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Road Trip Around Southern Kyushu Visiting Popular Sightseeing Spots in Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Kumamoto

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Kyushu is Japan’s third-largest island and is primarily known for its beautiful wide-open nature and hot springs due to the many active volcanos throughout Kyushu. Aso Mountain, which has a caldera of world scale, and Sakurajima, which is currently active, are among the most famous. They not only provide tourist spots formed by hot springs and its smoke, but their magnificent appearance is recognized as its own value.

Seeing Majestic Nature and Unknown History
During a Road Trip Around Japan's Southern Kyushu

Kyushu consists of 7 prefectures; FukuokaSagaNagasakiOitaKumamotoMiyazaki, and Kagoshima. Many Westerners know about Nagasaki and Oita (Beppu), but this time we went around prefectures that not many people seem to visit. JAPANKURU made a southern Kyushu road trip, visiting Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Kumamoto. It was in a beautiful time during fall, making some of the best pictures. 



Japan is a very lovely and convenient place, but some areas are just better to explore by renting a car. Southern Kyushu is one of them. Public transportation is not as developed as the city center so you may be restricted which can be a waste cuz there are so many things to see. That reason, and the fact that road trips are just fun, is why we decided to rent a car and drive around Kyushu. 



Since we had a lot of luggage, we rented one that could carry a lot of people and our luggage. But there are a variety of car styles and sizes to choose from.



There are a variety of rental car companies in Japan, but the choice for this southern Kyushu region trip is Nissan Rent-a-Car.



What we like about Nissan Rent-a-Car is they renew their vehicles regularly, offering safety and reliability during your trip. Plus the company has really worked on making it easier for foreigners to rent a car. 

Driving along Southern Kyushu
Kagoshima ➡ Miyazaki ➡ Kumamoto



KAGOSHIMA

Kagoshima Prefecture is a well-known area often called "the Naples of Japan". This is due to its bayside location and towering stratovolcano Mt. Sakurajima. In fact, in 1960, there was even a sister city agreement signed with Napoli. Kagoshima is endowed with some of the most spectacular scenery in Japan with its beautiful seas and mountains, but also some of the best food like Kagoshima black pork (kurobuta) and sweet potato which makes their sweet potato shochu (Japanese hard liquor) the best! 

If you are looking for a place to stay in Kagoshima, there is a Best Western in Kagoshima that sits along the coast with a direct view of the active volcano Mt. Sakurajima.

Sand Bath Center "SARAKU" (指宿温泉)



Ibusuki Onsen is a coastal area located about an hour from downtown. The hot springs here refer not to immersing yourself in a normal hot spring bath but in warm sand bathing, so the name of the hot spring is also called "sand bath" or "sunaburo" (砂風呂). The sand here is not the same as that you would find at a regular beach. The sand here has a temperature as high as 176℉ (80℃). The reason for the high-temperature sand is that it has a unique terrain that flows from the land to the seashore. Japan has a lot of interesting ways to help your body get rid of its toxins. Below is a link explaining what becoming a sand casserole can do for your body *Sand Bath Beauty Effects*

Sand Bath Center "SARAKU" (砂むし会館 砂楽)
Google Maps
⏰8:30am~9pm (final entrance at 8:30pm)*NO HOLIDAYS*
💴Sand bath: Adult (ages 13+): ※1,080yen, Child (under 12): ※590yen
Hot springs bath only: 610yen, 300yen
※fee includes yukata
⁂The sand steamed bathing requires towels, sold for 120 yen if you don't have one. 
Then bath towel lending is 200 yen for the hot spring bath⁂
 
💻Official homepage (English)

Shirokuma Cafe (天文館むじゃきの白熊(しろくま))



"Kakigori" is a type of shaved ice served as a dessert here in Japan. The shaved ice is topped/mixed with condensed milk, small colorful mochi, fruits, and sweet bean paste (usually Azuki red bean). As for fruits, mandarin orange, cherry, pineapple, etc.

