Kyushu Rail Pass

The Kyushu Rail Pass by JR Kyushu is a rail pass for exclusive use by foreign visitors to Japan, providing unlimited travel on JR trains on the island of Kyushu (except the Sanyo Shinkansen ) for two, three, five or seven consecutive days.

Below are maps of the train lines, which can be used with the JR Kyushu Rail Pass:

  • Unlimited use of JR Kyushu trains on Kyushu , including all trains along the Kyushu Shinkansen (Fukuoka-Kagoshima), Nishikyushu Shinkansen and limited express trains, but excluding the Sanyo Shinkansen (Fukuoka-Osaka, operated by JR West). The Northern Kyushu version of the pass is not valid south of Oita and Misumi , while the Southern Kyushu version is not valid north of Kumamoto and Oita.
  • Seat reservations can be made for free. There is an upper limit of six free seat reservations for the Northern and Southern Kyushu passes, but there is no limit for the All Kyushu Pass. Seat reservations can also be made via an online reservation for 1000-1500 yen.
  • The pass is valid on consecutive days. The validity is based on calendar days (midnight to midnight) as opposed to 24-hour periods.
  • Only foreign temporary visitors to Japan can use the Kyushu Rail Pass. It cannot be used by residents of Japan.

Points of sale

The Kyushu Rail Pass can be purchased through various websites on the internet , through travel agencies outside of Japan and at a few major JR railway stations and travel agencies in Kyushu (note that the northern and southern versions are only sold in their respective coverage areas). If purchasing the pass outside of Japan or via the internet, the actual pass has to be picked up at a major station in the area covered before use.

Seat reservations

This pass can be of good value, as a roundtrip between Fukuoka and Kagoshima alone costs around 20,000 yen by regular tickets, which is the same as the cost of a 3-day pass.

Alternative tickets

The Sun Q Pass is a similar offer to the Kyushu Rail Pass except that it is valid on local buses and highway buses instead of trains. Depending on the itinerary, either pass could be more suitable. Unlike the Kyushu Rail Pass, the Sun Q Pass is also available to residents of Japan.

The Fukuoka Wide Pass is a digital 2-day pass, which covers JR trains just around Fukuoka Prefecture , i.e. its coverage area is even smaller than that of the Northern Kyushu Pass.

Questions? Ask in our forum .

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 Go on a Kyushu Roadtrip with these 3 Transportation Passes

kyushu tourist pass

Kyushu is brimming with many charms–its hot springs, natural spots, and historical landmarks are scattered all over the region. 

If you would like to visit Kyushu, you'll definitely want to see many famous sightseeing spots and hot springs. Here are three transportation passes, including a pass that allows unlimited rides on the JR Line as well as a pass that allows unlimited rides on the bus.

1)JR Kyushu Rail Pass (All, North, South)

kyushu tourist pass

If you’re a foreign visitor to Japan, the JR Kyushu Rail Pass (All, North, South) is a pass that you’ll definitely want while traveling around Kyushu.

You can use each of the JR Lines within the designated section. Select from three areas: the whole of Kyushu, northern Kyushu, or southern Kyushu. The number of days can also be selected, depending on the area. 

Besides limited express trains running in the designated area, reserved seats on the Shinkansen (Mizuho, Sakura, Tsubame) can be used too (except for between Hakata and Kokura). 

Please note that there is an additional charge for using green cars (the equivalent of business class seats). Reservations for reserved seats can be made on the JR Kyushu Rail Pass Online Booking site. Other visitors can make reservations at the JR Kyushu Station Ticket Office after arriving in Japan.  

Price / Duration

【All Kyushu Area Pass】 3 days Adult ¥17,000/Child ¥8,500 5 days Adult  ¥18,500/Child ¥9,250 7 days Adult ¥20,000/Child ¥10,000   【Northern Kyushu Area Pass】 3 days Adult ¥10,000/Child ¥5,000 5 days Adult  ¥14,000/Child ¥7,000   【Southern Kyushu Area Pass】 3 days Adult ¥8,000 /Child ¥4,000  ※Adult: 12 years old and older  ※Child: 6 to 11 years old

  Pass usage area

【All Kyushu Area Pass】

kyushu tourist pass

Trains stated below within the whole Kyushu area including Shimonoseki

・Local trains ・Limited express trains ・Shinkansen(Hakata - Kagoshima-chuo) ※Shinkansen (between Kokura and Hakata), subways, buses or private railways are not applicable.

【Northern Kyushu Area】

kyushu tourist pass

Trains stated below covering Kumamoto/Misumi and the area north of Oita

・Local trains ・Limited express trains ・Shinkansen(Hakata - Kumamoto) ※Shinkansen (between Kokura and Hakata), subways, buses or private railways are not applicable.

【Southern Kyushu Area Pass】

kyushu tourist pass

How to purchase a pass

Refer to the official website.

※Check the end of this article for the link to the official website

Recommended sightseeing spots within the pass area

【For the Northern Kyushu Area Pass】

kyushu tourist pass

(Fukuoka) Hakata Station, Tenjin, Kokura; (Saga) Karatsu; (Nagasaki) Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Peace Park; (Kumamoto) Mt. Aso, Kumamoto Castle; (Oita) Yufuin, Beppu, and more!   Enjoy the Kokura area and then head to Karatsu, one of Kyushu's leading pottery towns. At Nagasaki, look around Chinatown and take in the night scenery at Mt. Inasa and the Aso area of Kumamoto, which is rich with nature. It is also recommended to heal the exhaustion of traveling around hot spring villages such as Yufuin and Beppu. And when you get hungry, try the tonkotsu ramen (pork bone broth noodle soup), motsunabe (beef or pork tripe stew), yakitori (skewered chicken), and more.   

【For the Southern Kyushu Area Pass】

kyushu tourist pass

(Kumamoto) Aso, Hitoyoshi hot spring; (Miyazaki) Aoshima, Nichinan Waterfront; (Kagoshima) Ibusuki, Makurazaki, Kirishima Jingu    Besides taking in a breathtaking view of the peak of Mt. Aso, you can tour spectacular beach spots such as Aoshima, which is also a well-known spiritual spot; the Ibusuki area, famous for its Sunamushi Onsen(where you’re buried in sand from the neck down); and Makurazaki, where bonito fishing is a popular activity.

2)JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Fukuoka Wide)

kyushu tourist pass

A pass that covers not only the main sightseeing areas in the Fukuoka Prefecture but also the Karatsu area in the Saga Prefecture. Unreserved seats on limited express trains and regular trains can be used freely. The period of use is two consecutive days.

( 2 consecutive days) Adult ¥3,060/Child ¥1,530 ※Adult: 12 years old and older  ※Child: 6 to 11 years old

kyushu tourist pass

 Unreserved seats on limited express trains (excluding the Shinkansen) and regular trains in the main areas of the Fukuoka Prefecture and the Karatsu area of Saga Prefecture can be used freely.  ※ Railway lines other than JR Kyushu such as Kyushu Shinkansen, Sanyo Shinkansen, Seven Stars in Kyushu, JR Kyushu Bus, Fukuoka City Subway, and Kitakyushu Monorail are not included in the pass.

Refer to the official website 

Recommended sightseeing spots within the pass range

(Fukuoka) Hakata, Umi-no-Nakamichi, Mojiko, Kurume, (Yamaguchi) Shimonoseki, Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge, (Saga) Karatsu, Tosu City and more.

  Take a walk around Umi-no-Nakamichi and the retro cityscape of Mojiko area, where seasonal flowers and leisure activities abound. Local attractions such as Shimonoseki and Kurume are also recommended for visitors who have never been to Japan before.

What are the differences between the JR Kyushu Rail Passes and JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Fukuoka Wide) introduced above? 

There are three JR Kyushu Rail Passes: Northern Kyushu, Southern Kyushu, as well as an All Area Pass. If you visit Japan, purchase your pass according to the area you want to visit and the length of your stay. 

The JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Fukuoka Wide) is mainly for those sightseeing in the Fukuoka Prefecture, and is recommended for those who would like to extend their sightseeing to other spots along with Fukuoka. Decide in advance where you would like to be based and which area you would like to visit, and then consider which pass is best for you.

3) SunQPass: Unlimited rides on regular fixed-route buses, highway buses, and ferries

kyushu tourist pass

A pass that allows unlimited rides on regular fixed-route buses, highway buses, and ferries in the designated areas. There are four types of passes:    1 [Northern Kyushu + Shimonoseki] Unlimited rides for 3 consecutive days: ¥9,000  2 [Southern Kyushu] Unlimited rides for 3 consecutive days: ¥8,000 3 [All Kyushu + Shimonoseki] Unlimited rides for 3 consecutive days: ¥11,000  4 [All Kyushu + Shimonoseki] Unlimited rides for 4 consecutive days: ¥14,000    Northern Kyushu + Shimonoseki Pass 1 includes the route to / from Fukuoka Airport. The Southern Kyushu Pass 2 is within the range of areas with buses departing from and arriving at the airport, such as routes to and from Kumamoto Airport, so you can use the passes immediately after arriving at the airport. 

In addition, Pass 4, which covers all of Kyushu, can be used an unlimited amount of times on about 2,400 routes, including highway buses and general route buses! So, if you want to go around every nook and cranny of Kyushu, it won’t be a waste of cash and it is relatively easy to use. Buses that accept the SUNQPass generally have a sticker on the front and next to the boarding area. Check for the sticker and hop on. Don’t forget to show your pass to the driver when you get off.    Furthermore, there are some routes that require reservations and some routes that do not require them, so once you have decided where you’re going, check to see if you need to make a reservation. If you need to make a reservation, contact the Kyushu Express Bus Reservation Center or check out the official website. After making your reservation, make sure to pick up your ticket at the counter and hop on the bus. 

With the pass, discounts and special benefits can be obtained at popular tourist facilities, restaurants, and accommodations in each area. Check the official website before you go!  

Passes can be purchased on the Internet(It can be booked in English), at the bus operator service desks, designated travel agencies, or convenience stores.

Recommended sightseeing spots within the pass range 

1 [Northern Kyushu + Shimonoseki] (Yamaguchi) Shimonoseki, Karato Market; (Fukuoka) Tenjin, Hakata; (Saga) Yobuko, Ureshino; (Oita) Yufuin, Beppu; (Nagasaki) Nagasaki City, Huis Ten Bosch, and more.   2 [Southern Kyushu] (Miyazaki) Aoshima, Takachiho; (Kagoshima) Sakurajima, Sengan-en; (Kumamoto) Kumamoto Castle, Mt. Aso, etc.   3 & 4 [All Kyushu + Shimonoseki] Covers all of the above areas   With an Area 1 Pass, enjoy shopping in Tenjin, the No. 1 shopping district in Kyushu, and then savor fresh squid at Yobuko and bask in Oita's famous hot spring village. With an Area 2 Pass, you can take a ferry tour of Sakurajima, the symbol of Kagoshima, and relish natural spots such as lush green areas, islands, and Aso, as well as historical spots such as Kumamoto Castle.  

Refer to the following for more information on the facilities mentioned in this article.

https://www.japan.travel/en/destinations/kyushu/

About Kyushu Hot Springs and Superb Views of the sea

https://www.japan.travel/en/my/solo-japan/overflowing-delicious-local-cuisines-beautiful-views-top-picked-/

https://www.japan.travel/en/my/fascinating-suburb-japan/five-spectacular-views-kyushu-okinawa-region/

JR Kyushu Rail Pass(All, North, South) https://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/english/railpass/how_to_purchase.html

JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Fukuoka Wide) https://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/english/widepass/purchase/

SunQPass http://www.sunqpass.jp/english/

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How to Use JR Kyushu Rail Pass

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

How to Use JR Kyushu Rail Pass

If you’re planning on visiting Kyushu during your time in Japan, the JR Kyushu Rail Pass is a convenient and affordable option for sightseeing on the island. It offers unlimited travel on JR trains across Kyushu (except for the Sanyo Shinkansen) for either two, three or five consecutive days. Validity is based on calendar days, rather than 24-hour periods, and the pass is only available for temporary visitors to Japan (not residents). Click here for reservation

JR Kyushu Rail Pass

There are six types of JR Kyushu Rail Pass available, which differ depending on their validity period and the area covered:

N.B. The Shinkansen between Kokura and Hakata is not covered by the JR Kyushu Rail Pass.

How to buy a JR Kyushu Rail Pass

The JR Kyushu Rail Pass can be purchased at here and other online platforms, as well as at designated overseas travel agencies. Click here for reservation

If you’re already in Japan, you can also purchase them at JR Ticket Offices (Midori no Madoguchi) at select stations in Kyushu. Keep in mind that the JR Kyushu Rail Pass - North is not available for sale at stations in Southern Kyushu while the JR Kyushu Rail Pass - South is not available for sale at stations in Northern Kyushu. If you’ve purchased a JR Kyushu Rail Pass outside of Japan, you’ll be issued with a pass voucher that needs to be redeemed at a JR Ticket Office on arrival.

JR Rail Pass Counter

JR Rail Pass Counter

How to reserve a seat

When you’re using the JR Kyushu Rail Pass-All, the JR Kyushu Rail Pass - North or the JR Kyushu Rail Pass - South, you can board non-reserved seat trains without having to reserve a seat. However, it’s recommended that you reserve a seat for trains that are all-reserved and on popular sightseeing trains to ensure you have a place to sit. There are two options when it comes to reserving a seat - you can book online or at a JR Ticket Office. You can make seat reservations at the JR Ticket Office at each JR Kyushu station with no extra charge. If you purchased your pass through an overseas travel agency designated as a "JR Kyushu Rail Pass Online Booking”, you can utilize the online reservation service. An addition charge of between 800 and 1,000 yen applies, with a list of applicable trains available at here .

JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Fukuoka Wide)

The JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Fukuoka Wide) can be used for sightseeing in and around Fukuoka City, as well as accessing the ancient castle town of Kokura and Shimonoseki.

The JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Fukuoka Wide) Area

The JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Fukuoka Wide) AreaPhoto by : JR Kyushu Railway Company

See the wooden Buddha of Tōchō-ji and learn about life in the Meiji and Taishō eras at the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum, then explore the ruins of the 17th-century Fukuoka Castle in Maizuru Park. Jump aboard the Sarakurayama Cable Car that offers sweeping views across the city of Kitakyūshū, then travel to the westernmost city on Honshu - Shimonoseki. Highlights here include the Kaikyokan Aquarium and the Kaikyo Yume Tower, as well as the Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel that links the city to Kyushu.

Sarakurayama Cable Car

Sarakurayama Cable Car

Mt. Sarakura image

Kanmon Bridge

Mojiko image

JR Kyushu Rail Pass - North

Travellers wanting to explore Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Beppu should opt for the JR Kyushu Rail Pass - North.

Northern Kyushu Area Pass

Northern Kyushu Area PassPhoto by : JR Kyushu Railway Company

After discovering the sights of Fukuoka, you can travel southwest to Nagasaki to learn about the nuclear attack that took place here during World War II at the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park. Witness the 17th-century Kumamoto Castle and admire the works on display at the Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art, then enjoy a soak in the natural hot springs of Beppu Onsen.

Beppu Onsen Jigoku Hell Tour

Beppu Onsen Jigoku Hell Tour

Beppu Onsen Jigoku Hell Tour

10-29 Tanoyumachi Beppu Oita

Agoda

Nagasaki Peace Park

Nagasaki Peace Park

Kujukushima pearl sea resort

Kujuku Islands image

JR Kyushu Rail Pass - South

The JR Kyushu Rail Pass - South covers the cities of Kumamoto, Oita, Kagoshima and Miyazaki.

Southern Kyushu Area Pass

Southern Kyushu Area PassPhoto by : JR Kyushu Railway Company

From Kumamoto, you can travel south to the seaside city of Kagoshima to walk along the Nagisa Lava Trail beneath the active volcano of Sakurajima. Then continue east to Miyazaki to explore the magnificent Takachiho Gorge, which was created during the rapid cooling of an ancient lava flow. Aside from featuring the onsen towns of Beppu and Yufuin, Oita is also home to the Kunisaki Peninsula that’s renowned for its charming countryside dotted with spiritual sites.

Takachiho Gorge

Takachiho Gorge

Takachiho Gorge

Miyazaki One Day Tour from Fukuoka with Japanese Beef Lunch

Update date:2024/07/13

Kagoshima City Tram

Kagoshima City Tram

Sakurajima

JR Kyushu Rail Pass - All

If you want to explore the entire island of Kyushu, the JR Kyushu Rail Pass is highly recommended.

All Kyushu Area Pass

All Kyushu Area PassPhoto by : JR Kyushu Railway Company

You can visit all of the region’s major cities and natural sights, as well as its onsen towns. The pass can also be used on one of the island’s unique sightseeing trains that offer a slower journey so you can enjoy the spectacular views. A highlight is the JR Hisatsu Line between Yatsuhiro Station in Kumamoto prefecture and Hayato Station in Kagoshima prefecture, which is considered by many to be one of the most scenic rail journeys in Japan.

Yufuin no Mori

Yufuin no Mori

A-Train

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JR Kyushu Pass: Where To Buy & Is It Worth It In 2023?

  • Rail Passes , Kyushu

If you’re planning a trip to the beautiful island of Kyushu in southern Japan, the All Kyushu Pass is a travel pass that you don’t want to miss. This pass allows you to explore the region’s diverse landscapes and attractions at your own pace, and it offers great value for money.

It offers tourists unlimited rides on JR Kyushu lines throughout the region and can be used on Shinkansen (bullet train) services as well.

With the pass, travelers can save money while they explore all that the island has to offer — from world-famous hot springs in Beppu and Kurokawa Onsen to bustling cities like Fukuoka and Nagasaki.

The most popular type of pass is the “all-Kyushu” version which covers travel between Kumamoto City in central Kyushu down to Kagoshima City in Southwestern Kyushu. It also includes access to some express trains like Sonic Limited Express service between Hakata Station and Kagoshima Chuo Station.

The price for an adult is just 14,000 yen which is a pretty good deal considering how much ground it covers!

For those who don’t need access to all parts of the prefecture but still want a great value option, there are two “regional” passes available. The Northern Kyushu Pass covers travel between Kumamoto City and Oita City, while the Western Kyushu Pass is valid for trips between Fukuoka Station and Sasebo Station. Both cost just 8,000 yen per adult which is still a great deal.

It should be noted that to purchase any of these passes, you have to be either a tourist from overseas or someone who does not reside in Japan. Additionally, all passes must be purchased outside of Japan at designated sales offices (not available in-country).

So if you’re planning an adventurous trip around Kyushu Island but don’t want to break the bank doing it, consider getting yourself a Kyushu Rail Pass! You’ll get unlimited access to JR services throughout the prefecture as well as discounts on some express trains — making your journey even more enjoyable.

What is the All Kyushu Pass?

The All Kyushu Pass is a discount travel pass that allows you to travel freely on the trains and buses of Kyushu, including the Kyushu Shinkansen. The pass is available in 3-day, 5-day, and 7-day options, and it can be used on a consecutive or non-consecutive basis.

Where Can I Use the All Kyushu Pass?

The All Kyushu Pass can be used on trains and buses throughout Kyushu, including the Kyushu Shinkansen. This includes popular destinations such as Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, and more. The pass also allows you to travel to the neighboring island of Okinawa.

How Much Does the All Kyushu Pass Cost?

The All Kyushu Pass is available in 3-day, 5-day, and 7-day options, with prices ranging from 16,500 yen to 25,000 yen. Children’s fares are also available at a discounted rate.

How Do I Buy the All Kyushu Pass?

The All Kyushu Pass can be purchased online or at designated sales offices in Japan. If you’re planning to purchase the pass online, you’ll need to pick up your pass at a designated exchange office once you arrive in Japan.

Tips for Using the All Kyushu Pass

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your All Kyushu Pass:

  • Plan your route in advance to make the most of your pass.
  • Use the pass on the Kyushu Shinkansen to save money on long-distance travel.
  • Don’t forget to validate your pass at the designated machines before boarding your train or bus.
  • Take advantage of the free or discounted admission offered at participating attractions.
  • If you’re traveling in a group, consider purchasing a Group All Kyushu Pass for even more savings.

The All Kyushu Pass is a great way to explore the beautiful and diverse region of Kyushu at your own pace. Whether you’re interested in natural beauty, history, or modern city life, Kyushu has something for everyone. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to see the best of what southern Japan has to offer!

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All You Need to Know about JR Kyūshū Regional Rail Passes

JR Kyūshū passes cover rail travel in — you guessed it — Kyūshū . If you’re keen to explore this fascinating, onsen-y island, these rail passes — covering all of Kyūshū or just the northern or southern half — can save you money. Read on to find out how, and how much.

Overview of JR Kyūshū passes

JR Kyūshū offers three different rail passes: one for all of Kyūshū, one for the northern half of the island, and another for the southern half of the island.

JR Kyūshū passes at a glance:

What is covered by JR Kyūshū passes?

kyushu tourist pass

JR Kyūshū passes give you unlimited travel on the Kyūshū Shinkansen, limited express trains, and regular JR trains within the scope of the pass. So with the All Kyūshū Pass you can ride the length of the Kyūshū Shinkansen, from Hakata (Fukuoka) to Kagoshima. With the Northern Kyūshū Pass you can ride the Shinkansen between Hakata and Kumamoto and with the Southern Kyūshū Pass you can ride it between Kumamoto and Kagoshima.

Pro tip: Consider sending your suitcases on ahead with a luggage delivery service . New Shinkansen luggage rules from May 2020 mean that luggage with dimensions of over 160cm but under 250cm will require special reservations (at no extra cost), and bags over 250cm won’t be allowed onboard the bullet train at all. These new rules are not applicable to the West Kyūshū Shinkansen.

What is NOT covered by JR Kyūshū passes?

Unlike some other regional rail passes, JR Kyūshū’s passes don’t cover any private railway lines, buses (JR or otherwise), or ferries. But you do get some discounts at some places here and there with the pass.

You also can’t ride the little bit of Shinkansen north of Hakata because that is technically the San’yō Shinkansen, not the Kyūshū Shinkansen. Also off-limits is the fancy Aru Ressha excursion train and the stupidly expensive Seven Stars resort sleeper train .

Riding the limited express train 36+3 with a JR Kyūshū rail pass

36+3 (pronounced “san-ju-roku plus san”) is a sightseeing train that does a week-long loop of the island. You book for certain segments of the journey (say Miyazaki to Beppu, which happens on Saturdays), and then commit to that whole segment. It’s a very nice train, with Japanese-y interior design (the window shades look like shōji , for example), a lounge car, and a bar car. Pass holders can ride this train but it requires a hefty surcharge and special reservations.

Beppu, Japan Onsens

Where can I travel with a JR Kyūshū pass?

Fortunately, you can do a lot by rail in Kyūshū. Sure, there are hiking trails, remote religious sites, and onsen that you really need your own wheels to reach (especially in Oita and Miyazaki Prefectures). But trains can take you many places, while the Shinkansen and limited express trains make fast work of traversing Japan’s third largest island.

Kyūshū highlights include:

  • Fukuoka , Kyūshū’s biggest city is compact and has a cosmopolitan vibe.
  • The port city of Nagasaki , which has made history twice: as a site for international trade during Japan’s era of seclusion and as the site of the second atomic bomb during WWII.
  • Kumamoto a castle town that’s still recovering from a devastating earthquake. Don’t miss nearby Mt. Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano (which is sometimes closed off for, well, being active).
  • Oita Prefecture onsen resorts Beppu and Yufuin.
  • The southern city of Kagoshima with its smoking volcano, Sakurajima.
  • The hot sand “baths” of Ibusuki , at the southern tip of the Satsuma Peninsula.

Where can I buy a JR Kyūshū Pass?

Online or in Japan — the price is the same. If you purchase online directly from JR Kyūshū you unlock the ability to reserve Shinkansen seats online as well. However, there is a ¥ 1,000 (half-price for children) charge per seat reservation. It is free for pass holders to make Shinkansen seat reservations in person at any JR Kyūshū ticket counter.

If you purchase online, you’ll need to pick up the actual pass from a JR Kyūshū ticket office .

Making seat reservations with a JR Kyūshū Pass

JR Kyūshū’s passes cover reserved seats. All Kyūshū Pass holders can make unlimited seat reservations at no extra charge, while Northern Kyūshū Pass and Southern Kyūshū Pass holders can make up to six seat reservation at no extra charge (additonal reservations require a surcharge).

This is important because many of JR Kyūshū’s limited express trains only have reserved seating. You can make seat reservations at any JR Kyūshū ticket office or from reserved seat ticket vending machines at select stations. Major stations should have the reserved seat ticket vending machines, but you can check here . JR Kyūshū has a handy (and very detailed) tutorial on working the ticket machines . Seat reservations can be made up to one month in advance.

Heavy smoke bursting out from active volcano crater of Aso in Kyushu, Japan

Are JR Kyūshū passes a good deal?

Usually, these Kyūshū passes pay off if you make at least three Shinkansen journeys.

Sample Kyūshū Shinkansen fares:

Limited express trains — which you’ll want to ride to visit some popular destinations like Nagasaki, Yufuin, and Beppu — can also add up.

Sample limited express train fares:

a very excellent booklet in English with timetables all of the limited express trains. It also notes which ones require seat reservations.-->

Getting to Kyūshū

The other thing you need to take into account is the cost of getting to Kyūshū. Fukuoka is the main entry point and Fukuoka Airport is serviced by LCCs like Skymark (for Tokyo) and Peach (for Kansai), as well as international flights.

A flight from either Narita or Kansai airports to Fukuoka on a low cost carrier starts at around ¥ 6,000 each way. Of course, you also need to factor in the time and cost of getting to the airport. For reference, a one-way Skinkansen journey from Tokyo to Hakata costs ¥ 0 and takes just over 5 hours.

Some JR West regional rail passes cover rail travel along the full extent of the Sanyō Shinkansen — all the way to Hakata (Fukuoka). So there is the possibility of stacking passes. You might also want to consider the the San’yō-San’in Northern Kyūshū Pass , which covers travel from Kansai west to Kyūshū and, in Kyūshū, as far as Kumamoto.

The Southern Kyūshū Pass does not include Fukuoka, so you’re looking possibly at a flight to a minor regional airport like Kumamoto, Kagoshima, or Miyazaki. There’s also no reason why you can’t stack the northern and southern Kyūshū rail passes. In fact, a 3-day Northern Kyūshū Pass and a 3-day Southern Kyūshū Pass, together, gives you six days of travel for ¥ 22,000 , which is slightly less than the 5-day All Kyūshū Pass.

Traditional Chinese gate at the entrance to Nagasaki Chinatown

JR Kyūshū Pass FAQs

Who can buy jr kyūshū passes.

Only foreign passport holders entering Japan on a temporary (“tourist”) visa can purchase JR Kyūshū passes.

Can I ride the Shinkansen with a JR Kyūshū Pass?

Yes, JR Kyūshū pass holders can ride the Kyūshū Shinkansen, which travels north to south from Hakata (Fukuoka) to Kagoshima-chūō (Kagoshima).

Can I ride the subway with a JR Kyūshū Pass?

No. In Kyūshū, only Fukuoka has a subway network. It’s operated by the city, not JR Kyūshū, so pass holders will have to buy tickets to ride the subway in Fukuoka. No municiple travel (including local buses) is covered by the passes.

