festival during late April – early May is perhaps the largest event on Arita’s calendar, bring around 1 million visitors to shop at over 100 different stalls. Arita is approximately 85 minutes from Hakata Station by limited express train which is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Arita is one of the first destinations on JTB’s exciting new fully escorted eight-day tour of Kyushu. For more information, please visit https://www.jtbtravel.com.au/japan-tours/escorted/kyushu-land-of-fire/ Day tours are also available in Arita, including pottery experiences and kiln visits. For more information about the above products, please inquire with JTB or your local travel agent.

 

Imari

Imari-Okawachiyama_saga

 

Japanese ceramics became popular around the world and was particularly exported to China and Europe for sale. Imari became the main shipping point for pottery from Arita but naturally developed its own products and style, exhibiting much more intricate and vibrant designs and adding more bright colours. This style was of particular interest to European consumers. The main area to visit in Imari is the Okawachiyama village. Artisan potters, many brought to Japan from Korea during the Imjin War, lived here creating their wares. The town was closed to outside visitors for many years, but now visitors can enjoy a throwback to traditional Japan while appreciating the ceramic accents around the town, including a ceramic bridge. The Imari Arita Ware Traditional Crafts Centre situated next to the Okawachiyama bus stop is worth a visit to learn about the development of the Imari style of pottery. The local train from Arita Station to Imari Station takes about 25 minutes. A bus from here will take you to Okawachiyama village. This is not covered by the rail pass, so tickets will need to be purchased locally.

 

Karatsu

Karatsu-yobuko-squid_Saga

 

Karatsu is a coastal town in proximity to Arita and Imari. It was a major trading port with Korea and China. Karatsu ware is known for its more earthy colours that are created from the coarser clay that is used, the products of which are often used in tea ceremonies. Pottery has been produced at the Nakazato Toraemon kiln for generations and is still active today. The compound includes a museum and visitors can watch pottery being created. Like in Arima, the Karatsu Kunchi Festival at the start of November brings many visitors to view and purchase local pottery. Ichibankan is a great option for a store to purchase local wares, including those of Nakazato Toraemon. In addition to pottery, Karatsu is known for its castle and its natural beauty. The view of the Nijinomatsubara pine grove from Mt Kagami is particularly stunning! Karatsu is accessible from Hakata Station with a Limited Express train to Saga Station, followed by the JR Karatsu Line to Karatsu Station. It takes about 120 minutes and is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

 

Summary

For lovers of arts, crafts, and pottery, Kyushu is a must-see destination. With a long history of pottery production Arita, Imari, and Karatsu all have a lot to offer historically and also in natural beauty. If you have been inspired to visit these lesser-known destinations, please contact JTB or your local travel agent to start planning your dream trip!

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Chasing the 20 best waterfalls of Kyushu – Japan’s Hidden Gems

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

 

 

Kyushu is famous for being one of the most volcanic areas of Japan. Hot springs, mountains, gorges, breathtaking beaches, Kyushu has it all. Hiring a car is probably the best option, however, some locations are accessible by public transportation. Here is a selection of the best waterfalls Kyushu has to offer and turn your trip to Japan into a real adventure!

Find the waterfall track>>

 

Waterfalls in Kagoshima

Kagoshima is the most Southern prefecture of Kyushu.
Kagoshima city is famous for the volcano standing in its bay – Sakurajima. With great natural wonders – such as Yakushima island’s virgin forest – and unique landscapes, Kagoshima is a destination not to be missed. Yakushima itself has dozens of amazing waterfalls and will deserve a separate article, stay tuned.

Ryumon falls 龍門滝

 

Located in the upper stream of Amikake River Ryumon falls have 46-meter height and 43-meter width.

5266-1 Kida, Kajiki-cho, Aira-shi, Kagoshima-ken
鹿児島県姶良市加治木町木田5266-1

 

Sogi no taki 曽木の滝

Sogi no taki certainly lives up to its name, Niagara of the East. At 210m wide and 12m tall, the waterfall is a stunning sight and the noise as it thunders over Senjoiwa rock is incredible.