If you went to Kagoshima, you should taste this cute visual shaved ice shop "Shirokuma". It started in 1947, and then it was topped with only condensed milk and a few simple decorations. Which is said to resemble a polar bear and explains how it got its name! Now if you go to the cafe you will see their traditional and newly updated shaved ice desserts.

Shirokuma Cafe (Tenmonkan Mujaki)
白熊菓琲 (天文館むじゃき本店)
Google Maps
⏰11am~10pm (LO 9:30pm)
Sun, Holidays, Jul-Aug open at 10am)☎099-222-6904
💻Official homepage (JPN)

Kirishima Jingu (霧島神宮)



Kirishima Jingu is a Japanese ancient shrine built in the 6th century. The shrine also plays a big part in Japanese mythology. It is said that the god Ninigi no Mikoto, the grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu, descended from the sky to here in order to rule Japan. Thus now it is also registered as an important cultural property of Japan.



Originally it was located deep in the mountains, but it was reconstructed several times due to a volcano eruption, and eventually, it was completely moved to its current location in 1715.



Kirishima Jingu Shrine (霧島神宮)
Google Maps
Parking available
💻Official homepage (JPN)

Sengan-en (仙巌園)



CNN voted Sengan-en (仙厳園) as one of the world's best/most beautiful areas IN THE WORLD! Originally it was built in 1658, now it is open to the public and it was registered as a World Heritage Site in July 2015. Being on Kagoshima's Sakurajima Island, Sengan-en gives you a beautiful side into Japanese culture with its traditional Japanese garden.



Former residence belonging to the Shimazu Clan daimyo of the Satsuma han was refurbished in a Starbucks inside Sengan-en in 2017. The two-story wooden structure is absolutely beautiful and spacious with four different rooms for customers to hang out. It's a very famous tourist spot.



Sengan-en (仙巌園)
Google Maps
⏰8:30am~5:30pm
💴Garden and Museum: Adults 1000yen, Children (6~15) 500yen
Garden, Museum, and House: Adults 1300yen, Children (6~15) 650yen
💻Official homepage (ENG)

Ryokojin-sanso (旅行人山荘)



Adding a trip to a hot spring was a must for us during our trip around Kagoshima. In 1819, hot springs were found in this area, then the hot spring we visited Ryokojin-sanso, a mountain lodge opened in 1917. What threw us off was this hot spring water can be drunk and is said have gastrointestinal health benefits.

Ryokojin-sanso (旅行人山荘)
Google Maps
💻Official homepage (JPN)

MIYAZAKI



Taking a different image,
Miyazaki Prefecture is known for its beaches and waters.
Due to its many historical sites that relate to Japanese history and mythology,
Miyazaki Prefecture is often called "the birthplace of Japan". When it comes to food, Miyazaki beef and chicken nanban are the prefecture's pride and joy so if you get the chance to try either of the two please do!  

Kunimigaoka (国見ヶ丘)



Rising 513 meters above sea level, Kunimigaoka is like a sea of clouds. The view, accompanied by the sunrise, simply adds to the spiritual aura that pervades this beautiful town. This viewpoint at the peak of Kunimigaoka has been given a one-star rating in the Michelin Green Guide to Japan. By the way, it's said that from fall to early winter is the best time to visit!



Kunimigaoka (国見ヶ丘)
Google Maps



Keep in mind that as long as there is no breeze, you will be able to see the sea of clouds. Even if there is some wind you still get a beautiful view of the Takachiho Basin and surrounding mountains.

Udo-jingu (鵜戸神宮)



Udo-jingu is known as the representative temple of Miyazaki Prefecture. It is believed to be mythical birthplace of the first Emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇). The shrine is painted with beautiful bright colors alongside a giant cliff overlooking the ocean.