Can I travel from Tokyo to Kyūshū with a JR Kyūshū Pass?

Nope! The only rail pass that covers travel from Tokyo to Kyūshū is the classic, countrywide Japan Rail Pass .

Can I travel from Osaka to Kyūshū with a JR Kyūshū Pass?

Nope. In addition to the national Japan Rail Pass, some JR West regional rail passes cover rail travel between Osaka and Hakata (Fukuoka).

Can I use JR Kyūshū passes to travel to or from Fukuoka Airport?

No — Fukuoka Airport is best accessed via the subway (it’s only a couple of stops away from downtown) and the subway is not covered by JR Kyūshū passes.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Last updated in October 2023 by Maria Danuco.

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Kyushu Transport Pass

Kyushu Budget Guide: JR Kyushu Pass vs SunQ Pass

Last updated on April 27th, 2024

Which is the best Kyushu transport pass for you? Here is the complete Kyushu budget guide on Kyushu transport pass that helps you travel around Kyushu on a budget with Kyushu JR Pass, SunQ Pass, and other city passes.

Generally, transportation is always one of the highest expenses when traveling in Japan. The great thing about visiting Japan is there are many options and transport passes available to plan for your trip. Depending on your Kyushu itinerary and preferences, there are many transport pass in Kyushu to make your hassle-free journey. The key is to understand where you want to go and which is the best Kyushu transport pass that best suits your itinerary.

In this Kyushu budget guide blog, we will break down all these options to help you figure out the best transport pass for your Kyushu itinerary.

Table of Contents

Traveling Around Kyushu On Budget

How to Travel in Kyushu - By Bus or Train

Thanks to the good connectivity transport system in Japan. Traveling in Japan can be hassle-free if you do your homework ahead of your trip. All transport options are departed and arrive on time due to their strict compliance with punctuality. So it is very easy to plan for a Kyushu budget trip by using public transport. Fully make use of websites such as HyperDia.com and YahooTransit.com when traveling around Kyushu on budget. The most important is to understand where you want to visit and allocate some buffer time when connecting from one place to another.

There is only three major transport options to travel around in Kyushu:

  • Self-driving with rental car. 
  • By public transport by using trains or buses.
  • Metros, trams, buses within the cities.

If you planning to self-driving in Kyushu, check for your best rental car from RentalCars.com .

To plan for the best transport option to travel around in Kyushu, we’ll provide a detailed description of each option and the reason. So you easily see the difference and know which one is suitable for your Kyushu itinerary.

JR Kyushu Rail Pass

Kyushu Transport Ticket Overview : Kyushu Rail Pass (JR Kyushu Pass) is a valuable rail pass ticket for foreign visitors to travel around Kyushu with an unlimited JR train ride. This train pass is covered for Kyushu Shinkansen (Fukuoka-Kagoshima) and limited express trains.

However, take note that it can not be used for Sanyo Shinkansen (Fukuoka-Osaka including Hakata and Kokura) which is operated by JR West. Seat reservation is free for Kyushu JR Pass holders at any Kyushu JR counter.

Kyushu JR Pass (More info about the validity, price, and coverage):

  • Northern Kyushu Area : 3-Days Pass at ¥12,000 and 5-Days Pass at ¥15,000
  • Southern Kyushu Area : 3-Days Pass at ¥10,000
  • Fukuoka Wide : 2-Days Pass at ¥3,060
  • All Kyushu Area : 3-Days Pass at ¥20,000, 5-Days Pass at ¥22,500, and 5-Days Pass at ¥25,000

Kyushu Special Sightseeing Trains (Design & Story)

One of the best things about JR Kyushu Pass is special sightseeing trains (Design & Story) are covered. Including the Yufuin no Mori (ゆふいんの森), Ibusuki no Tamatebako (指宿のたまて箱), Umisachi Yamasachi (海幸山幸) and remaining.

Due to limited availability and high popularity, you should make reservations online for these trains as soon as you exchange the e-voucher for the pass. Reservation online costs ¥1,000 per adult but you are opted to try your luck with a free reservation once arrived in Kyushu.

Traveling Kyushu By JR Train

Do you need this Kyushu Rail Pass? JR Kyushu Pass can be a huge money-saving pass if you are getting around in Kyushu by train. For example, a one-way train ride from Fukuoka to Kumamoto already costs more than ¥4,500. Some of the travelers even fully make use of the Kyushu JR Pass and travel extensively from Fukuoka with day trips within the validity period.

Kyushu SunQ Pass

Kyushu Transport Ticket Overview : Kyushu SunQ Pass , Kyushu’s most budget transportation ticket for an unlimited bus ride in the Kyushu region. Nearly 99% of highway buses, city passes, and some ferries in Kyushu are covered by SunQ Pass. It even can be used in the Shimonoseki area of Yamaguchi Prefecture on Honshu island.

Kyushu SunQ Pass Coverage

SunQ Pass Ticket For Unlimited Bus Ride in Kyushu: 

  • Northern Kyushu 3-Days Pass (¥9,000)
  • Southern Kyushu 3-Days Pass (¥8,000)
  • All Kyushu 3-Days (¥11,000) and  4-Days Pass (¥14,000)

Traveling Kyushu By Bus

Similar to Kyushu JR Pass, SunQ Pass also offers All Kyushu, Southern, and Northern Kyushu SunQ Pass options. It is valid for 3 or 4 consecutive days with prices ranging from ¥8,000 to ¥14,000. The Northern Kyushu pass is only valid in Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Oita, and Kumamoto prefectures in Kyushu and the Shimonoseki area in Honshu.

While the Southern Kyushu pass is only valid in Kumamoto, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima prefectures in Kyushu.

Kyushu SunQ Pass

Do you need this Kyushu Pass? In Kyushu, the highway bus is an alternative solution to trains. It is cheaper and sometimes can be equally fast as a train except for Shinkansen. Moreover, some of the top attractions such as Takachiho Gorge (高千穂), and Kurokawa Onsen (黒川温泉) can be accessible by bus only. It is very worthwhile to get the SunQ Pass if you are traveling to and fro as the one-way ticket already cost ¥2,500.

JR Kyushu Rail Pass vs SunQ Bus Pass

Generally, most travelers are confused about which is the best Kyushu transport pass that suits your Kyushu budget trip. Below are some of the pros and cons of using JR Kyushu Pass vs SunQ Pass:

  • Traveling by rail will usually have a more frequent departure time , probably every half hour. But highway buses mostly with every hour or less frequently compared with a train.
  • For a similar distance, trains are usually faster compared with a bus. Especially buses have possibly run into traffic jams and stop at traffic lights.
  • Almost all Kyushu highway buses are required for reservation . But still, you can board the highway bus without reservation but priority will be given to those with reservation. While on the train you can jump to a non-reserve seat car at any time. But bear in mind, that you might also need to stand if the seats are fully occupied.
  • However, the bus will run into rural areas like onsen town where the JR train is not accessible. The Kurokawa Onsen, and Takachiho Gorge, are some of the attractions that can be getting there by using a bus.

Traveling Around Kyushu by Train

Generally, the train is much more convenient. However, the bus is the only option for some of the attractions. It depends on your Kyushu itinerary. Sometimes, taking the bus works better compare with trains. In fact, as a foreign traveler, you can make use of a combination of the JR train Pass and SunQ bus pass which you are traveling around. It is the most budget transport option for foreign visitors.

Kyushu City Pass

When traveling within Kyushu, there is also a variety of transport passes that are designated in individual cities for different transport types. Here are some of the valuable Kyushu city passes that are worth recommending to visitors when traveling around Kyushu.

Do note that most of the bus ride is covered with SunQ Pass. Added, please buffer some time due to the infrequent of the bus schedule.

Northern Kyushu Transport Pass

Fukuoka City Subway Pass

Fukuoka City Pass The Fukuoka Subway Unlimited Pass (1-Day at ¥640 and 2-Days at ¥740). One single subway ride costs more than ¥210 and above. We strongly recommended the 2 days pass as it only costs an additional ¥100 compare with a 1-day pass.

Fukuoka City One-Day Free Pass (Nishitetsu)

  • All-you-can-ride ticket for a day for Fukuoka city local buses at ¥900.
  • All-you-can-ride ticket for a day for Fukuoka city local buses and Dazaifu Liner Bus “Tabito” (between Hakata St./Fukuoka Airport and Dazaifu area) at ¥1,500.
  • Unlimited ride on Nishitetsu trains and buses in Fukuoka for one day at ¥2,600.

Traveling in Beppu by Bus

Oita City Pass (Beppu and Yufuin) When traveling in Beppu, the bus is the only public transport option to get to attractions such as Hell Valley, Myoban onsen, and more. Get the Beppu bus pass to save on the bus ride.

  • My Beppu Free Pass: 1 Day ¥900 and 2 Days at ¥1,500 (Within Beppu City central)
  • Wide Beppu Free Pass: 1 Day ¥1,600 and 2 Days at ¥2,400 (Cover up to Yufuin)

Nagasaki City Pass Nagasaki can be visited by buses or trams/streetcars.

  • One Day Bus Pass at ¥500: Unlimited rides on buses within the designated area in Nagasaki City.
  • One Day Tram Pass at ¥500: Use on all tram lines in Nagasaki city. One tram ride costs has ¥120.

Kumamoto City Tram

Kumamoto City Pass Kumamoto city is well connected with various transport, including trams and city buses. So there are various types of transport pass available.

  • Kumamoto City 1-Day Tram Pass at ¥500. One tram ride with a flat price of ¥170. Take the 1-Day Tram Pass if you intend to take at least 3 tram rides within the day.
  • Wakuwaku 1-Day Pass: Price from ¥700 to ¥2,000 depending on the coverage area. Good for those plans to take unlimited rides on buses and city trams in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Southern Kyushu Transport Pass

Traveling Miyzaki by Bus

Miyazaki City Pass The Miyazaki 1-Day City Pass (¥1,500) for unlimited travel on public buses within Miyazaki cities. This is the best value transport pass if you planning to visit Miyazaki’s attractions by bus. The one-way bus fare from Miyazaki city to sightseeing attractions along the Nichinan coast easily costs more than ¥1,000.

Overview: The Best Kyushu Transport Pass

All in all, these convenient discounted tickets can be very useful when traveling around Kyushu as well as for the sightseeing in a single city. Again, depending on your Kyushu itinerary, you should consider taking either a self-driving, train or bus. Bear in mind that Kyushu is very huge. It is recommended to plan ahead of time for your transport option. We also advise you to slow up your pace to explore Japan’s hidden gem Kyushu.

Here is the useful Kyushu Transport Guide to making a reservation for train and bus:

  • Tips For JR Kyushu Pass Seat Reservation Online and Onsite
  • How to make reservation on Kyushu Odan Bus
  • How to reserve highway bus ticket in Kyushu Japan

Lastly, if you don’t have a Kyushu itinerary yet, check out our Kyushu travel blog. We also include the best Kyushu transport pass that you should get for your itineraries.

How To Plan Your Kyushu Itinerary: Ultimate Guide

Planning to travel to Takachiho Gorge and Kurokawa Onsen with SunQ Pass? My Kyushu SunQ Pass itinerary as below:

Kyushu SunQ Pass itinerary: From North To South By Bus

Northern Kyushu (Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Aso, Nagsaki, Kurokawa Onsen, Beppu, Yufuin):

  • Fukuoka Itinerary: Ultimate Travel Guide
  • Things To Do in Kumamoto: 1-Day Itinerary
  • Things To Do in Aso For 1-Day Aso Itinerary
  • Nagasaki Itinerary: A Travel Guide Blog
  • Kurokawa Onsen: A Guide To Natural Hot Spring Town
  • Beppu Itinerary: Ultimate Travel Guide Blog
  • Yufuin Travel Guide: Must Eat Food And Things To Do

Southern Kyushu (Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Takachiho Gorge):

  • Kagoshima Itinerary: A Travel Guide Blog
  • Miyazaki Itinerary: What to do and eat in Miyazaki
  • Takachiho Gorge Travel Guide: 1-Day Itinerary Blog

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Order your Regional Pass

  • ALL KYUSHU Area Pass Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Oita & Miyazaki
  • ALL KYUSHU BUS & FERRY Pass Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Takachiho, Beppu, Sakurajima, Shimonoseki
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Kyushu Pass

ALL KYUSHU Area Pass

All Kyushu area railing network map

Your journey

All Kyushu area railing network map

The  All Kyushu Area Pass  provides access to JR Kyushu trains for  3 or 5 consecutive days , allowing you to discover the charms of the region. Great value for visitors who want to explore Kyushu.

The All Kyushu Area Pass provides unlimited access to JR Kyushu lines Shinkansen between Hakata - Kagoshima-chuo (except the Sanyo Shinkansen between Kokura and Hakata). The pass is only available for overseas tourists.

A child price (6 to 11 years of age) is available for the All Kyushu Area Pass. Access to trains is free for accompanied infants aged 5 years or under.

Adults: $127

Children: $63

Adults: $142

Children: $78

The Kyushu Region

Kyushu is Japan's third-largest island, located south-west off the main island. The region offers modern cities, natural beauty and historical sites.

The region is home to Mount Aso one of the largest active volcanoes in the World!  The tectonic activity in the region makes it the ideal place to visit a hot spring, Beppu and Yufuin are well known for healing waters.

The island is also famous for its ceramics, originating from the towns of  Arita  and  Imari  and its historic towns such as  Kumamoto , a feudal town since the 17th century. In the very South of the island,  Yakushima Island is sure to impress you with its luxuriant scenery, which

Mount Aso in Kyushu

Mount Aso in Kyushu, Japan

@flickr/ William Cho

Scenery on Yakushima Island

Scenery on Yakushima Island

View of Kumamoto Castle and the Kumamoto scenery

View of Kumamoto Castle and the Kumamoto scenery

Conditions of the All Kyushu Pass 

Eligibility .