鹿児島県伊佐市大口宮人628-41
628-41 ŌkuchimiyahitoIsa, Kagoshima

 

Ohko no taki大川の滝

With an 88m-drop, Oko no taki Falls has been ranked in the Top 100 Best Waterfalls in Japan.

鹿児島県熊毛郡屋久島町栗生
Kurio, Yakushima, Kumage District, Kagoshima

 

Ogawa falls 雄川の滝

Ogawa falls is a 60-meter-wide cascade that runs into an emerald green basin, offering a strong contrast with the rough rock face above.
Swimming in the basin is prohibited, but the feel of cool valley air is well worth the experience.

12222 Nejime Kawa kita, minami osumi, Kimotski-gun, Kagoshima prefecture
鹿児島県南大隅町根占川北12222

 

Waterfalls in Kumamoto 


Kumamoto is located in the Western part of Kyushu. It’s mascot character, Kumamon, is popular everywhere in the world, and Mount Aso is the tallest volcano in Kyushu.

 

Kikuchi gorge – Yonjusanman taki 四十三万滝

Kikuchi gorge and the greater Kikuchi area are famous for hot springs and breath-taking scenery.

熊本県菊池市原
Haru, Kikuchi, Kumamoto

 

Unokodaki 鵜の子滝

This waterfall is mostly recommended for enjoying Autumn colours. Be careful as the access can be narrow.

熊本県上益城郡山都町
Yamato, Kamimashiki District, Kumamoto

 

Nabegataki falls 鍋ヶ滝

Nabegataki is the most famous waterfall in Kumamoto, and in the 100 waterfalls of Japan list.
particularly high at 10 meters it makes up for it with a width of around 20 m across. The area behind the waterfall is surprisingly spacious, the beautiful views through the cascade making it an ideal spot for keen photographers.

熊本県阿蘇郡小国町大字黒渕
Kurobuchi, Oguni, Aso District, Kumamoto

 

Waterfalls in Miyazaki

Miyazaki prefecture is famous for Shochu distilleries, and great coastal drives. Further inland, it is home to Takachiho Gorge, one of the most beautiful sites in Japan.

Manai no taki – Takachiho gorge 真名井の滝

Takachiho_Kyushu

This famous waterfall is located in the gorge, and boat rental is available on site to explore the area closer.

宮崎県西臼杵郡高千穂町大字三田井
Mitai, Takachiho, Nishiusuki District, Miyazaki

Download Takachiho map>>

 

Yatogi no taki

These 73-meters-tall falls are located inside Osuzu Nature Park, a great spot for hikers, about one and a half hours by car from Miyazaki city.

宮崎県児湯郡都農町大字川北
Kawakita, Tsuno, Koyu District, Miyazaki

 

Mukabaki no taki 行縢の滝

The waterfall is approximately 77 meters high, and roughly 30 metre wide. The magnificent view of the waterfall, can be reached after approx. 60 min of hiking.

宮崎県延岡市行縢町
Mukabakimachi, Nobeoka, Miyazaki

 

Waterfalls in Oita

 

Komori no taki 蝙蝠の滝

Komori falls have been registered as National cultural heritage by the Japanese culture ministry in 2007. The falls stand 10m high, and 120m wide. The name Komori (meaning bat) has been chosen for the shape of the rock formations viewed from above.

大分県豊後大野市

Bungoono, Oita

 

Ryumon no taki 竜門の滝


The waterfall is made up of two drops. The first one is 26m high and falls into a 40m wide deep basin. The second drop is 70m tall with a natural water slide formed at its feet. This is a very popular spot for families in summer to come and play on the waterslide.

大分県玖珠郡九重町大字松木

Matsugi, Kokonoe, Kusu District, Oita

 

Harajiri falls 原尻の滝

This waterfall was formed with the eruption of Mt Aso about 90 000 years ago. With 20m high and a typical arc shape, it has been nicknamed “Oriental Niagara”. A suspension bridge gives a great viewing point of the falls.

大分県豊後大野市緒方町原尻410

410 Harajiri, Bungoono, Oita, Japan

 

Waterfalls in Nagasaki


Tonosumi Falls 戸丿隅の滝

 

Tonosumi falls are 402 steps up from the parking lot. Put on your hiking shoes and climb up for an amazing view and lush greenery.