What is very unique is that the shrine is built in a cave under the sea cliffs. According to legend, the goddess of the waves cut down the cliffs to make caves here, which brought them to decided to build the shrine here. It is also believed that drinking the water that drips from these rocks will be beneficial for pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, and women hoping to have a child. Udo-jingu is a very unique Japanese shrine that has become a new favorite of ours.



Natural landscape known as "Ghost Washboard" (鬼的洗衣板).

Udo-jingu (鵜戸神宮)
Google Maps
Parking available
💻Official homepage (JPN)

Sun Messe Nichinan (サンメッセ日南)



Sun Messe Nichinan is a place where you can see seven moai statues built on the coastal hill. The Sun Messe statues here the only replicas allowed to be made of the originals in the entire world. But why here though? When the Moai statue of the eastern island in Chile became difficult to preserve due to natural disasters and civil wars, a research and restoration team was formed in 1990 to contribute to world peace in Japan. In recognition of his efforts to restore the Moai statue for about three years in cooperation with the locals, Miyazaki was allowed to have the only Moai statue to be completely restored in the world.

Sun Messe Nichinan (サンメッセ日南)
Google Maps

Parking available
📅Regular holiday: 1st and 3rd Wednesday 
💴Adults 700yen, Jr. high 500yen, Elementary 350yen
💻Official homepage (JPN)

Miyazaki's Representative Dish 
"Chicken Nanban"



Chicken nanban (チキン南蛮) is basically fried chicken breast dipped in a soy sauce and vinegar sauce covered in tartar sauce, and when you travel to Miyazaki, it is one of THE most recommended foods. It is, of course, a very common food in Japan, but you haven't lived until you've tried the chicken nanban from Miyazaki.



Shanshan Chaya (シャンシャン茶屋)
Google Maps

Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡)



Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡) is one of Miyazaki's most beautiful scenic spots. The  V-shaped gorge was formed from lava from Mount Aso which over time eroded to create 80~100m high volcanic basalt cliffs which are said to resemble dragon scales. Along the river, you will run into waterfalls which can be viewed both from above (the cliffs) and below (while rowing down the river).



You can rent a boat along the southern end of the gorge which is highly recommended!

★Boat information
⏰8:30am~5pm (renting time ends at 4:30pm)
💴2000yen/30mins



Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡)
Google Maps

Paid parking available (500 yen)
💻Official homepage (JPN)

Amanoyasugawara (天安河原)



A 10-minute walk along the Iwato River from the Amanoiwato West Shrine is the large cavern where, according to legend, the pantheon of all the gods and goddesses conferred on how to get the sun goddess Amaterasu to come out of the rock cave and end the darkness of the world. The cavern is also called the Gyobogaiwa. Originally there was only a shrine structure on the riverbank, but over the years many visiting pilgrims carried stones to the site and arranged them in piles. The immense array of stone piles now standing on the Amayasu riverbank adds a mystical and fantastic aura to the site.



Umagase (馬ヶ背)



The 70 m-high precipitous cliff that has cracked into hexagonal columns offers a magnificent view. The unobstructed panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean at the tip of the cape reminds you that the earth is spherical. There is a free observatory and a parking lot. If it gets dark, you can not see anything, so please go before the sun goes down.

Umagase (馬ヶ背)
Google Maps

Gokase Campsite (五ヶ瀬の里キャンプ村)



The place where we stayed at in Miyazaki Prefecture was Gokase no Sato Camp. The reason we chose this place, which is also a campsite and hostel, is that 20mins by car from here is a stunning view of the sea.

Gokase Campsite (五ヶ瀬の里キャンプ村)
Google Maps

🏨Reservations (Booking.com)
💻Official homepage (JPN)



KUMAMOTO
Being located on the west coast of Kyushu, Kumamoto is mainly known for Kumamoto Castle and delicious "karashi renkon",  boiled lotus root stuffed with spicy mustard and miso.