- A rail pass user must be holding a passport issued by a foreign government.

※外国での永住権を持っているお客様を含め、日本国籍のお客様は使用できません。

- A rail pass user must be entering in Japan as a "短期滞在 (Temporary Visitor) ".

* "短期滞在 (Temporary Visitor) " is a status of residence defined under Japanese immigration law.

- Individual customers are not allowed to purchase or exchange more than one of the same tickets for the same use period.

- You must present your passport to receive a pass.

- We will send the e-voucher to your email address within 5 business days after your order. If you want to get earlier, please contact us. (E-voucher is not the real ticket, you cannot take trains with the voucher)

- You can print out an e-voucher on A4 size paper, or you can show the voucher on your mobile device when you exchange.

You can redeem your voucher for a physical pass in these places.

  • Hakata Station, daily from 7am to 9pm
  • Kokura Station, daily from 7am to 9pm
  • Mojiko Station, daily from 7:30am to 7pm
  • Saga Station, daily from 7am to 9pm
  • Nagasaki Station, daily from 7am to 9pm
  • Sasebo Station, daily from 7:30am to 7pm
  • Beppu Station, daily from 7:30am to 7pm
  • Oita Station, daily from 7am to 9pm
  • Kumamoto Station, daily from 7am to 9pm
  • Kagoshima-chuo Station, daily from 7am to 9pm
  • Miyazaki Airport Station, daily from 10am to 12:10pm and 12:50 pm to 5:30pm

What is included with the pass? 

  • The All Kyushu Area Pass is valid on all JR Kyushu lines. 

What is excluded with the pass? 

  • The pass is not valid for the Sanyo Shinkansen, sleeper trains and JR Kyushu buses.

Seat Reservations 

  • With the pass, no additional fee is required when reserving seats.
  • In order to ride in first class (Green cars) you'll have to pay additional fees.
  • Non-reserved Ordinary class cars can be accessed freely.
  • To access the platforms, show your pass to the JR Kyushu staff located at the gate to the platform.
  • To reserve a seat, ask the JR Kyushu staff at the ticket office.
  • It is a personal pass. Please always carry your passport when using the pass as staff may check it.

Cancellation conditions and fees

An unused voucher is refundable for one year from the date of issue.

The voucher can be refunded if it has never been exchanged in Japan.

A cancellation fee of 15% of the value of the voucher will be retained.

No refund is possible for a voucher received by us more than one year from the date of issue.

A refund is not possible for a lost or stolen voucher.

Common Questions

Who is eligible for the pass?

Visitors traveling as a tourists who have a temporary visitor entry status are eligible for this pass. Japanese passport holders are not eligible for this pass.

Do I need to purchase an All Kyushu Area Pass for babies and children?

Children under the age of 6 years old can travel for free as long as they travel with a pass holder. However they are not entitled to their own seat. If you want your child to have an individual seat, and even if the child is under 6 years old, you'll need to buy a children's JR Pass.

Children between the age of 6 and 11 years old have to travel with a children's JR Pass. From 12 years old the child will have to travel with an adult JR Pass.

How are the days calculated for the JR All Kyushu Pass?

The JR All Kyushu Pass is available for 3 or 5 consecutive days.

The passes validity is calculated in days, not in hours,  so it does not matter what time you first use your pass . If you have a 5 days JR All Kyushu Pass and you start using it on March 1st, whatever the time, this will count as day 1, and you will be able to use it until midnight on the 5th of March.

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Girl Eat World

A girl's adventure in food and travel around the world, 7-day kyushu itinerary: where to go and what to see in kyushu.

The hardest yet most exciting part of traveling is often the planning stage and narrowing down where to go given the time you have. I visited the Kyushu region in Japan this past September. This is how I planned (and nearly failed to follow said ambitious plan) for the trip!

View from Daikanbo

Tips for planning Kyushu Itinerary

Narrow down the city you want to visit – Kyushu is a huge region, and if you have limited time, you need to narrow down the experiences you want to see. No joke – whenever I am in a trip planning mode, I would open up google maps and see if there are any familiar names in the vicinity. I immediately zeroed in on the familiar cities: Hiroshima (not really in Kyushu but it’s very close), Fukuoka , Nagasaki, Kumamoto , and Kagoshima.

Plan out the order to visit the places you want to go to  – Once again, I used google maps to see where each place are in relative to each other, then I checked the train routes to map out the best ways to travel between these cities and how long the journey would take. Once I’ve done this, it became clear that we needed to make Fukuoka our base since it’s the center point of the cities we’ve picked.

Yes, You WILL need a JR Pass! JR Pass is the train pass that allows you to take intercity trains in Japan for cheaper. The sights to see in Kyushu are spread apart in different cities, so unless you’re planning to only visit one city, you will definitely need the JR Pass as you’ll likely be using the train to move around. You can buy Unlimited JR Pass or JR Kyushu Pass . Scroll down to the end of this post for more information about the JR Pass and which one is more suitable for you.

You must buy the JR Pass from outside of Japan before your trip . The JR pass is solely for tourists and it used to not be available for purchase within Japan, though there are now limited quantities for sale in Japan for a higher price. You should still buy it ahead of time to make sure and have it sent to your home before your trip, so make sure you get it way ahead of time so that it arrives before your trip.

Check the first and last train out of the city – I also checked for the first and last shinkansen out between cities so that I know the earliest time I can get to a city and the latest time I can leave. This helps me narrow that what activities I can do in the city.

Account for travel fatigue – I have to admit I got over-excited when I planned for this trip. I was really intent on hitting up all 5 cities in 7 days. My biggest advice here and a lesson I had to learn is to account for travel fatigue. You can’t feasibly be moving every other day and not get tired by the end of it. All of the cities I mentioned above are great destinations that I don’t want to miss – but it is very ambitious to hit up all five in 7 days. I had to sacrifice visiting Kagoshima since it isn’t convenient to get to if I want to also include Nagasaki in the itinerary.

My 7-Day Kyushu Travel Itinerary

In the end, after all the research, this is the Kyushu itinerary I went with:

  • Day 1: Hiroshima . Land in Osaka in the morning, go to Hiroshima immediately, and spend all day in Hiroshima.
  • Day 2: Fukuoka . Travel to Fukuoka in the morning, then spend time in  Fukuoka All-Day
  • Day 3: Nagasaki . Travel to Nagasaki in the morning and spend the rest of the day in Nagasaki
  • Day 4: Stay in  Nagasaki All-day
  • Day 5: Nagasaki & Fukuoka . Spend time in Nagasaki in the morning, then go to  Fukuoka in the afternoon.
  • Day 6: Kumamoto Day trip
  • Day 7: Spend time in  Fukuoka in the morning, Fly back to Singapore in the afternoon

What to do and where to go in Kyushu, Japan

Here are some places you can consider visiting in Kyushu:

1. Fukuoka (2 days)

Fukuoka is the biggest city in Kyushu. It’s a great starting point for Kyushu – lots of direct trains leaving Hakata station, the main station of Fukuoka. Aside from that, they are also known for food! Yep, the Hakata ramen is actually from Fukuoka! You can read about the food in Fukuoka and Yatai stalls here .

Yatai Stall on Watanabe dori in Fukuoka

2. Nagasaki (2-3 days)

Nagasaki needs no introduction, the city offers an extensive insight into Japan during the World War II period. Although they are mostly known for its bleak fate as the site of the second atomic bombing, Nagasaki holds an important place in Japanese history. During the era of seclusion called Sakoku, the Japanese were forbidden to leave the country, and the only foreign trade allowed within Japan was done through a manmade island in Nagasaki, called Dejima. Nowadays you can see history from the seclusion period as well as the era that follows after – the Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese influences from the 16-19th century when Nagasaki becomes the only open port in Japan.

Chinatown in Nagasaki

3. Kumamoto (Day trip from Fukuoka)

In 2016, Kumamoto was hit by a series of very strong earthquakes. However, it’s still interesting to see the city after the earthquake. The Kumamoto castle, for one, was able to sustain the strong 7.0 earthquake, just as its Japanese architects had intended when the castle was built four centuries ago.

You can also do a road trip or tour to Mount Aso , one of the most beautiful areas in Kyushu. Kumamoto is a very doable day trip from Fukuoka. Read about my day trip to Kumamoto from Fukuoka here .

Kumamoto Castle

4. Kagoshima (1-2 days)

I did not make it to Kagoshima due to limited time in Kyushu, but I wish I had made it down here. Kagoshima is a seaside city in Kyushu and is best known for Sakurajima, a volcanic mountain often referred to as Japan’s Vesuvius. Aside from that, Kagoshima is also well known for its food and produce – most notably, the Kurobuta aka black pig, which is highly regarded in Japan for being high in protein and low in calories. Kurobuta is normally eaten in shabu-shabu style, aka Japanese hot pot.

If you have time and are interested in nature, you can also visit Yakushima, an island off the coast of Kagoshima. The island is covered in cedar forest that contains some of Japan’s oldest living trees – some as old as 7,000 years.

Yakushima

5. Beppu (1 day)

Beppu is a spa resort town, known for its range of onsens (Japanese hot springs) – they have over 2,000 onsens in Beppu! Aside from the usual hot springs, they also have sand baths, mud baths, and steam baths. You can relax in one of the Japanese’s favorite past times – a bath in the hot spring and eating Onsen food after. You can reach Beppu by train from Fukuoka, but if you’re a true Onsen enthusiast, you might want to check out this Beppu and Yufuin Onsen spa tour , which includes hotel pick-up and drop-off!

Booking Accommodations in Kyushu

Tips for booking hotels.

  • Book ahead of time – Sometimes I like to “wing it” and book accommodations last minute in the spirit of being spontaneous. I quickly learned this isn’t a very smart move when it comes to visiting Japan, as the good hotels get booked up really fast.
  • If you are a non-smoker, pay attention while booking and make sure you tick a non-smoking room  in the room type section. Smoking indoors is not illegal in Japan, so some hotels would segregate smoking and non-smoking rooms by floor. I had to stay in a smoking room in Nagasaki because I booked a smoking room by mistake and they had no more non-smoking rooms 🙁
  • As we are traveling heavily by train, I find that staying at hotels that are on the main station itself  (the station where the shinkansen line stops) really helped us during traveling days since we don’t need to worry about the logistics of getting to the train station. As a bonus point, these areas also tend to be very convenient since in Japan the main station would also come attached with all the amenities like convenience stores, major stores for shopping, and restaurants.

Kyushu Hotel Recommendations

Here are the hotels we stayed in each city. Each of these is very close or attached to the main station of the city, so they are located in a  really good location.

  • Hotel Granvia Hiroshima is literally on top of the Hiroshima station. Despite this, it was not noisy since the hotel rooms are located high up and they are good with noise insulation.
  • JR Kyushu Hotel Nagasaki – yes, JR as in Japan Rail. Nagasaki station is quite small and the lobby of this hotel is right outside the exit of the station!
  • Nishitetsu Hotel Croom Hakata , next to the Hakata Central station in Fukuoka – about 5 minutes walk. I ended up staying here because my first choice was booked up.
  • JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Central – This was my first choice for Fukuoka, but it was booked up during my visit! It would have been really convenient because Hakata is a major station with all the convenience stores, shopping, and restaurants.

Using JR Pass in Kyushu: The FAQs

I have been to Japan many times before, but I’ve never used the JR pass. Getting a JR Pass only makes sense if you are moving around from city to city, it didn’t make economic sense to get the pass. But when visiting Kyushu, there is a big chance you actually need the JR Pass since the attractions in the Kyushu region span many cities.

What is JR Pass exactly?

JR pass is a form of rail pass that gives you unlimited access to all JR trains in Japan for 7, 14, or 21 days. I bolded the JR train part for emphasis since this gets confusing for some people – in Japan, there are many train companies and Japan Rail (JR) is one of them, and this pass is only valid for JR trains!

If you are coming to Japan, you HAVE to have already bought the JR Pass before your trip, from outside of Japan. The pass CAN NOT be bought from inside of Japan.

Which JR Pass do I need?

If you are planning to go all over Japan, you might want to get an unlimited pass. You can buy the unlimited JR pass here, which can be valid for 7, 14, or 21 days depending on the length of your trip.

However, if you are just going to places in the Kyushu area and your travel schedule fits within 3-5 days, then you can take a look into the JR Kyushu Pass since it’s much cheaper than the unlimited JR Pass.

I found this page to be very useful in terms of pass validity information. Since I was in Kyushu for 7 days and will be moving around a lot, it made sense for me to get the 7-day ticket for 29,110 yen (US$260), even though it was more expensive.

How do I find out the train schedules?

Surprisingly, the most user-friendly way is through Google Maps ! Use the public transport filter (The icon that looks like a train) and play with the “Depart at” filter to see the next train available from point A to B. I find their schedule to be quite accurate. Other than that, you can go to the station and look at the schedule there or use local websites like HyperDia .

Which Shinkansen train can I use with JR Pass?

Shinkansen is the famous Japanese bullet train. It is a much, much faster way to travel than taking a regular train and thus it became the preferred mode of transport for tourists and locals alike.

There are different types of Shinkansen trains running on the same route. Most of the time you don’t have to worry about it since they are all the same, and will get you from point A to B. However, in Kyushu, if you want to use your JR Pass you cannot take Mizuho or Nozomi trains . During my trip, I took mostly Sakura and Haruka trains.

How do you know which train is what type? You can tell the type of trains by looking at the schedule at the train station itself. If you are looking at Google Maps, it is the colored label next to the JR Logo. For example:

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 4.36.48 PM

The screenshot above is a sample route from KIX to Osaka. In this case, this Shinkansen type is the blue ribbon with the JR logo next to it, which is Haruka . Since it is not Mizuho or Nozomi, you can take this train on JR Pass.