Nagano-3809 Nishiariecho, Minamishimabara, Nagasaki

長崎県南島原市西有家町長野3809

 

Senryu ga taki 潜竜ヶ滝

 

The “hidden dragon waterfall” is divided between the man and the woman side. The fall stands at 20m high, with a 6m deep basin. It is a very popular place to enjoy autumn leaves viewing.

659-1 Emukae-cho Tanomoto, Sasebo, Nagasaki

長崎県佐世保市江迎町田の元659-1

 

 

Waterfalls in Saga

Kiyomizu falls 清水滝

Kiyomizu falls are 13m wide and 75m high. They are famous for the Buddhist statues standing at its feet, and nearby specialty carp restaurants.

Ogimachi Matsuo, Ogi, Saga
佐賀県小城市小城町松尾

 

Mikaeri falls

Mikaeri No Taki Falls on the Ikisa River is divided into a male and a female waterfall, which are selected as one of the best 100 falls in Japan. In June, 400 thousand hydrangeas in 50 kinds bloom around the falls and along the lower stream of the river.

Ikisa, Ouchi-cho, Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture
佐賀県唐津市相知町伊岐佐

 

Todoroki gorge 轟き滝

Todoroki gorge offers lush greenery scenery and the streams create over 30 waterfalls along the gorge. Todoroki fall is the most notable and is named after the roaring sound of the water.

Hei-163-1 Ureshinomachi Oaza Shimojuku, Ureshino, Saga
佐賀県嬉野市嬉野町大字下宿丙163-1

 

Waterfalls in Fukuoka

Nanshoga falls 難所ヶ滝

Nanshoga falls are a winter favourite when the 20m high roaring water turns into shiny icicles. Crampons and proper hiking equipment are recommended during the winter months to access the waterfall safely.

Umi, Kasuya District, Fukuoka
福岡県糟屋郡宇美町大字宇美

 

Shiraitono falls 白糸ノ滝

Shiraitono falls are located about an hour’s drive from Fukuoka city. In early June, a festival opening the falls takes place, and you can enjoy Nagashi Somen, cold noodles flowing down through hollow bamboo halfpipes. Yamame fish catching is also organised, with the freshly caught fish grilled on a stick at a nearby restaurant.

Agano, Fukuchi, Tagawa District, Fukuoka
福岡県田川郡福智町上野

 

Senjuin falls 千寿院の滝

Located in Sefuri Raizan Natural Park, the Senjuin falls are famously connected to the Heike clan (also known as Taira clan), one of the most influential samurai clan of the Heian period (794-1185). The epic war between the Taira clan and Minamoto clan during the 12th century is told in The Tale of the Heike, considered the masterpiece piece of medieval literature in Japan.


Nijoikisan, Itoshima, Fukuoka
二丈一貴山 糸島市 福岡県

 

With many natural wonders to explore, take your next adventure to Kyushu!

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A Delicious Journey Through Kyushu

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

 

For those of you who have traveled to Japan before, you might have noticed that each region has local food products that they are famous for. Domestic and international tourists alike will sometimes travel to a specific region just to sample a scrumptious specialty. When traveling around the island of Kyushu there are many wonderful sites including onsen, volcanoes and country scenery, in-between enjoying site-seeing I would highly recommend sampling some of the delicious and varied cuisines in this region. I would like to share with you my recommendations for what to eat in each of Kyushu’s seven prefectures.

 

Hakata Ramen and More

Spicy_cod_pasta

 

Fukuoka is home to Hakata ramen. This tonkotsu style ramen is a favorite among many people and many visitors travel to Fukuoka purely to sample this. Some of you will be aware that I am not a fan of ramen. To read more about my opinion on Japan’s most famous noodle dish please check out my previous blog post here. However I would be remiss not to mention this dish when talking about food in Fukuoka, you can find it in many restaurants across the city and at yatai (outdoor food stalls) near the river. Ok, I have mentioned it, try it if you like but now I want to talk about a slightly more interesting local food.  Mentaiko (pollock roe) are crunchy, salty, tiny, spicy delicious fish eggs. The variety found in Fukuoka is of particularly high quality and freshness. You can buy a variety of snacks flavoured with mentaiko and it is a popular filling for Japanese rice balls. However, my favourite way to eat it is with pasta. Mentaiko pasta is so delicious, you can find it at Italian style restaurants at Hakata Station and throughout Fukuoka. Give it a try!

