BEAUTIFUL JAPANESE CASTLE AND SUPERB CULINARY DESTINATION; KYUSHU & FUKUOKA, JAPAN
Day 1 – Arrive Fukuoka
There are direct flights to/from Fukuoka, Japan from the Asian hubs of Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. Our preferred connection routes from North America are through these two international airports. Upon arrival at the Fukuoka Airport, we transfer to our hotel, then spend an afternoon in the Canal City Hakata Mall connected to our hotel. In the evening, we have dinner in the Grand Hyatt Fukuoka. Note: In case of the extended flight connection in Seoul, South Korea, there is a quality transit hotel inside the Incheon International Airport.
Day 2 – Fukuoka’s Coastline
We organize a private 1-day tour (car and driver) through our hotel to explore Fukuoka’s coastline. We drive 30 minutes along a pretty coastal route and arrive to Itoshima, a picturesque city and an ideal place to have lunch. We enjoy a fresh seafood at the Kihachi Restaurant. After lunch, we follow the coastal route to the Sakurai Futamigaura, a lovely beach overlooking two large rocks in the middle of the sea. Our journey continues to the fishing village of Keya to take a half an hour boat tour to Keya-No-Ohto, a natural monument of basalt rock cave formations. After the boat excursion, we drive inland to the Shiraito Waterfalls, officially designated a “Place of Scenic Beauty in Japan”. Afterward, we drive back to the center of Fukuoka City and have dinner at the traditional outdoor food stalls, called Yatai.
Day 3 – Karatsu
Today, we depart our hotel at 10:00am and walk 15 minutes to the Nishitetsu Fukuoka Tenjin Station to take the Kuko Line metro toward the JR Karatsu Station. Note: The Kuko Line metro becomes the JR Chikuhi Line but no train change is needed during the 1.5 hour trip. Upon arrival in Karatsu, we take a short taxi ride to the Genyo Restaurant, a traditional Japanese restaurant serving fresh seafood. After lunch, we walk 15 minutes on the beach along the Karatsu Bay to the Karatsu Castle, accessible from the beach by a short elevator ride or by the stone steps. We spend a few hours exploring the 17th century Karatsu Castle and admiring the panoramic views of Takashima Island and the sea. After our castle visit, we walk 20 minutes inland to visit pottery galleries, exhibiting the regional handcrafted Karatsuware. A short distance from the pottery street, we sample a delectable tofu ice cream at the Kawashima Tofu restaurant. En route to the JR Karatsu Station, we visit the Furusato Kaikan Arpino shop to browse for souvenirs and local ceramics. After our visit, we take the train back to Fukuoka City and dine in our hotel.
Day 4 – Yanagawa, Dazaifu
In the morning, we take a direct train (the Nishitetsu Fukuoka Line) from the Tenjin Station in Fukuoka to Yanagawa (the duration of the trip is about 60 minutes). Upon arrival at the Yanagawa Station, we purchase tickets for a boat tour that includes a shuttle transfer to the Shogetsu Punting Station, the starting point of the boat tours. The traditional wooden boats move along the canals, revealing the town’s small bridges, historical buildings and waterfront shops. Our boat excursion ends in front of the Rokkyu Restaurant, where we degust a local specialty of Unagi Meshi. After lunch, we take a taxi to the Yanagawa Station and take the train toward Fukuoka (Nishitetsu Fukuoka Line). We get off at the Futsukaichi Station (trip duration is around 1 hour), then change to a local train to the Dazaifu Station (trip duration is 5 minutes). In Dazaifu, a charming town established in the 7th century, we visit historical sites and shrines, and browse for souvenirs. Afterwards, we take the train back to Fukuoka.
Day 5 – Kumamoto
After breakfast, we walk 15 minutes to the JR Hakata Station in Fukuoka to take a direct train Kyushu Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train) to the JR Kumamoto Station. We take the Sakura Supper Express train that takes 40 minutes to arrive to Kumamoto. At the front entrance of the JR Kumamoto Station, we take the Shiromegurin (Kumamoto Castle Tour Bus) to visit the Kumamoto Castle. The castle complex encompasses the fortified castle, encircling greenery and the reconstructed Honmaru-Goten Palace. After our visit, we have a late lunch, sampling the regional specialty of Karashi Renkon, a deep-fried lotus root stuffed with karashi mustard. We return to the JR Kumamoto Station to take the train back to Fukuoka City. We walk 1 minute from the JR Hakata Station to the TOC-TOC Restaurant, situated on the 10th floor of the JR Hakata City building to have dinner.