Cool, so how do you use the JR Pass?

First, a voucher for a JR pass must be purchased from outside of Japan , so you have to sort this out before you go on your trip. Once you have arrived in Japan, and on the day when you want the pass to be activated, you trade in the voucher at any major JR station for the actual pass.

The pass looks like this:

My 7-day JR Pass

Once you have received the pass, you have to keep it with you for the duration of your travel and must always bring it with you when you do a train journey. Don’t lose your pass! It’s like your passport to take the train in Japan.

Also, whenever you want to use the JR pass, you don’t go through the automated gate like everyone else. Instead, you walk up to any JR station gate and show your pass to the ticket officer, usually to the left or right of the automated ticket gates.

Tips on how to travel on unreserved seats on Japanese Trains

JR Pass allows you to reserve seats for free, but in case you ever need to take unreserved seats (which is cheaper when you aren’t on JR Pass), such as if you are traveling with a friend who does not have JR Pass, here’s what I have learned from my experience:

1. Make sure you know ahead of time which cars are designated for unreserved seating

The digital signboard at any major Shinkansen station tells you all the information you need. It flips between Japanese and English, so don’t worry if you can’t read Japanese! Just wait a few seconds until it flips to English.

Train information signboard

Things to note here are the Non-Reserved car indicator on the far right. In the picture above, it’s Cars 1-3. Also note the train type to the left of it, usually 8 or 16 cars. In the picture above it is 8 cars. I’ll explain why later.

2. Plan to line up 15-20 minutes before the schedule

During peak travel time it is entirely possible you might not get to sit next to your travel buddies when the train is full. Or worse, you may not get a seat at all! I have seen people standing up in the space between train cars. So to avoid this, allocate some time for lining up ahead of the scheduled train arrival time.

How do you line up properly in Japan? Easy! Get to your train platform and look down on the floor to find out where you are supposed to line up – usually, there would be a mark that looks like this:

First in line with our snacks from Famima

3. Find out where exactly you are supposed to line up

Remember when I said to note the Non-Reserved car numbers and train type ? This comes in handy when you need to find out where the train will stop, so you know where exactly to line up. On the floor, they would normally have something a sign that looks like this:

Train cars information

This is when the train type matters – whether it’s 8 or 16 cars or whatever number. In the picture above, if your train is an 8-car train then you look at the green box. But if your train is a 16-car train then you look at the yellow box. So just match up the car numbers to the Non-reserved cars from the signboard to make sure you are lining up at the correct spot designated for unreserved seats. When the train comes, the door will open up exactly at this spot!

That’s all! It might seem complicated, but after doing this a few times it’s pretty easy 🙂

Are you planning a trip to Japan? I’ve written loads about the beautiful country. Check out the  ‘Japan’ category of this blog for some travel inspiration.

25 Comments

  • May 17, 2024

Hi Melissa Thank you for sharing your detailed Kyushu itineraryI I will be going to Kyushu this year in early Nov .for a 9 -days trip , the places I hope to visit are Hiroshima, Nagasaki , Beppu , Kumamoto , Kagoshima . Will 9 days be too much to pack in ? I notice you landed in Osaka and head out to Hiroshima on the same day . . I am intend to skip Osaka and fly into Fukouka . Can I go to Hiroshima to Fukuoka by Shinkansen . . Do I need the JR unlimited pass or the Kyushu 7 days JR Pass is sufficient .

Hey Theresa, definitely the Kyushu pass should be sufficient for you as you’re only staying mostly in Kyushu. It is possible to go to Hiroshima from Hakata station via shinkansen, but this would not be covered by the Kyushu JR since Hiroshima is not part of Kyushu. So if you intend to visit Hiroshima, I recommend activating the JR Pass after you’ve done so.

  • September 14, 2023

Hi and thanks for this article, it’s very informative. Just wondering, if you follow your day 1 arrival in Osaka then back to Singapore on day 7 from Fukuoka? Then what rail pass you need to use from Osaka-Hiroshima and Hiroshima-Fukuoka? Thanks again

  • March 15, 2023

THANK YOU!! I am SO glad I read this, especially about the shinkansen, how to work out the unreserved cars and also where to line up. There is just so much to know, I’d be lost if I hadn’t read it. Plan to go in May with my son. I can speak Japanese but am still overwhelmed by all this. Hope I get it right!!

I’m glad it helped you, Helen! Just note that if you travel with JR Pass you can reserve seats at the train station, so you won’t need to go on the unreserved car.

  • April 26, 2020

Hello! This is actually quite informative. I’ve been to Fukuoka too, but I think I’ve missed out a lot of places once I’ve read your blog. Haha!

  • January 7, 2020

Hello Melissa, what a wonderful blog!! I really like the way you present Japan in such a natural way. If you ever come back to Kyushu, let me show you around my hometown, Kobayashi. Kobayashi is in Miyazaki, so most travellers with limited time don’t put it on their list. But it is more than worth a visit! The Kirishima mountains are great for hiking and the lack of tourists makes for a very authentic Japanese experience. I’d be happy to help you with planning your trip or take you to the mountains or the other fabulous sights in the area.

  • December 9, 2019

Hi Melissa, Did you buy subway pass for travel in Fukuoka? Was it useful or convenient to visit tourist sites around Fukuoka? Please advise.

Hey Soo, I didn’t buy travel pass in Fukuoka since we were mostly using it as a base for nearby attractions.

  • October 4, 2019

Hi, good article but I do believe if you’re from Osaka and only going up (down to) Kumamoto in 7 days, you should consider the Sanyo san’n pass instead. 7 Day JR Sanyo-San’in-Northern Kyushu Area Pass Obtain your Exchange Order in prior by delivery / pick up, activate your 7 consecutive days rail pass that covers unlimited rides from Osaka/Kyoto to Northern Kyushu at a great price https://www.klook.com/activity/5769 It is not only save you a bit of money but also allows you to take faster Sanyo shinkansen which is not allowed only using ordinary JR Pass.

  • September 14, 2019

Hi Melissa,

Have you been to Oita and Yufuin before? are both of these places near to beppu?

  • September 15, 2019

Hey Ellisha, I haven’t been to those places unfortunately, but they are very close to Beppu.

  • July 1, 2019

can i just buy the train tickets without having a JR pass? do they sell it over the counter?

  • July 2, 2019

yes they sell tickets over the counter at the station at regular price

  • May 15, 2019

Hi, if I am scheduling to hang around in Fukuoka area for 5 days only. Which pass are you recommending to me? JR Kyushu Pass or JR Pass? Tq

  • May 16, 2019

depends on your travel plan, but if you are only going to be in Kyushu then JR Kyushu will be sufficient.

  • May 13, 2019

Hi! How much did you spend for the entire tour?

Can i rearrange the line up? Example will start in Kagoshima on Day 1 and so on?

  • May 14, 2019

Hey Kaye, This was so long ago that I unfortunately don’t remember the budget. I think we spent less than $1500 per person though including flight from Singapore which was about $700. You can definitely rearrange the line up, as long as you are ok for long travel on Day 1. Kagoshima is located the furthest down from Fukuoka.

  • January 30, 2019

hi thanks 4 sharing. hope you’ll explain more abt fukuoka n nagasaki soon becoz i’ll be there on april. and i need extra info for my iti. tq

  • July 2, 2018

Thank you for the article. Very clearly written

  • March 13, 2017

Just wondering why you didn’t get the JR Kyushu pass instead?

i think its because i needed it to be valid for 7 days

  • November 21, 2016

Nice article! Wish to have JR pass experience. Thank you Melissa.

  • November 14, 2016

Yes! They are very exact and punctual too!

last photo its so curious and funny. Train really stop in the place??

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JRailPass.com » Japan Travel Blog » Seven Stars Kyushu: Riding the luxury train

Seven Stars Kyushu: Riding the luxury train

October 23, 2019

Seven Stars Kyushu luxury train

Wise travelers know that traveling is not just about the destination; getting there is half the fun. The significance of the journey itself is embodied in Japan’s Seven Stars luxury sleeper train, based in the island of Kyushu , Japan. This cruise train is meant to bring new life to train travel, to make the travel itself the integral part of a Kyushu vacation.

The Seven Stars cruise train, also known as Nanatsuboshi in Kyushu , gets its name both from the seven prefectures of Kyushu, and also from the seven lauded aspects of the region. These include the train system itself, nature, the hot springs, power spots, the region’s history, its cuisine, and the friendliness of Kyushu’s people.

Cruise train accommodations

The Seven Stars Kyushu strives to bridge the future of rail travel with its most illustrious past. The plush, classic décor harkens back to bygone days, while the technological advancements and large, picturesque viewing windows push the comfort of travel by train to new heights. Each of its cars was designed to meet its passengers’ needs and exceed their expectations.

Seven Stars Kyushu deluxe A suite

Passengers can choose from 1 of 12 standard suites or 1 of 2 deluxe suites . Each suite features a sleeping area, sitting area, and a private bathroom consisting of a shower and toilet facilities. The suite nearest the dining and lounge cars is equipped to accommodate passengers with reduced mobility and is wheelchair accessible. The deluxe suites, located on the end carriages, can accommodate up to 3 persons each. These suites feature a sleeping area, lounge, and private bathroom. Deluxe Suite A has the additional advantage of a rear window across the width of the train car. This allows for a unique angle of scenic viewing from the comfort of a private room.

The chefs and stewards of the Jupiter Dining Car pride themselves on friendly and outstanding service. The entrees served reflect the nature and culture of the island of Kyushu, with ingredients reaped from its countryside and its seas. Most noteworthy, the Blue Moon Lounge Car offers an attended bar service both day and night. Daytime sightseeing from its vast windows is complemented by a grand piano and live musical entertainment in the evenings.

Blue Moon lounge room

Seven Stars Kyushu itineraries and prices

The Seven Stars offers a 4 day/3 night trip as well as 2 day/1 night circuit aboard Japan’s finest luxury train. Many meals are taken on the train, but travelers will also have the option of experiencing the area’s unique eateries. Passengers will enjoy onboard activities such as tea time, as well as scenic views of rural areas and the South China Sea .

Both itineraries start and finish in JR Hakata Station (Fukuoka) , which you can easily reach from Osaka with your Japan Rail Pass , via the Sanyo Shinkansen .

Book your Japan Rail Pass now

4-day itinerary

The longer trip tours the entire island of Kyushu with stops in 5 prefectures. Visitors desiring a relaxing visit to an  onsen , or hot springs , scenic volcanoes , and Kyushu’s principle cities will enjoy this trip. Excursions include a ferry sea cruise, sightseeing in Yufuin, Mimitsu, and Miyazaki , and an overnight stay at a hot springs resort in Kirishima. Fairs for this tour on the Seven Stars in Kyushu start at a price of ¥630,000 per person (approximately $5,400 USD ).

2-day itinerary

The two-day journey on the JR East luxury train tours 4 prefectures of northern Kyushu. This trip includes features a scenic trip around Fukuoka, Oita, and Japan’s largest active volcano, Mount Aso . You will also experience a night time tour of Nagasaki, and a sightseeing tour in Yufuin. Travelers can also visit the Arita porcelain kiln , and learn about the area’s 400-year heritage in pottery. Fairs for the two-day tour start at ¥300,000 per person (approximately $2,550 USD ).

Other first class travel options

The Seven Stars in Kyushu is generally booked months in advance . Even if you cannot travel on Japan’s cruise train during your visit to Kyushu, you can still travel in style, using your JR Green Pass to access first class cars . Map your own itinerary to see the sights of Kyushu while you enjoy the green car’s ample space , sip on a hot or cold drink, and enjoy the scenery through large windows.

Besides, green cars may also offer hot or cold oshibori towels, snacks, individual radios, and magazines . Green cars are marked by a green clover emblem near the entry doors, so you will easily be able to find your accommodations when you return from touring the amazing sights Kyushu has to offer.

No matter which travel options you choose, the island of Kyushu is a must-see destination in Japan. Seeing Kyushu by rail is an unforgettable experience of natural beauty, delicious dining, and luxurious accommodations.

Open Applications for the Seven Stars in Kyushu 2020

In 20109, the Seven Stars in Kyushu cruise train is celebrating its 7th anniversary . For that reason, 2 very special journeys have been organized for 2020 on top of their already luxurious trips.

On these tours, the traveler immerses him or herself in the scenery, food, culture, and history of Kyushu. They are a treat to the senses that connects you with the vibrant characteristics of each prefecture and the warmth of the local people.

The journey period covers 17 regular runs from June to September of 2020, in addition to 3 special ones in April and June .

To book your trip online, you only need to complete the form you’ll find on the Seven Stars official webpage and request to make a booking on the Seven Stars . The application period runs from October 1st to October 22nd of 2019 , from 10 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. (JST).

This is an enchanting journey that many find emotionally stirring. It is a truly unique experience that will keep bringing a smile to your face long after the trip is over.

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Training Around Captivating Kagoshima.

map

Traveling by train around Japan’s stunning region of hot springs and history.

Kagoshima Prefecture lies at the southern tip of Kyushu, the third largest of Japan's four main islands. This subtropical cauldron of bubbling hot springs and imposing mountains is a traveler's dream, with an abundance on offer including stunning nature spots and rich history, not to mention the area's delectable local cuisine cooked lovingly by warmhearted locals.

About JR Kyushu Rail Pass

JR Kyushu Rail Pass is a pass that allows you get on and off freely. It covers not only local and rapid trains operated by JR Kyushu, but also popular limited express trains, tourist trains, and even the Shinkansen!

Fares and Passes

  • All Kyushu Area Pass

All Kyushu Area Pass

Southern Kyushu Area Pass

Southern Kyushu Area Pass

Terms of Purchase

Non-Japanese citizens who are visiting Japan for the purpose of sightseeing and traveling on a short-stay visa.

picture

  • [1] You must hold a passport issued by a country other than Japan.
  • [2] You must reside outside Japan and are visiting Japan on a short-stay visa(*).