 

Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine
(上色見熊野座神社)



Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine is a name that is difficult to memorize at once. It is a sightseeing spot that has been attracting attention from people all over the globe recently in Kumamoto. Approximately 100 stone lanterns and moss on both sides of the steep mountain trail leads to a very dreamy and mysterious atmosphere, which is also used in the animation "Firefly Forest".



Beyond the shrine, you can see these giant rocks in the middle called "Ugetoiwa" (穿戸岩) at the top of the mountain. It is said that it is a place to pray for acceptance and victory by achieving the most difficult goal. 



Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine
(上色見熊野座神社)
Google Maps

Takamori Dengakuho Zonkai
(高森田楽保存会)



Takamori Dengakuho Zonkai (高森田楽保存会) is a restaurant whose whole purpose is preserving the local cuisine of Kumamoto Prefecture. In traditional Japanese houses, there is a sunken fireplace called an "irori" (囲炉裏) in the center of the house. The menu that had here was Japanese miso soup, made with red miso (compared to white miso or a combo of the two) and with local ingredients inside the soup like mountain fish, taro (里芋), tofu, and konjac.



This restaurant is a place where you can sit down and taste legitimate authentic Kumamoto food which makes it worth the stop.

Takamori Dengakuho Zonkai (高森田楽保存会)
Google Maps

💻Official homepage (JPN)

Mount Aso (阿蘇山)



Aso Mountain is an active volcano located in Kumamoto Prefecture. It has a volcanic activity to 1,592m above sea level, and as a caldera volcano belonging to a huge axis around the world, it is the symbol of Kumamoto who gave it the nickname of "the roof of Kyushu".



Tourists can take the ropeway around Mt. Aso and ride the plains created by the magma below the mountain, but you are (obviously) denied access when there is a high risk of volcanic eruptions.



Mount Aso (阿蘇山)
Google Maps

💻Aso City homepage information (JPN)

🚙Check out our short video of our trip to southern Kyushu!🚙

Be sure to look at JAPANKURU🐶 for more exciting articles every day!!

Or add us on Instagram and Facebook to share your Japanese pictures💖🗾

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    • HOKKAIDO

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      Hokkaido (北海道) is the northernmost of the four main islands that make up Japan. The area is famous for Sapporo Beer, plus brewing and distilling in general, along with fantastic snow festivals and breathtaking national parks. Foodies should look for Hokkaido's famous potatoes, cantaloupe, dairy products, soup curry, and miso ramen!

    • Niki, in south-west Hokkaido, is about 30 minutes from Otaru. The small town is rich with natural resources, fresh water, and clean air, making it a thriving center for fruit farms. Cherries, tomatoes, and grapes are all cultivated in the area, and thanks to a growing local wine industry, it's quickly becoming a food and wine hotspot. Together with the neighboring town of Yoichi, it's a noted area for wine tourism.

    • Niseko is about two hours from New Chitose Airport, in the western part of Hokkaido. It's one of Japan's most noted winter resort areas, and a frequent destination for international visitors. That's all because of the super high-quality powder snow, which wins the hearts of beginners and experts alike, bringing them back for repeat visits. That's not all, though, it's also a great place to enjoy Hokkaido's culinary scene and some beautiful onsen (hot springs).

    • Otaru is in western Hokkaido, about 30 minutes from Sapporo Station. The city thrived around its busy harbor in the 19th and 20th centuries thanks to active trade and fishing, and the buildings remaining from that period are still popular attractions, centered around Otaru Canal. With its history as a center of fishing, it's no surprise that the area's fresh sushi is a must-try. Otaru has over 100 sushi shops, quite a few of which are lined up on Sushiya Dori (Sushi Street).

    • SAPPORO

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      Sapporo, in the south-western part of Hokkaido, is the prefecture's political and economic capital. The local New Chitose Airport see arrivals from major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, alongside international flights. Every February, the Sapporo Snow Festival is held in Odori Park―one of the biggest events in Hokkaido. It's also a hotspot for great food, known as a culinary treasure chest, and Sapporo is a destination for ramen, grilled mutton, soup curry, and of course Hokkaido's beloved seafood.

