Literally 2 hours away by plane, the south island of Kyushu is a great escape from Taipei and can be enjoyed throughout the whole year.
by Stuart Hill
The smaller cities and rural countryside make for a relaxing trip to Kyushu, with most of the travel to key locations easily accessed by train. Kyushu is a holiday destination for many Japanese, so it is a good idea to avoid long public holidays in order to make bookings easier. While there are many hotels available around most Japanese railway stations, prices and availability can be impacted by local festivals and events. It pays to book ahead.
Kyushu is an important place in Japanese history for the role it has played in interacting with the outside world, for good or bad. The port city of Nagasaki was the first city designated by the Japanese government as an import and export trading hub, triggering a new era in exchanges — technological, commercial, and cultural — with Western nations and China.
Shimonoseki was the site of the signing of a Chinese-Japanese peace treaty in 1895, the peace conference being delayed by an assassination attempt on the Chinese delegation. The conference saw the surrender of Taiwan and Korea by the Qing Dynasty.
Taiwan and China’s connection with Nagasaki goes back even further, as it was the home town of Zheng Cheng-Gong’s (Koxinga) mother and the base of his father’s shipping business. Sun Yat Sen would visit Nagasaki several times to drum up financial support for his national revolution. He had enthusiastic and well-placed connections there.
With the opening of Nagasaki to Western trade, the Dutch created a trading route between Nagasaki, TaiNan in Taiwan, and their colony in Indonesia. Trading routes also stretched to Shanghai and other Chinese ports, Russia and Europe.
More recently, Nagasaki was also one of the sites the American’s and British chose as targets to drop the two atomic bombs designed to cripple and demoralize Japan’s forces to bring a decisive end to World War II.
While there are many things to do — and any travel guide will provide no shortage of ideas — here are some suggestions for a short 4-5 day trip around the island state. You could easily add an extra day or two to really give justice to Nagasaki, and another 2-3 days for exploring other cities, volcanic springs, and the rural countryside.
Glover Garden, Nagasaki
The Waterways of Yanagawa
Shimonoseki Fish Market, Kyushu
Night Lights of Nagasaki
The Hot Springs of Beppu, Oita
Other Travel Ideas for Kyushu:
- The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Memorial, and Peace Park
- Anywhere in Kyushu during cherry blossom season (April)
- Eat authentic local ramen noodles or buy Portuguese Castella sponge cake in Nagasaki
- Book accommodation online via sites like Booking.com, such as at JR Hotel
- Cathay flies between Taipei’s TaoYuan airport to the Fukuoka airport
- Buy a multi-day JR Kyushu Rail Pass at the Fukuoka JR railway station. The ticket office is opposite the tourist information office. Ticket info and timetables are available in English
- Catch a local subway train from Fukuoka (Tenjin) to Yanagawa. If you have time, change at Futsukaichi for the connection to Dazaifu to check out nearby shrines and temples
- There is a free shuttle from outside the Aquarium within Kujukushima’s Pearl Sea Resort that can take you to the Sasebo Zoo