Those who satisfy conditions [1] and [2] above.

* When entering Japan, please receive proof of "short-stay" with a stamp or seal on your passport. If you are using an automated gate when entering Japan, please offer to the airport staff and receive a certificate from your passport with a stamp or seal.

The trains operated by JR Kyushu

Take the 800 series tsubame kyushu shinkansen to travel to kagoshima.

  • Kagoshima-Chuo

Hakata

Hakata Station is easily accessible, just 5 minutes from Fukuoka Airport by subway. Enjoy shopping to your heart's content in the largest city in Kyushu!

800 series Kyushu Shinkansen

800 series Kyushu Shinkansen

Take a seat and immerse yourself in the comfort of the Kyushu Shinkansen, the epitome of traditional Japanese craftsmanship and the latest technologies. It will transport you to Kagoshima in a jiffy!

Kagoshima

Kagoshima is renowned for its nature, food, and hot springs. Enjoy hot spring hopping that allows you to bath in the quality water, while surrounded by nature!

Take the limited express "Ibusuki no Tamatebako" to travel to Ibusuki

Advance reservation services are available at our online reservation site for all reserved seats

Limited express Ibusuki no Tamatebako

  • Limited express "Ibusuki no Tamatebako"

The train designed under the theme of Ryugujo (an undersea dragon palace in Japanese folklore) features characteristic bright and spacious sofa-type seats. It departs from Kagoshima-Chuo Station to take you to Ibusuki.

Ibusuki

Ibusuki is renowned for its sand steamed baths, which allow you to unwind while gazing at the sea stretching out in front of you.

Other recommended routes that allow you to fully enjoy other parts of Kyushu

  • Kirishima Onsen Station Taxi
  • Yakakutei Taxi
  • Ibusuki Station Taxi
  • Shusuien Taxi
  • Kagoshima-Chuo Station Bus
  • Hakata Station

JR Kyushu Rail Pass transports you to as many places in Kyushu as you can imagine…

Normal price 25,960yen

Online Booking

Here are some of the advantages of purchasing JR Kyushu Rail Pass online!

The easily exchangeable E-ticket!

Allows you to book reserved seats of tourist trains in advance!

Allows to pay easily with a credit card!

How to purchase tickets online

Access our online reservation site.

Register your e-mail address in the Rail Pass reservation page.

Open an e-mail sent to the registered e-mail address, then access the online reservation site again by clicking the URL included in the e-mail.

Enter the required information to purchase JR Kyushu Rail Pass (such as your name and passport number).

Make payment with a credit card.

Your e-ticket will be sent to the registered e-mail address.

Present your passport, e-ticket, and the credit card that you used to make payment at Rail Pass exchange office.

Receive your JR Kyushu Rail Pass!

Reservable train

  • SL Hitoyoshi
  • Limited express "Aso Boy!"
  • Limited express "A-TRAIN"
  • Limited express "KAWASEMI YAMASEMI"
  • Limited express "Umisachi-Yamasachi"
  • Limited express "Yufuin no Mori"
  • Limited express "Yufu"

Training Around Captivating Kagoshima

Traveling by train around Japan’s stunning region of hot springs and history

Nishi-Oyama Station with Majestic Mount Kaimon in the background

The prefecture is well-connected by public transport, and another of the unique charms not just limited to Kagoshima but Kyushu as a whole is that train travel is an experience in itself, with various beautifully-designed carriages from which awe-inspiring views can be had of the landscape they traverse.

So began my three-day jaunt around the region, in which I was to take in many of Kagoshima Prefecture's most breathtaking sites utilizing trains in one of the most fun and convenient methods of travel I've been lucky enough to experience. After arriving at Fukuoka Airport on my first day, I swiftly transferred to the city's main transport hub, Hakata Station, for the real journey to begin.

All aboard; heading south on the Kyushu Shinkansen

For foreign tourists JR Kyushu offers three rail passes that offer unlimited use of JR trains on the island for three or five consecutive days, and so can prove great value as part of an excursion on the island. The three passes consist of the All Kyushu Pass which covers JR trains all over the island excluding the Sanyo Shinkansen, and the Northern Kyushu and Southern Kyushu area passes. The passes can be purchased via the internet .

In addition to unlimited train travel, the passes offer benefits to holders, including discounts, free gifts and tax free shopping at a multitude of stores, restaurants and attractions across Kyushu. On this trip, I could experience such benefits at Black Pork and Local Cuisine Aoba in Ibusuki and Sengan-en in Kagoshima City.

Those purchasing a pass online will receive an exchange coupon, which has to be exchanged into an actual rail pass after arrival in Japan. In order to obtain the rail pass once in Japan, visitors must show their passport along with the exchange coupon at one of the counters including that at Hakata Station. JR Kyushu English website

Hakata Station

I boarded the Kyushu Shinkansen at Hakata Station for the hour-and-a-half journey to Kagoshima; looking out of the window all the while as the Kyushu countryside sailed past. Upon arrival at Kagoshima-Chuo Station in Kagoshima City, I grabbed my first meal of the trip at Satsuma Shimuja, a ramen shop just a few minutes' stroll from the station. Inside the stylish restaurant I devoured a delicious bowl of local-style ramen topped with burdock chips. A satisfying interlude, it was time to continue the journey to Kirishima Onsen.

Satsuma Shimuja

The Hayato no Kaze train connects Kagoshima and Kirishima Onsen twice per day, taking riders on a thoroughly enjoyable journey with exquisite surroundings, both outside the train and inside. The stylish lightwood interior contrasts with the train's jet black exterior to bestow it with an atmosphere reminiscent of decades past.

The journey took us along the coast with many opportunities to gaze out over the water upon Sakurajima, a majestic volcano and one of the most famous natural icons in the area.

Hayato no Kaze

From Kirishima Station, it is a short taxi ride to Kirin Shoten, a small indoor and outdoor market where independent artisans purvey crafts as well as local produce and snacks.

I met here with Sugikawa Akihiro, the market's owner and tea master, and he spoke to me about the importance of tea in Kagoshima's culture whilst preparing one type of local tea in various ways and at different temperatures such that each serving had a different taste and character. The venue has a relaxed and cool vibe and is a recommended stop for visitors to these parts.

Local produce and crafts galore!

The next stop was at the local Kirishima Onsen Market, where, in addition to a number of restaurants and shops selling local produce, the complex offers food cooked using steam from the market's thermal vents. An interesting place, the nibble I had here whetted my appetitie for dinner, to be had at the night's lodgings.

Kirishima Onsen Market

After a fun-filled first day of exploration, I arrived at the Yakakutei Ryokan where I was to be spending the night. This traditional Japanese inn made an impression on me immediately, with its pristine Japanese garden which can be viewed from a number of points including the complex's atmospheric outdoor walkways and the comfortable lounge area.

My room was nothing short of stellar, and included a multi-room tatami suite with a private garden and secluded outdoor bath to top it all off. My night was spent predominantly enjoying a feast of fish, vegetables and shabu shabu (meat dipped into a hot soup) and bathing. An amazing experience, this was among the most dazzling accommodation at which I had been lucky enough to stay, in Japan or otherwise.

Yakakutei's serene outdoor corridors

After a delicious breakfast, I checked out of Yakakutei and began my second day of exploration with a trip to Ibusuki. I made my way to the seismic seaside town via the Ibusuki no Tamatebako, a beautiful train that is related to the myth of Urashima Taro the fishing boy who accepts an invitation to a magical world of youth that exists under the sea.

Taro spends what he deems to be three years in the depths but upon surfacing finds that 300 years have elapsed and that all his relatives are long-deceased. In despair he opens a box given to him as a parting gift by a sea princess and in an instant his youth disappears and he becomes a old man.

The train is then named after the box that Taro opens, and boasts many interesting features including mist that sprays from the doors as they open when the train arrives at a station; in reference to the smoke that comes from the box as Taro opens it in the tale.

The Ibusuki no Tamatebako pulls into the station

I arrived in Ibusuki and headed to Black Pork and Local Cuisine Aoba, a restaurant that serves some local favorites including Ontamaran-don. This hearty dish consists of rice topped with local vegetables and pork below an egg. A delectable lunch, I was now ready to experience something I'd been eagerly looking forward to; taking a sand bath.

I received a warm welcome from the locals upon my arrival at Ibusuki

A short taxi ride away from the station and Aoba stands Sandbath Hall Saraku, a beachside complex where visitors can take a sand bath on the beach before washing off in the indoor public bath. After checking in I received a yukata (traditional Japanese gown) and towels and changed before heading out to the beach to relax in the naturally warm, thermally heated sand.

My time lying in the sand was utterly blissful, and allowed me to relax in a way I've never had the pleasure of doing before. This is an experience that is certainly worthwhile for those visiting Ibusuki.

Digging my time in the sand

The mid afternoon sun beamed from high in the sky as we left Sandbath Hall Saruku and headed via a 20-minute taxi ride to Unagi Onsen. This quaint hamlet is located on the banks of Lake Unagi, the second largest in Kagoshima Prefecture, and boasts an interesting history and some charming features. Upon arrival one of the village's English-speaking tour guides led me around the tranquil streets revealing more about the pretty place with the first stop being at a small yet striking statue of Saigo Takamori.

This son of Kagoshima Prefecture is widely revered across the country, being one of the leading forces behind Japan's shift from a feudal society into modernity with the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Said to be a fierce warrior with a warm heart, the tour guide revealed how Saigo Takamori came to Unagi Onsen for one month in the 1870s to rest and enjoy the area's placidity in the company of his many dogs.

After allowing me to take in some more of the town's features, the short walking tour came to its conclusion back in the village center, where I was treated to food cooked by the thermal steam that rises up from beneath the earth's surface. The food was delicious and rounded off an enjoyable day's exploration.

Steamed food in this village of wonders

I arrived at twilight at Shusuien Ryokan, where I was to be staying the night. This is a historic traditional Japanese inn with beautiful rooms and a nice garden. Here I enjoyed great food both for dinner and breakfast, and got the chance to see some of the inn's most impressive features; its private baths. There are two styles in all; Western and Japanese, and both can be reserved for 50 minutes following payment of a fee.

Arriving at Shusuien

After the delicious breakfast at Shusuien I headed back to Kagoshima-Chuo Station in Kagoshima City and from here took a short taxi ride to the final stop of my tour of the area. Sengan-en is a traditional Japanese garden and stately home that was once resided in by members of the Shimadzu clan, the region's ruling family during the feudal era.

Today visitors can wander around the stunning garden and even enter the opulent house to acquire an understanding of how the Shimadzu clan lived during their time here. In addition to the garden and the house, the estate boasts a string of beautiful recent renovations with buildings that house multiple eateries and shops purveying the highly-esteemed Satsuma Glassware and Satusmayaki; exquisitely crafted pottery synonymous with the region.

I had one last meal of tonkatsu, delicious pork cutlets in bread crumbs, and then it was time to leave. My departure of Sengan-en marked the conclusion of my excursion around this breathtaking part of the country. From here it was back up to Fukuoka from where I'd depart Kyushu with a heavy heart.

The old house's entrance

All Kyushu Area Map

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The following routes have been suspended due to damage to the tracks caused by heavy rainfall and earthquakes (current as of 1st December 2017):

  • Hōhi Line: Between Higo-Ōzu and Aso
  • Kyūdai Line: Between Teruoka and Hita
  • Hitahikosan Line: Between Soeda and Yoake

Southern Kyushu Area Map

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Limited express Ibusuki no Tamatebako

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Perfect 10 Day Itinerary For Your Kyushu Trip

Mount Aso

Kyushu is a natural paradise that offers many historic treasures, modern cities, and natural beauty. The southernmost of the main islands of Japan is known for its rich rugged landscape, volcanic scenery, vibrant cities, stunning hikes, and delicious ramen. Kyushu translates as nine provinces but is surprisingly formed by seven prefectures. The land of volcanoes also has a large number of high-quality (natural) hot springs dotted all over the island and Kyushu is often dubbed onsen island. Despite all of its beauty, Kyushu is an underrated paradise that isn’t frequently included on the itinerary by (international) tourists. All the more reason to travel to Kyushu! Here we will provide you with a ready-made itinerary to see some of the best places to visit in Kyushu . The itinerary is somewhat fast-paced so that you can cover the most popular spots and get to all the iconic places in 10 days. We also included some optional day trips for you to consider. As this schedule serves as an inspiration for your perfect trip to Kyushu, you can choose to leave out places or change the timing.

things to do in Kumamoto

The best time to visit Kyushu

How to get to kyushu and around, day 1: fukuoka , day 2: fukuoka – saga – nagasaki , day 3: nagasaki – shimabara – kumamoto, day 4: kumamoto – kagoshima , day 5: kagoshima – yakushima , day 6: yakushima – kagoshima, day 7: kagoshima – kirishima , day 8: kirishima – takachiho, day 9: takachiho – mount aso, day 9:  kurokawa – yufuin, tour packages, blogs you might also enjoy.

Kyushu has a comfortable climate all year round, but we recommend traveling in either spring or autumn. The winter is mild so you won’t see any snow, but it is still fairly cold at that time of the year. Summers in Kyushu are hot and humid and summer sees more rain than other regions in Japan. 

Spring is definitely the most popular season to travel to Kyushu with sunny days and comfortable temperatures. The weather is perfect for all the outdoor activities and hiking that Kyushu is known for. It is also very popular at this time due to the cherry blossoms and flowers that are in full swing at this time of year.

Mount Aso

Most travelers will access Kyushu via Fukuoka , riding Japan’s famous shinkansen or boarding a flight to the well-connected airport of Fukuoka. But the island is home to a number of airports for example in Kagoshima , Nagasaki and Oita . 