    • Consisting of six prefectures, the Tohoku Region (東北地方) is up in the northeastern part of Japan's main island. It's the source of plenty of the nation's agriculture (which means great food), and packed with beautiful scenery. Explore the region's stunning mountains, lakes, and hot springs!

    • Akita Prefecture is on the Sea of Japan, in the northern reaches of Japan's northern Tohoku region. Akita has more officially registered important intangible culture assets than anywhere else in Japan, and to this day visitors can experience traditional culture throughout the prefecture, from the Oga Peninsula's Namahage (registered with UNESCO as a part of Japan's intangible cultural heritage), to the Tohoku top 3 Kanto Festival. Mysterious little spots like the Oyu Stone Circle Site and Ryu no Atama (Dragon's Head) are also worth a visit!

    • FUKUSHIMA

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      Fukushima Prefecture sits at the southern tip of Japan's northern Tohoku region, and is divided into three parts with their own different charms: the Coastal Area (Hama-dori), the Central Area (Naka-dori), and the Aizu Area. There's Aizu-Wakamatsu with its Edo-era history and medieval castles, Oze National Park, Kitakata ramen, and Bandai Ski Resort (with its famous powder snow). Fukushima is a beautiful place to enjoy the vivid colors and sightseeing of Japan's beloved four seasons.

    • YAMAGATA

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      Yamagata Prefecture is up against the Sea of Japan, in the southern part of the Tohoku region, and it's especially popular in winter, when travelers soak in the onsen (hot springs) and ski down snowy slopes. International skiiers are especially fond of Zao Onsen Ski Resort and Gassan Ski Resort, and in recent years visitors have been drawn to the area to see the mystical sight of local frost-covered trees. Some destinations are popular regardless of the season, like Risshakuji Temple, AKA Yamadera, Ginzan Onsen's nostalgic old-fashioned streets, and Zao's Okama Lake, all great for taking pictures. Yamagata is also the place to try Yonezawa beef, one of the top 3 varieties of wagyu beef.

    • Japan's most densely populated area, the Kanto Region (関東地方) includes 7 prefectures: Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa, which means it also contains the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. In modern-day Japan, Kanto is the cultural, political, and economic heartland of the country, and each prefecture offers something a little different from its neighbors.

    • Gunma Prefecture is easily accessible from Tokyo, and in addition to the area's popular natural attractions like Oze Marshland and Fukiware Falls, Gunma also has a number of popular hot springs (Kusatsu, Ikaho, Minakami, Shima)―it's even called an Onsen Kingdom. The prefecture is popular with history buffs and train lovers, thanks to spots like world heritage site Tomioka Silk Mill, the historic Megane-bashi Bridge, and the Watarase Keikoku Sightseeing Railway.

    • TOCHIGI

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      Tochigi Prefecture's capital is Utsunomiya, known for famous gyoza, and just an hour from Tokyo. The prefecture is full of nature-related sightseeing opportunities year-round, from the blooming of spring flowers to color fall foliage. Tochigi also has plenty of extremely well-known sightseeing destinations, like World Heritage Site Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, and Ashikaga Flower Park―famous for expansive wisteria trellises. In recent years the mountain resort town of Nasu has also become a popular excursion, thanks in part to the local imperial villa. Tochigi is a beautiful place to enjoy the world around you.

    • Tokyo (東京) is Japan's busy capital, and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. While the city as a whole is quite modern, crowded with skyscrapers and bustling crowds, Tokyo also holds onto its traditional side in places like the Imperial Palace and Asakusa neighborhood. It's one of the world's top cities when it comes to culture, the arts, fashion, games, high-tech industries, transportation, and more.