 

Saga Beef

Saga_Beef

 

This prefecture is often overlooked as a place to visit, although it shouldn’t be. There are some interesting pottery towns where you can see and buy Arita porcelain, as well as relaxing hot springs at Ureshino Onsen. A favourite memory of my last trip to Kyushu was visiting Mifuneyama Rakuen Hotel where they have a digital teamLab installation at the café there. Sitting amongst ever-changing colored lanterns while sipping a delicious cup of hojicha tea was a peaceful experience that I would urge everyone to try. Getting around Saga is easiest by car so this is a great area to experience self-drive in Japan. But getting back to food, Saga beef is what you want to try. There is a lot of good wagyu beef in Japan and Saga’s is definitely right up there in quality with some of the more well-known, such as Kobe beef and Hida beef and as a bonus, it is cheaper as well. The best way to eat the beef is yakiniku style where you grill it yourself at the table in front of you. It can be hard to patiently wait for the meat to cook as the delicious smell wafts up, but each piece cooks quickly and before long you will be enjoying a very delicious meal.

 

Nagasaki Food Specialities

Nagasaki_speciality_cake

 

There are so many wonderful dishes in Nagasaki to talk about, many of them are influenced by traders who came to Nagasaki when it was a port including the Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese. I would recommend checking out my previous post here for a recommendation for a delicious noodle dish to try. This time I want to tell you about castella. This Portuguese influenced sweet yellow cake originates from Nagasaki although you can now find it in other parts of Japan. It is similar to a Madeira cake and is traditionally sold in long rectangular boxes. The plain original variety is nice to eat alongside a cup of green tea, the sweet cake and slightly bitter tea go very well together. You can also find other flavours including brown sugar and matcha if you want to stray from the traditional, as well as a unique peach-shaped (although not peach flavoured) version found only in Nagasaki.  It is worth visiting a castella shop when exploring the interesting historical sites of Nagasaki as you are eating the result of the foreign trade history of this area. Also who can pass up on cake?

 

Kumamoto Sashimi

Basashi_Kumamoto

 

The dish I want to recommend for Kumamoto definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste, although I find it very delicious. It is called basashi, in English raw horse meat. It is accompanied by sliced onions, grated ginger and garlic and you dip it into a sweet soy sauce, yum! During the Meiji era Japanese people began to eat meat and this eventually included horse meat with basashi becoming a popular dish which has endured to this day, because as I said before it is great! You can try it at many izakayas (Japanese style pubs) around Kumamoto. While on the topic of izakaya, drinking sometimes feels like only the lesser purpose of visiting these establishments with food often taking centre stage. There is normally a huge variety of small dishes you can order, often written on the wall. Of course there is normally a nomihodai (all you can drink) package available and a large variety of beverages to accompany your choice of dishes. Shochu (a type of Japanese spirit), is said to pair particularly well with basashi although I am quite content to eat it on its own, no need for liquid courage.

 

The Food of Beppu’s Hot Springs

Jigoku_mushi

 

From the “hells” of Beppu to the farmland and mountains of Yufuin, along with the scenery comes a wide variety of local foods and methods of cooking. Special mention to dangojiru a delicious miso based soup with flat thick noodles. Great, especially on a cold day. The most unique dish in Beppu though is jigoku mushi, this refers to a method of cooking rather than one dish, the food is steamed in the steam from the hot springs. Extremely healthy and delicious, you can steam everything from seafood, meat and vegetables to a pizza. There are two main places to do this in Beppu, at either one they allow you to put the food into the steam yourself or someone will assist if you would prefer. The first is called the Jigokumushi Kobo Steam Cooking Center near some of the main hells (hot springs for viewing) and the second is Geothermal Tourism Lab Enma. This is my favourite! You can enjoy some delicious food while soaking your feet in a foot bath. Which definitely is a blessing if you have been walking around looking at hells all day. After eating why not try another way to relax, a sand bath, where you are covered in hot sand warmed by the hot springs or if you are lucky enough to be staying one of the seaside resorts you can have a hot spring while looking out at the ocean.