Kyushu has an extensive network of trains and buses within the major cities, connecting the seven prefectures on the island of Kyushu. The region is popular for its scenic trains such as the Yufuin no Mori and Kawasemi Yamasemi , along the coastline and crossing the mountainscape.  The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is also valid on most JR trains.

However, especially the more distant areas are easier to reach by car. With many breathtaking country roads, driving is the ideal way to explore Kyushu. Popular routes for a scenic road trip include the Nichinan coast road in Miyazaki, the Trans Kyushu Route, and the Aso Panorama Line in Kumamoto. We recommend exploring Kyushu by car as it will give you much more freedom and flexibility. You can find car rental agencies at airports and major stations. 

The JR Kyushu Rail Pass is available for internationals and includes travel in the chosen area on the following JR trains:

  • Local trains
  • Limited express trains
  • Shinkansen *Shinkansen between Kokura and Fukuoka, subways, buses or private railways are not applicable.

Fukuoka

Kyushu’s largest and most vibrant city is Fukuoka ( 福岡 ), a great place to start your trip. The old castle town is located along Hakata Bay , which made it a favorable base for international trade. The city was first known as Hakata, but was renamed Fukuoka in the 17th century. We suggest you use this first day to discover the port city, Fukuoka is home to a number of top-notch shopping facilities and historically important temples and shrines such as Kushida-jinja Shrine and the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine . Fukuoka’s castle was destroyed completely after the Meiji Restoration as it was seen as an unwanted symbol of the past, but the ruins and the bordering Maizuru Park are a very popular sakura viewing spot in Fukuoka . You cannot leave Fukuoka without trying the famous Hakata Ramen from one of the food stalls called yatai .

▼ And don’t miss out on the final Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka in November! Book your tickets by clicking the Link below and get a professional guide that will give you essential background information to enjoy the experience to the fullest .

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▼ Fukuoka 1-Day Highlight Private Walking Tour (7 Hours) Book a guided private walking tour in Fukuoka to explore the highlights of Fukuoka including Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine, Kushida Shrine, and other unique spots that only locals know!

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Both the drive and the train ride from Fukuoka to Nagasaki (長崎) will take you about 2 hours when traveling directly. You might want to take a detour and make some stops along the road in Saga prefecture , a small prefecture famous for Japanese traditional ceramics. Especially Arita and Imari are famous pottery villages . Start the day (very) early and catch the sunrise at Hamanoura Rice Terraces Lookout (浜野浦の棚田展望台) or enjoy the onsen facilities in Takeo Onsen (武雄温泉), a hot spring resort with over 1,300 years of history. 

Hamanoura Rice Terraces Lookout

Nagasaki is widely known for two events in history ; it was the location of the second atomic bomb dropping and Nagasaki was the most important port where a restricted number of foreign traders were allowed during the period of isolation between the 17th and 19th centuries, known as the Sakoku period.

Nagasaki Hirado

Depending upon the time of your arrival we recommend heading up to Mount Inasa for a spectacular view over Nagasaki. Nagasaki has a lot to offer, and the impressive night scenery that can be seen from Mount Inasa Observatory is one of them. When visiting Nagasaki, make sure to spend some time at the Nagasaki Peace Park where the victims of the second atomic bomb are commemorated. On August 9, 1945, Nagasaki became the second city that was destroyed by an atomic bomb, after Hiroshima. Another interesting place to visit in Nagasaki is Clover Garden , an open-air museum that showcases several beautiful mansions of the foreigners who lived in the city after the period of isolation. Or head to Dejima (出島), an artificial island that used to be Japan’s window to the world during that same period of isolation. 

Right off Nagasaki’s coast, the abandoned island of Gunkanjima (軍艦島) makes for an interesting half-day trip. The small island served as an important coal mine until 1974 and can now be visited with a sightseeing tour.  

▶ Make sure to book a tour to enter the Gunkanjima beforehand

Nagasaki, sasebo city

On the third day make your way from Nagasaki to Shimabara (島原), this should take about 1.5-2 hrs by car or train. Shimabara Peninsula (島原半島) is a popular hot spring and hiking destination, with Mount Unzen (雲仙岳) and Unzen Onsen (雲仙温泉) at the center. Mount Unzen is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and has erupted several times in the last centuries. Its most recent eruption was in 1991 when 43 people were killed. Near the top of Mount Unzen, Unzen Onsen is a hot spring resort surrounded by several hot spring fields. 

Shimabara Peninsula

From Shimabara Port, catch the ferry to Kumamoto Port . From November to March, seagull feeding is available on the 60-minute ferry ride. Cars are allowed on board, but it is best to make a reservation (which can be made up to one month in advance). 

Kumamoto (熊本) is the capital city of the namesake prefecture and is rich in history, with sites such as Kumamoto Castle , built over 400 years ago and considered one of the three most magnificent castles in Japan . Kumamoto is highly praised by nature lovers, blessed with breathtaking scenery and many hot springs . It is also called the land of water with hot spring water flowing from more than 1,000 locations across the prefecture.

Kumamoto castle

Spend the morning exploring some more of Kumamoto, visit for example the Suizenji Garden , a beautiful serene Japanese garden. For lunch, have some Kumamoto Ramen , this local variant of the famous Japanese comfort food is characterized by mild tonkotsu soup , made rich in flavor with the addition of chicken bones mixed with garlic oil or chips.

Around midday make your way to Kagoshima (鹿児島), also known as the Naples of Japan for its bayside location and towering active stratovolcano Sakurajima ( 桜島 ). Stay overnight in Kagoshima for example at the Shiroyama Mountain Hotel , located on top of the hill and with hot spring baths overlooking Sakurajima volcano and the sea.

This guided tour will help you to explore all the highlights of Kyushu’s Kagoshima in a day tour , it’s highly recommended if you have a limited time or want to discover the city with a local guide.

Sakurajima

In the morning, board the ferry from Kagoshima to Yakushima (屋久島), a true nature lover’s paradise that served as an inspiration for Ghibli’s famous Princess Mononoke’s film . The small island of Yakushima is located about 60 km off the coast of Kagoshima and is famous for its towering mountains, its ancient cedar forest – Jomonsugi (縄文杉) is a giant  cedar tree  which is estimated to be 2000 to 7200 years old – and many well-marked hiking options. Much of the island is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site .

Yakushima hiking

Enter the land of Princess Mononoke and pick one of the several hiking routes of Yakushima. We recommend visiting the Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡 ) where you have the option of several trails ranging from a 1 hr to a 6hr walk. 

The island is quite small and it’s possible to access all of Yakushima’s main sights by bus, though service is infrequent. The best way to explore Yakushima at your own pace is by car. Cars can be rented on the island, and it is also possible to bring your car from Kagoshima with the car ferry . 

Recommended tour: Yakusugi Cedar Forest Walking Tour on Yakushima Island

Spent the entire day exploring the island before taking back the ferry to Kagoshima. Admire mesmerizing waterfalls like Okonotaki , Senpiro, and Janokuchi , or the historical Yaku Shrine . One of the highlights of the island is the natural hot spring bathing pools formed from ocean rocks along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Bear in mind that the last ferry to Kagoshima departs from Yakushima at 4pm.

kyushu tourist pass

After waking up in Kagoshima the next morning, explore the city a bit more and transfer to Kirishima (霧島). The area of Kirishima consists of volcanic mountains, highlands, hot springs and volcanic lakes and it was the first to be designated as a national park in Japan in 1934. The absolutely breathtaking scenery is a feast for the eyes and the mountains offer a wide range of hiking courses suitable for both beginners and more experienced hikers. Nearby Ebino Kogen (えびの高原) and Kirishima Onsen (霧島温泉) are the two best hot spring towns in the Kirishima area. We recommend staying overnight in Kirishima Onsen, one of Japan’s best hot spring resorts with high-quality sulfuric water. You can also opt for staying in Ebino Kogen, an epic place to see the autumn colored leaves and the starting point of several hiking trails. Kirishima Mountain is also an important site in Japanese mythology and home to a large beautiful shrine; Kirishima Shrine is an impressive ancient shrine said to be built in the 6th century!

Kirishima Kagoshima

The trip from Kirishima to Takachiho (高千穂) takes about 3~3.5 hrs by car without any stops. Depending on your preference you can either do some more hiking in Kirishima or you can also decide to take a slightly longer route and drive along the coastline of Miyazaki (宮崎市), a beautiful scenic drive. In the south, the Nichinan Coastline is known as one of Japan’s best road trips, with beaches, great surfing spots and the stone giants of Sun Messe Nichinan along the way. 

Miyazaki coastline

In northern Miyazaki you’ll find one of Japan’s most beautiful nature spots : Takachiho Gorge (高千穂峡). The stunning V-shaped gorge was formed from lava from Mount Aso  (阿蘇山) which over time eroded to create 80-100m high volcanic cliffs. This place has appeared in Japanese mythology and is known as a power spot filled with spiritual energy. The gorge can be enjoyed in two ways; from above (the cliffs) and below while rowing down the river. Follow the trail that leads you to the observatory deck in front of the Manai Waterfalls . 

Takachiho-gorge-2

Overnight in Takachiho and see a traditional Japanese dance performance, held every evening at 8pm on the grounds of Takachiho shrine.  

Sea of clouds

Wake up early and watch a magnificent sunrise at the nearby mountain peak called Kunimigaoka (国見ヶ丘), known for Japan’s famous unkai or sea of clouds . After one of the best sunrise views over the rice fields and Takachiho Valley, continue north and make your way to Mount Aso . But before visiting Japan’s largest active volcano, take a small detour and make a stop at the picturesque Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine . The path leading up to the shrine is lined with numerous stone lanterns, and it is worth the trip, even if you’re not a fan of shrines. The shrine is famous for being the setting of a popular anime and manga comic Hotarubi no Mori e (Into the Forest of Fireflies).

Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine

Mount Aso is one of the largest calderas in the entire world, spanning 17 kilometers from east to west and 25 kilometers from south to north with a total area of 350 square kilometers. Standing at 1592 meters above sea level and boasting five soaring peaks, Mount Aso is a must-visit for anyone visiting Kyushu. Hiking the Mount Aso region is one of the most incredible adventures you can have in Japan! It is possible to drive to the top of Mount Nakadake (中岳), or you walk in about 30 minutes to the summit. Alternatively, you can also take the ropeway around Mt. Aso and ride the plains created by the magma below the mountain. From the parking or the ropeway station, there are a number of hiking trails to explore Mount Aso . Always check the current status of the area before you go as the volcano is still active and often closed. To find out the current restrictions in place you check the official website . 

kyushu tourist pass

After taking in the breathtaking volcanic scenery of Mount Aso, make your way to Kurokawa Onsen (黒川温泉), a secluded onsen town up in the Aso mountain range. Kurokawa Onsen has managed to maintain the traditional atmosphere with ryokan and public bathhouses dominating the townscape. The charming town is home to a number of ryokan baths and public baths and visitors can purchase a tegata for ¥1,300 that offers access to any three of the participating onsen. Stroll around in your yukata and wooden sandals and relax after a long day of exploration.

After Kurokawa Onsen the next destination on the list is Yufuin (由布院), a popular onsen resort town in Oita Prefecture . You have two options of getting there by car and we recommend taking the road passing the Kuji Mountain (九重山) range along the way. The mountains are located along the scenic drive Yamanami Highway. 

Kuju Mountains Oita prefecture

The natural hot springs of Yufuin are a must-try of course and there are several public baths that can be used by visitors like Tsuka no Ma, Baien and Musoen . Some of the baths are gender separated whereas others are mixed. Yufuin is located on a flat river basin nestled in a mountainous valley, with scenic views of Mount Yufu , a volcano that stands 1.83 meters tall, from nearly every place in town. Along the main street, you will find many souvenir shops, cafes and small art museums, creating a lively atmosphere. Most of the public baths and ryokan are scattered around the town and many visitors come to visit for just the day. Staying overnight will offer you the opportunity to enjoy the natural hot spring and the second no other place views. Because there are many mountains surrounding Yufuin, there are also plenty of hiking trails with easy access from the town. For example, this day trip hiking to the summit of Mount Yufu , takes about 4-5 hours to complete. On a clear day, the views are guaranteed jaw-dropping. 

Mount Yufu Oita prefecture

Another highlight nearby is Lake Kinrin at the base of Mt. Yufu. The small lake is located at the end of the main walking route of Yufuin. There is a small shrine located on the southern shore and there are charming little cafes and shops selling local specialties. 

We recommend staying at the traditional ryokan, Yufuin Iyotomi . The ryokan has indoor cypress baths and a large outdoor bath (rotenburo). 

Day 10: Beppu – Oita

Situated at the heart of Oita Prefecture , Beppu (別府) is one of Japan’s most popular hot spring resorts. The area produces the greatest amount of thermal water from natural hot springs in the world. You can’t miss it, there is steam rising into the air everywhere in Beppu. There is a wide range of baths to be enjoyed, from normal hot water baths to mud baths, sand baths and steam baths, Beppu offers it all. 

In addition, the Hells of Beppu (地獄, jigoku) are a must-visit when you’re in the area. The hells of Beppu are seven incredible hot springs created by volcanic activity more than 30,000 years ago. These hot springs are for viewing rather than bathing as they are far too hot; the temperature reaches up to 100 degrees Celsius. The most beautiful hell is Umi Jigoku , or Sea Hell, a pond of boiling milky blue water, shrouded in steam. The grounds also feature a large garden and a few smaller, orange-colored hells. Chinoike Jigoku or Blood Pond Hell is another spectacular hell with bright red water, thanks to the high levels of iron and magnesium in the water.