    • The Chubu Region (中部地方) is located right in the center of Japan's main island, and consists of 9 prefectures: Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama, and Yamanashi. It's primarily famous for its mountains, as the region contains both Mt. Fuji and the Japanese Alps. The ski resorts in Niigata and Nagano also draw visitors from around the world, making it a popular winter destination.

    • Nagano Prefecture's popularity starts with a wealth of historic treasures, like Matsumoto Castle, Zenkoji Temple, and Togakushi Shrine, but the highlight might just be the prefecture's natural vistas surrounded by the "Japanese Alps." Nagano's fruit is famous, and there are plenty of places to pick it fresh, and the area is full of hot springs, including Jigokudani Monkey Park―where monkeys take baths as well! Thanks to the construction of the Hokuriku shinkansen line, Nagano is easily reachable from the Tokyo area, adding it to plenty of travel itineraries. And after the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, ski resorts like Hakuba and Shiga Kogen are known around the world.

    • Aichi Prefecture sits in the center of the Japanese islands, and its capital city, Nagoya, is a center of politics, commerce, and culture. While Aichi is home to major industry, and is even the birthplace of Toyota cars, it's proximity to the sea and the mountains means it's also a place with beautiful natural scenery, like Saku Island, Koijigahama Beach, Mt. Horaiji. Often used a stage for major battles in Japanese history, Sengoku era commanders like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu left their own footprints on Aichi, and historic buildings like Nagoya Castle, Inuyama Castle, and those in Meiji Mura are still around to tell the tale.

    • NIIGATA

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      Niigata is a prefecture on Japan's main island of Honshu, situated right on the coast of the Sea of Japan, and abundant with the gifts of nature. It's known for popular ski resorts such as Echigo-Yuzawa, Japanese national parks, and natural hot spring baths, plus local products like fresh seafood, rice, and sake. Visitors often spend time in the prefectural capital, Niigata City, or venture across the water to Sado Island.

    • SHIZUOKA

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      Shizuoka Prefecture is sandwiched between eastern and western Japan, giving the prefecture easy access to both Tokyo and Osaka. Not only is it known for beautiful natural attractions, with everything from Mount Fuji to Suruga Bay, Lake Hamanako, and Sumata Pass―Shizuoka's Izu Peninsula is known as a go-to spot for hot springs lovers, with famous onsen like Atami, Ito, Shimoda, Shuzenji, and Dogashima. Shizuoka attracts all kinds of travelers thanks to historic connections with the Tokugawa clan, the Oigawa Railway, fresh eel cuisine, Hamamatsu gyoza, and famously high-quality green tea.

    • Kansai (関西) is a region that includes Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and Shiga Prefectures. Kansai contained Japan's ancient capital for hundreds of years, and it's making a comeback as one of the most popular parts of Japan. Kyoto's temples and shrines, Osaka Castle, and the deer of Nara are all considered must-sees. Plus, the people of Kansai are especially friendly, making it a fun place to hang out.

    • Kyoto flourished as the capital of Japan between the years 794 and 1100, becoming a center for poilitics and culture, and to this day it's a great place for close encounters with Japanese history. The cobbled streets of Gion, the atmospheric road to Kiyomizudera Temple, Kinkakuji's golden walls and countless historic attractions, even Arashiyama's Togetsukyo Bridge―Kyoto is a place of many attractions. With new charms to experience throughout the seasons, travelers can't stop themselves from returning again and again.

    • Nara Prefecture's important history reaches back to 710, a time now called the Nara era, when it was once capital of Japan. Called "Heijo-kyo" during its time as a capital, it's said that nara was once the end of the silk road, leading it to flourish as a uniquely international region and produce important cultural properties of all kinds. To make the most of each season, travelers head to Nara Park, where the Nara deer who wander freely, or climb Mount Yoshino, a famous cherry blossom spot.