 

Self-Drive and Eating in Miyazaki

Nanban_Chicken

 

Miyazaki is another prefecture where hiring a car for self-drive is convenient and by far the best way to explore this prefecture. You can make your way down the coast visiting shrines and admiring the scenery or drive inland to Takachiho to explore one of the spiritual hearts of Japan. But what to eat along the way? Due to Miyazaki’s mild climate mangos are able to be grown, so a must while out exploring is a mango soft serve ice cream. Come to think of it, whenever you are traveling in Japan you should try the local soft-serve ice cream flavour. There are some unique and delicious ones available, wasabi ice cream anyone? Back to the food of Miyazaki, a local dish on the must-eat list is chicken Nanban. When first trying this dish I thought it was going to be like a chicken schnitzel covered in tartare sauce (well that is what it looks like) and it turned out to be pretty close to that. The chicken is closer to tempura batter than schnitzel and placed on top of shredded cabbage with the vinegary sauce on top, it is quite tasty and worth stopping for.

 

Local Foods of Kagoshima

Sweet_Potate_Soft_Serve

The last but certainly not least prefecture to mention is Kagoshima. The active volcanic island of Sakurajima is a stunning backdrop for Kagoshima city. You can visit Senganen Garden and take amazing photos of a very nice Japanese garden with a volcano in the background. While in Kagoshima I recommend you try the satsuma-imo (sweet potato). This versatile vegetable with many varieties can be baked, fried and of course made into soft-serve ice cream. But the most unique product produced from Kagoshima sweet potatoes is a type of shochu (Japanese spirit), IMO shochu. Normally this spirit is distilled from potatoes and wheat but in Kagoshima they make it with sweet potato instead. What to eat with the shochu? Well Kagoshima is also known for kurobuta, black pig. This refers to the colour of the skin not the meat which is tender and delicious. I tried this shabu shabu style. You hold a thin piece of pork in your chopsticks and submerge it in boiling broth for a short time until cooked. Dunk it in sauce or egg and eat. So good! You can add vegetables and tofu to the pot as well. The name comes from the sound omitted by the boiling ingredients in the pot. This is a dish to share, so bring your traveling companions and enjoy local pork in Kagoshima.

 

Summary   

If asked to choose my favourite food from Kyushu I don’t think I could. There are just so many delicious things to try. Whether you are on a self-drive holiday, on a tour or exploring Kyushu by train don’t forget to make time to stop and sample some of the local foods. You won’t be disappointed!

 

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Beppu, Japan: A Day of Onsen, Nature & Food!- Kyushu

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

 

Recently, I spent a day in Beppu, in Oita prefecture, Kyushu, and I loved it so much, I had to write about it! Beppu Onsen, as the name suggests, is well known for being one of the largest onsen towns in Japan! The hot spring water of hundreds of public baths is sourced from eight different springs! The eight springs are named Beppu Onsen, Kannawa Onsen, Myoban Onsen, Kankaiji Onsen, Hamawaki Onsen, Kamegawa Onsen, Horita Onsen & Shibaseki Onsen and offer a wide range of baths including sand baths, steam baths, and mud baths! There is also beautiful natural scenery to take in around the city, exquisite regional cuisine to try and some interesting sightseeing places to visit! When you first arrive in Beppu, there is a wonderful and informative visitor information centre right out front of the station (you can’t miss it!), where you receive friendly advice about what to do and how to get around the city. But let me give you a few tips on what I did during my day in Beppu!

 

Beppu Ropeway: Mt. Tsurumi

Beppu Ropeway: Mt. Tsurumi

 

My first stop in Beppu was to take the Beppu Ropeway up Mt. Tsurumi. Mt. Tsurumi is an active volcano and the source of Beppu Hot Spring. From the top of the Ropeway, you can get a stunning view of the Beppu region, Mt. Yufu, the Kuju Mountains, and even Shikoku across the ocean! You can take a short hike of around 40 minutes at the top of the mountain to visit the small shrines that are there. The view is particularly beautiful up here during spring and autumn due to cherry blossoms and autumn leaves!