Beppu onsen hells valley

Onbara (乙原の滝) is a hidden gem near Beppu where you can enjoy a short trek passing the epic waterfall of Onbara Falls. There are several beautiful waterfalls in the area around Beppu, but Onbara Falls is the most beautiful and accessible. There is a short, well-marked trail with a dirt/rock path leading you up to the falls. Start your day with a beautiful little walk, the trail is only about a 2km return and refresh at one of the many natural hot springs after.

We recommend you also visit the Beppu Sand Bath (別府海浜砂湯) where you don’t bathe in hot water, but in hot sand instead! Being buried in the hot volcanic sand is a healthy and relaxing experience.

From Beppu you have the option of flying to your next destination using Oita Airport (大分空港). If you are continuing tour trip from Fukuoka, we highly recommend taking the Yufuin no More train to Fukuoka . The sightseeing train is a popular train ride to take and gives you some amazing views of both prefectures on the way.

Yufuin no mori train

With this 10 day itinerary, you will visit many of the highlights of Kyushu. We recommend you to self-drive, as public transportation is limited especially in the more rural parts including Kirishima and Takachiho Gorge. A car offers you the freedom to visit the tourist hotspots of Kyushu in a short amount of time. This ready-to-use Kyushu itinerary serves as an example of the ultimate Kyushu trip, of course, you can extend this itinerary and stay longer at some places or add other places from your wishlist. 

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Happy traveling!

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Endless energy, wild beauty and warm smiles.

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Be Inspired by Kyushu

Kyushu is a land full of energy, from its vibrant people to its famous volcanoes. Close to the rest of Asia and easily accessible from Tokyo, Kyushu has welcomed new ideas and cultures for over a thousand years. Experience the dynamic landscapes, relax in the many hot springs, and enjoy the warmth of genuine hospitality.

Recommended Travel Blogs

Everything You Need to Know About Fukuoka’s Famed Tonkotsu Ramen

7 Distinct Prefectures

Fukuoka

Fukuoka is the geographical and historical gateway to Asia: steeped in history, but open to new ideas and cultures. With a vibrant city and historical sites, it’s a perfect introduction to Kyushu.

Saga

A small region with a large cultural impact, Saga is rich in history, craft, and food. Experience the beautiful colors of Saga, from the bright hot air balloons to the elegant shades of Arita pottery.

Nagasaki

Nagasaki has been shaped by history, natural forces and a blend of international influences. The city’s turbulent past has created a remarkable culture of peace and tolerance.

Kumamoto

Kumamoto is a product of the forces of nature and its samurai heritage, symbolized by two powerful landmarks: Kumamoto Castle and Mt. Aso, Japan’s largest volcano.

Oita

Oita is famous for its hot-spring towns Beppu and Yufuin, but it also has charming castle towns and a mountainous inland, perfect for hiking and cycling.

Miyazaki

Miyazaki is considered a home of the gods and ancient legends. Dense forests, dramatic gorges and hidden mountain villages take you back to those storied times.

Kagoshima

Kagoshima is a beautiful land of contrasts, from Sakurajima, the active volcano, to the ancient forests of Yakushima and the tropical islands around Amami Oshima.

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Top Attractions

Dazaifu tenmangu shrine.

This major Shinto shrine less than an hour from Fukuoka's city center, is famous for its abundant plum blossoms and fascinating history.

kyushu tourist pass

Hells of Beppu

Beppu Onsen is one of the most famous hot spring towns in Japan. Visit Beppu's colorful "hells," hot springs that reach over 100 degrees Celsius.

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Kumamoto Castle

With a black facade and commanding views over the city, the castle is a symbol of Kumamoto. Although it was damaged in the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake, its restoration is a sigh of hope for the area.

kyushu tourist pass

Ibusuki Onsen

This hot spring town at the southern tip of Kagoshima is famous for its sunamushi, or sand bathing. The sands are warmed by volcanic hot springs.

kyushu tourist pass

Kujukushima

Although the name translates to ninety-nine islands, there are actually 208 lushly forested islands, scattered across the bay near Sasebo. only four are inhabited.

kyushu tourist pass

kyushu tourist pass

8 Unique Experiences On Kyushu — The Third Largest Japanese Island

M y knowledge of Japan, up until now, has been limited to hearing about Tokyo and Mount Fuji. Having recently traveled to Kyushu (pronounced “Q-shoe”), Japan’s third largest island, to visit family, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world.

Kyushu is a magical place, an island of grassy green hills, tunnels, waterfalls, volcanoes, and hot springs. But more than that, it is a “throwback” to another time. And by that I mean Kyushu is a wonderful example of Japan’s ancient culture and traditions, from ancient temples and sacred shrines to fighting spinning tops and world-acclaimed porcelain. What I found most unique about Kyushu is its people. They are friendly, hospitable, and excited to share a bit of their world with visitors.

A few memorable places in Kyushu were the Yukoto Inari Shrine, Sachihime Brewery (sake-tasting and tour), Shinsaikai Bridge, Ito Ichiba Fish Market, Tenkaiho Observatory, and Kujukushima (“99 Islands”). With so much to love about Kyushu, Japan, here are my eight favorite “unique” experiences on the island.

1. Sakurajima Volcano

One of the most unique and thrilling experiences is to spend the night on or near one of Japan’s most active volcanoes, Sakurajima (“Cherry Blossom Island”), located on Kyushu’s western tip in Kagoshima prefecture. Spending the night at the base of this smoking volcano has been described as “both a weird mix of serenity and a feeling of power.” If you’d like to visit Sakurajima, but would rather not stay so close to an active volcano, there are hotels in Kagoshima with amazing views of the volcano from across the bay.

Sakurajima has several volcano observation points, as well as historical shrines, to visit around the island. Be sure to stop in at the Sakurajima Visitor Center and volcanic museum near the ferry port. Admission is free and it’s right next to a lava trail and Yogan Nagisa Park Footbath (a hot spring) which is a unique experience on its own. 

Pro Tip: Sakurajima is accessible by ferry from Kagoshima or via a narrow road on the opposite side, the easiest access point if traveling from Kirishima Kurozu (below).

2. Kirishima Kurozu (Black Vinegar)

A very unique experience in Kyushu is found in Kagoshima prefecture: Kirishima Kurozu or Black Vinegar (factory). The best place to experience Kirishima Kurozu is at Sakamoto Kurozu Tsubobatake Information Center . Strange black pots are visible from the road as is the smell of delicious vinegar as it wafts through the air. At the visitor and information center, there is a small museum, an exquisite restaurant, and a gift shop where you can buy hundreds of vinegar products as well as taste the different variations of vinegar produced at this factory.

The most unique highlight here, though, are the large fields lined with thousands of black vinegar jars — a centuries-old method of making black vinegar. On clear days, you’ll have a great view over the vinegar jars of Sakurajima Volcano smoking in the background.

3. Hirado Castle

Hirado City is located on Hirado Island in Nagasaki prefectureʼs western region. In the mid-16th century, Hirado became the international trading capital of Japan. The Hirado Dutch Trading House (established 1609), Japan’s first Western-style building, has been restored and is now a fantastic history museum open to the public.

High on the hill above the Dutch Trading House stands Matsura Historical Museum . It is housed in the residence of the Matsura feudal lord who reigned during the Kamakura period (circa 1185–1333). The museum contains remnants and historical artifacts from the reign of the Matsura.

Hirado Castle , built in the 18th century, is one of the unique castles in Kyushu. The current castle tower was fully restored in 1962. With five floors, Hirado Castle is part museum and part historical-site gallery with a theater and unique interactive experiences. The castle grounds are gorgeous with gardens, statues, and shrines. And you just might run into a samurai warrior or two.

Pro Tip: There are many steps to climb both inside Hirado Castle and to get up to Matsura Historical Museum.

4. Sasebo Spinning Tops

For a unique (only in Kyushu) experience, visit Sasebo Spinning Tops, also known as Sasebo Goma. See the ancient method of making “fighting” spinning tops and learn the art and sport of spinning them. Learn ancient traditions and the theory of “Yin-Yang and the Five Elements” (the colors used to paint the tops). In the workshop, visitors can paint their very own handcrafted spinning top, a very unique and special souvenir.

Sasebo Goma is rich in history; a traditional craft of the Nagasaki prefecture that is famous worldwide. Dating back to before the Heian period (circa 800–1200), spinning tops was a game played only by royalty. Today, spinning tops are made for everyone’s enjoyment and are still made in Sasebo by third- and fourth-generation spinning top makers.

Pro Tip: Spend as much or little time as you want at the factory. The owners are more than glad to spend several hours with visitors. There is also a gift shop to buy premade spinning tops of every shape and size.

5. Seven Hells Of Beppu

Beppu’s Jigoku, also known as the “ Seven Hells of Beppu ,” sounds somewhat ominous but it is a very unique Kyushu experience in Oita prefecture. Its name comes from the mysterious geothermal springs (boiling water and gas bubbling up from below the ground). Each of the seven hells have different characteristics, including Oniyama Jigoku, an animal preserve where 80 alligators live. Four of the hells are designated National Places of Scenic Beauty. Umi (“sea”) is a gorgeous cobalt-blue color and the boiling clay of Chinoike (“blood lake”) is blood-red, the oldest of Japan’s hells. 

These Jigoku are for viewing, not for bathing in, as they can reach temperatures of about 99 degrees Celsius (210.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

However, there are many hot-spring bathing facilities that you can soak in. Many hotels and vacation rentals offer public and private onsens.

Pro Tip: A must-visit picturesque onsen town near Beppu is Yufuin Floral Village (a local’s favorite “mini theme park”). Visitors delight as they walk through the quaint village of Cotswolds, England-style cottages, shops, eateries, and lanes filled with flowers.

The largest city on Kyushu, Fukuoka actually has a laid-back vibe. Known as a foodie destination, Fukuoka has all the draws of a big city — museums, sporting and cultural events, etc. However, for a truly unique experience, visit the Reclining Buddha at Nanzoin Temple . The reclining pose is a rarity in Japan and this one is an impressive 134 feet long and 36 feet high. Be sure to rub his feet for good luck.

Another stunning location, and in my opinion a unique must-see, is less than an hour drive from Fukuoka in Itoshima: Sakurai Shrine Futamigaura Torii and Couple Stones. It’s a short walk (and some stairs) from parking down to the beach but well worth it for the amazing photos you’ll capture.

7. Ceramic Treasure Hunting

Saga prefecture is the birthplace of Japanese porcelain. For over 400 years, the most well-known and collected porcelain throughout the world was, and still is, from the small Kyushu towns of Arita and Imari . 

For a most-unique experience involving porcelain and ceramics, try “treasure hunting.” There are several places that offer treasure hunting. I recommend Kouraku Kiln in Arita. Visitors “buy” a shopping basket and enter a very large warehouse stacked with thousands of crates full of ceramics — bowls, plates, saki cups — everything you could imagine. You are issued gloves (the ceramics may be very dusty) and are given 90 minutes to scavenge and fill your basket. Whatever fits in your basket, you keep. 

Pro Tip: There is a children’s play area inside the barn for when the littles get tired of searching for treasures. Outside is another family-fun adventure — Samurai Archery .

While in Saga, learn about Japanese porcelain history at Arita Ceramic Museum or the much larger Kyushu Ceramic Museum . There are many ceramic kilns and shops in the prefecture open for tours and to buy wares. Two must-stops are Zwinger Palace at Arita Porcelain Park and Ookawachiyama Village (“Village of the Secret Kilns”), a national historic site.

8. Huis Ten Bosch

Sasebo is home to one of Kyushu’s most unique experiences — Huis Ten Bosch — Japan’s largest amusement park by area (yes, larger than Tokyo’s Disney). Located on Osaka Bay in Nagasaki prefecture, Huis Ten Bosch (“House In The Forest”) is an exquisite replica of a Netherlands town and countryside (complete with windmills, tulips, castles, and a canal). It was built to pay tribute to the importance of early Dutch trade in 16th-century Japan.

Not your typical amusement park — there are no screaming roller coasters — there is plenty to do for the whole family here. Visitors will find virtual reality and digital gaming along with more traditional activities. The nights are spectacular at Huis Ten Bosch as the entire park lights up with over 13 million lights. There are several light shows at the castles. One day is not enough to see and do all the park has to offer.

Pro Tip: The train stops at Huis Ten Bosch from Nagasaki and Fukuoka. There are several hotels on site and nearby.

Getting Around Kyushu

There are airports in all the major Kyushu cities. However, it may be best (cheaper) to fly to an international airport then transfer to domestic and hop down to Kyushu. We found that flights to Narita (NRT) in Tokyo were least expensive and the airport very easy to navigate.

Kyushu Railway Company is a great way to get around the island with trains to all major cities, including a bullet train (another unique experience). Driving around Kyushu is pretty easy after getting used to driving on the left-hand side of the road. Be prepared for the cost of toll roads to add up. 

Pro Tip: If you plan on renting a car and driving yourself, you must obtain a Japanese driver’s license before arrival.

Related Reading:

  • 16 Unique And Delicious Foods You Need To Try In Japan
  • 13 Incredible Things To Do In Nagano, Japan
  • My 9 Favorite World Heritage Sites I Visited In Japan

This article originally appeared on TravelAwaits

Danielle Edwards

IMAGES

  1. 3 Transportation Passes for Touring Kyushu

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  2. Southern Kyushu Pass Buy Now

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  3. JR Sanyo-San’in Northern Kyushu Area Pass(7-Days)

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  4. All Kyushu Area Pass Buy Now

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  5. Kyushu SunQ Pass

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  6. JR Northern Kyushu Area Pass

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VIDEO

  1. 3 Day Road Trip Across Kyushu

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  3. What to do in Kyushu, Japan: Beppu, Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Arita, Nagasaki

  4. 9 Things You Need To Know About the JR Kyushu Rail Pass

  5. Exploring Northern Kyushu 九州 with 3 days JR Pass // part 1: Nagasaki 長崎市

  6. Peaceful travels across Kyushu

COMMENTS

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