Blessed with abundant natural beauty and numerous hot springs, the northern part of Kyushu offers plenty of attractions. The Fukuoka, Oita, Saga and Nagasaki prefectures are also where industries like coal mining, shipbuilding and ironworks used to blossom, and plenty of historical structures remain from this period. Tour them all while enjoying the area’s highly rated culinary culture – our sightseeing picks will make you want to fly over right away.
With a whopping 4,538 hot springs, Oita is Japan’s top onsen prefecture. Also used for farming and electricity generation, the underground heat is a source of pride for local residents. If you’re only visiting one spot, make sure to try Beppu: this city boasts 10 of the 11 known varieties of hot springs in the world, including unique options like sand and mud baths. From public bath facilities with entrance fees as low as ¥100 to endlessly spacious ‘infinity baths’ and historical hot spring inns (ryokan) with outdoor baths, you’ll always be spoiled for choice here.
Building on more than 500 years of tradition, the town of Arita remains a centre for crafts and is full of workshops that turn out artistic Arita-yaki porcelain, one of the best-known traditional handicrafts in Japan. Just touring the many shops makes for a nice outing, but for the full experience, we recommend trying your hand at actual pottery – many of the workshops are happy to welcome visitors.
Opened for commerce in the early Meiji era, Moji Port (Mojiko) is home to a number of historical buildings from both the Meiji and Taisho periods. Stroll past the area’s landmarks, including the wooden Mojiko Station building and the Old Customs brick building, which tell tales of the area’s glorious industrial past, before ducking into one of the stylish cafés. Later on, make sure to try supremely fresh seafood from the Shimonoseki Straits, including fugu (pufferfish), octopus and squid.
A huge theme park modelled on a medieval Dutch town, Huis Ten Bosch is particularly well known for its magnificent winter illuminations. 3D displays are projection-mapped onto the buildings, the colourfully lit canals can be seen from the deck of a cruise boat, and you can even try bungee jumping into a sea of light.
An oasis for local office workers, the many food and drink stalls found in central Hakata are great for getting to know the locals, all while sipping a beer and munching on some tempura or gyoza dumplings. When you’re done stall-hopping, end the night with a hot bowl of Hakata ramen, the area’s famed gourmet speciality. The lightly coloured, pork-based soup is rich and goes down effortlessly even after a long evening of snacking.