 

Beppu Jigoku: 7 Hells

 Beppu Accommodation: Oedo Onsen Monogatari

Beppu is home to seven “Jigoku”, or “hells”, which are unique hot springs for viewing, not bathing! While somewhat “touristy”, I enjoyed checking out the Hells of Beppu as they are certainly an interesting sight to behold! Probably my favorite out of the seven was the Kamado Jigoku, or “cooking pot hell”, as they have a demon cook as their mascot and put on performances in multiple languages throughout the day; they make it fun!! They steam eggs and pudding over the hot spring waters and these were delicious! Another notable Jigoku is the Umi Jigoku “sea hell”, which is a pretty blue boiling pond with some smaller orange ones, and the Oniishibozu Jigoku “shaven head hell”, bubbling mud baths named after the bubbles that represent shaven heads of monks! An easy way to get around to all 7 hells is to take a bus that takes you around to all of them!

 

Beppu Public Hot Spring Recommendation: Hyotan Onsen

 

Beppu Public Hot Spring Recommendation: Hyotan Onsen 

Now, there are SO MANY public baths to choose from in Beppu, so I took a local’s advice and headed to Hyotan Onsen in the Kannawa Onsen area, that had recently undergone renovations. The hot springs are gender-segregated and Hyotan Onsen is one of many local bathhouses to say that they will allow guests with tattoos! There were a huge variety of baths to choose from: indoor and outdoor public baths of varying temperatures, sand baths, foot baths, waterfall baths, steam baths and even a family bath for private reservation! I particularly loved the outdoor open-air baths as you can relax in nature! After a relaxing bathing experience, you can then try your hand at Jigokumushi cooking: steaming food over the hot spring waters! A super healthy and delicious meal, you can choose between a variety of meat, seafood and vegetables.

 

Beppu Local Cuisine

Beppu-Cuisine

 

There is an impressive variety of local cuisine in Oita prefecture, and Beppu is certainly famous for Jigokumushi which I’ve just mentioned, but I would recommend trying the following dishes as well! I’m sure you’ve heard of tempura, it’s usually a staple at Japanese restaurants globally; Oita is well known for its Toriten. Toriten is chicken tempura: chicken seasoned with sake, garlic powder and ginger and fried in the tempura style. Served with a salad, side of rice and citrus and soy-based dipping sauce, it makes for a delicious meal! Another local specialty is Beppu Reimen (cold) and Onmen (hot): a delectable noodle dish made from buckwheat flour noodles (soba) and a clear broth topped with slices of beef, Korean-style kimchi, soft boiled egg, spring onions, and sesame seeds.

 

Beppu Accommodation: Oedo Onsen Monogatari

 

Beppu Jigoku: 7 Hells

 

There are many different hotels to choose from in Beppu, so my main criteria were an ocean view and an outdoor onsen. Oedo Onsen Monogatari fulfilled both of these criteria, plus many more, and has all the trimmings of a classic Japanese Ryokan Onsen Resort! Upon arrival, you can select from one of the many patterned yukata to wear around the property; it’s common to wear these traditional “sleepwear” (for lack of a better translation) to all of the facilities in the Ryokan. Speaking of the facilities, they’re wonderful! Equipped with private karaoke rooms, a manga (comic book) corner, a game arcade, souvenir shop and on-site onsen, there’s something for everyone! The property is in a wonderful location – only a 10 minute walk from Beppu JR Station and it’s located on the oceanfront. Many of the rooms have wonderful ocean views! As for food, there’s a buffet restaurant serving a range of yummy cuisine and you will have breakfast and dinner included in your room rate. The hot springs are pretty amazing here too: Beppu Onsen is one of the largest hot spring towns in Japan, so you need a Ryokan to live up to the hype! At Oedo Onsen Monogatari, you can’t beat the rooftop onsen with an ocean-view at sunrise or sunset!

 

Summary 

I highly recommend adding Beppu to your Japan itinerary if you will be heading to the Kyushu area! To add Beppu to your Japan trip today, please don’t hesitate to contact us at JTB or your local Travel Agent and we can assist with any of the above arrangements!

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