    • Osaka is known for friendly (and funny) people, but its history is nothing to laugh at, playing a major part in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's 16th century unification of Japan. Thanks to long years of economic activity, it's one of Japan's biggest cities, and Osaka's popular food culture earned it the nickname "The Kitchen of the Nation." To this day Osaka is the model of western Japan, and alongside historic structures like Osaka Castle, it also has major shopping malls like Umeda's Grand Front Osaka and Tennoji's Abeno Harukas. Osaka is a place to eat, eat, eat, with local specialties like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushi-katsu, and for extra fun, it's home to Universal Studios Japan.

    • CHUGOKU

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      The Chugoku Region (中国地方) consists of five prefectures: Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori, and Yamaguchi. In Chugoku you’ll find the sand dunes of Tottori, and Hiroshima’s atomic bomb site, plus centers of ancient history like Grand Shrine of Izumo.

    • HIROSHIMA

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      Hiroshima Prefecture has everything, from world heritage sites to beautiful nature and delicious local cuisine, and it's either an hour and a half from Tokyo by plane, or four hours by train. Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island and the Atomic Bomb Dome, two Hiroshima UNESCO sites, are famous around the world, but in Japan it's also famous for food. Seafood from the Seto Inland Sea, especially oysters, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, and Setouchi lemons are all popular, and the natural scenery alone is worth seeing.

    • SHIKOKU

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      On the other side of the Seto Inland Sea opposite Japan’s main island, Shikoku (四国) is a region made up of four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, and Tokushima. The area is famous for its udon (in Kagawa), and the beautiful Dogo Onsen hot springs (in Ehime).

    • Kagawa Prefecture is on the northern part of the island of Shikoku, facing Japan's main island and the Seto Inland Sea. It's known for being the smallest prefecture in Japan, by area, but at the same time Kagawa is called the "Udon Prefecture" thanks to its famous sanuki udon. Aside from Kotohiragu Shrine and Ritsurin Garden, the prefecture's small islands are popular, and Kagawa is full of unique destinations, like Angel Road. They say that if you lay eyes on Zenigata Sunae, a huge Kagawa sand painting, you'll never have money troubles ever again.

    • Located in the most southwestern part of Japan, Kyushu (九州) is an island of 7 prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima. The island's unique culture has been influenced by Chinese and Dutch trade, along with missionaries coming in through Nagasaki's port. Modern-day travelers love the lush natural scenery and fresh food, plus the natural hot springs found all throughout the area (thanks to volcanic activity)!

    • FUKUOKA

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      Fukuoka Prefecture has the highest population on the southern island of Kyushu, with two major cities: Fukuoka and Kitakyushu. Thanks to growing transportation networks, Fukuoka is more accessible than ever, and so are the many local attractions. On top of historical spots like Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, travelers shouldn't miss Fukuoka's food scene, with motsu nabe (offal hotpot), mentaiko (spicy cod roe), and famous Hakata ramen―best eaten from a food stall in the Nakasu area of Hakata. Plus, it's full of all sorts of destinations for travelers, like trendy shopping centers, and the beautiful nature of Itoshima and Yanagawa.

    • KAGOSHIMA

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      Kagoshima Prefecture played a major role in Japan's modernization as a backdrop for famous historical figures like samurais Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi, who pushed Japan out of the Edo era and into the Meiji. Because of that, Sengan-en Garden is just one of many historical destinations, and when it comes to attractions Kagoshima has plenty: the active volcano of Sakurajima, popular hot springs Ibusuki Onsen and Kirishima Onsen, World Heritage Site Yakushima Island, even what Japan calls the "island closest to heaven," Amami Oshima. Kagoshima might be found on the very southernmost tip of the southern island of Kyushu, but there's plenty to see.

    • OKINAWA

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      The island chain of Okinawa (沖縄) makes up the southernmost tip of Japan, which is why it's also the most tropical area in the country. Thanks to a history of independence and totally distinct political and cultural events, Okinawa has a unique culture, and remnants of the Ryukyu Kingdom are still visible all over the islands. Food, language, traditional dress, it's all a little different! It's also said to be the birthplace of karate.

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