There are four main islands that form Japan. Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. I had the opportunity to visit Kyushu last year during this time of the year. The region, that is located below the main land (Honshu) of Japan, has a higher average temperature, and is rich in nature. My friend and I decided to take a trip to Kyushu to enjoy the nature, food, and people. We went to four out of the seven prefectures of Kyushu in the following order; Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, and Nagasaki.

  1. Kagoshima

Kagoshima is located at the bottom of the Kyushu district. The prefecture is known for a volcano called Sakura (which means cherry blossom) Island. The volcano is currently active, and often has small scale eruptions. So, ashes fall onto the surrounding area.

Below the main land of the prefecture, are two famous islands; Tanegashima and Yakushima. My friend and I visited Yakushima, to go hiking in the mountain and see the famous Yakusugi trees (a type of Japanese cedars). There are many hiking courses from which you can choose, and having a guide take you or not is optional. It was the first time hiking in Yakushima for my friend and me, so we decided to go with a guide. The course took more than 10 hours in total, and was extremely tiring, but the ambience within the mountain was outstanding and relaxing. In fact, the Ghibli animation film, “Princess Mononoke,” directed by Hayao Miyazaki, adopted the rich green scenery of Yakushima. Throughout the course, the guide told us about the history and nature of the mountain, and also showed us the famous trees. He knew the right angles for taking the perfect shots, so taking pictures was another fun feature of the hike.

Hiking track in Yakushima

The hiking trail that runs through Yakushima mountain

An emerald green river

An emerald green river

Wilson's Stump from inside

The famous Wilson’s Stump from inside

  1. Kumamoto

We left Kagoshima, and headed up to Kumamoto prefecture. Having not decided where to go, we drove up the prefecture, while looking for interesting places. Mount Aso, another famous volcano, was near the area we were driving, so we headed towards the mountain. However, the volcano was active at that time, so people were not allowed to go near the top. Giving up on Mount Aso, we drove a little more looking for onsen (natural hot springs) where we could take a break and warm up. We ended up at Kurokawa Onsen, a small onsen town on the top of a mountain, with only Japanese Inns (Ryokan). There were about 20 ryokan in total, and because we did not have the money to stay at an inn, we bought a day pass ticket. With this ticket, you could go to as many inns and enjoy their onsen until 9 pm. All three onsen that we went to had their own distinct features and ambiences.

A Ryokan in Kyushu

A Ryokan