Day 6 – Fukuoka
Today, we explore the cultural sites and landmarks of Fukuoka City. In the morning, we walk 15 minutes to the Fukuoka City Hall to take a 10:00am tour with the Fukuoka Open Top Bus (fukuokaopentopbus.jp/en/course-seaside-momochi). Our selected Seaside Momochi Course takes an hour and passes the Fukuoka Tower, the Maizuru Castle Ruins, the Ohori Park and a few other landmarks. After our tour, we walk to the nearby department store Daimaru Fukuoka (daimaru.co.jp/fukuoka) to enjoy a traditional Japanese multi-course meal. In the afternoon, we walk 15 minutes, traversing the Naka River to the Kushida Shrine, a Shino shrine dating back to the year 757 AD. Next, we visit the nearby Tocho-Ji Temple, encompassing a five-storied pagoda and a large statue of a seated Buddha. After our visit, we walk 15 minutes to the Ichiran restaurant (5-3-2 Nakasu, Hakata in Fukuoka) to enjoy some Tonkotsu Ramen.
Day 7 – Nokonoshima Island Park
Our day starts with a 20-30 minutes taxi ride to the Meinohama Ferry Terminal, located in the northern part in Fukuoka City. We take a quick ferry to the Noko Ferry Terminal, then take the Nishitetsu Bus (duration 1o minutes) to the Nokonoshima Island Park. We spend our day along the pretty walkways, observing the manicured gardens, visiting the pottery shop, enjoying the views of Hakata Bay and having lunch at the casual eatery. In the afternoon, we take a return ferry to Fukuoka City and take a taxi (around 20 minutes) to the upscale mall of Mitsukoshi Fukuoka to do some shopping. In the evening, we walk 15 minutes to our hotel.
Day 8 – Fukuoka Departure
After breakfast, we transfer to the Fukuoka Airport and take our international flight to return home.
Kyushu – Japan, an archipelago of 6,852 islands, has four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan’s main islands, is defined by its volcanic terrain, natural hot springs, historical attractions, beautiful coastline and exceptional cuisine. Kyushu is divided into 7 prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki and Kagoshima. During our journey, we explore the multi-cultural metropolis of Fukuoka, an ancient trading port in the Saga Prefecture and the historic Japanese castle in Kumamoto City. Kyushu is a perfect holiday destination with a temperate climate, beautiful nature and extraordinary regional food.
Fukuoka (Fukuoka Prefecture) – Fukuoka is the capital city of Fukuoka Prefecture and a vibrant cultural center where tradition and modernity are seamlessly connected. Fukuoka City is an ideal place to discover the cultural and natural sites of the city and Kyushu Island. In the heart of Fukuoka City, the Kushida Shrine, also known as Okushida-San, is a Shino shrine dating back to the year 757 AD. A famous annual summer festival, Hakata Gion Yamakasa, is hosted at this shrine. The Tocho-Ji Temple, a symbol of Shingon Buddhism, includes a five-storied pagoda and a large statue of a seated Buddha. During our visit, we also take a 60 minutes tour with the Fukuoka Open Top Bus to discover the cultural sites and landmarks of the Fukuoka City. The bus route passes the Fukuoka Tower and continues toward the Maizuru Castle Ruins, symbolizing a 400 years of history surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms. The Fukuoka City Museum educates visitors about the history and culture of Fukuoka. We pass the Shino Hakozaki Shrine, then continue toward the Ohori Park with its picturesque pond and walkways and traverse the Keyaki Dori Avenue, a pretty tree-lined boulevard. Fukuoka City is also known for its outstanding cuisine and diverse shopping venues. Two noteworthy shopping places are located in the Tenjin areas: Mitsukoshi Fukuoka, an upscale shopping mall and Daimaru Fukuoka, a department store with superb dining options.
Karatsu (Saga Prefecture) – Karatsu, a coastal city in the Saga Prefecture, is an ancient port and trade center between Japan, China and Korea. There is a direct metro route from the Tenjin Station in Fukuoka to the JR Karatsu Station. The route outside Fukuoka becomes a rail route and traverses a picturesque coastline scenery. Upon arrival in Karatsu, we take a taxi to the Genyo Restaurant, a traditional Japanese restaurant serving superb fresh seafood. The nearby Karatsu Bay and long stretch of the beach serve as a pretty pathway leading us to the Karatsu Castle, accessible from the beach by a short elevator ride or by the stone steps. The Karatsu Castle is a stunning Japanese castle along the Karatsu Bay, originally built in the 17th century and since reconstructed. The castle is surrounded by cherry trees and wisteria, and offers panoramic views of Takashima Island and the sea. Inside the castle, there is an exhibition of ancient armors, the reproduction of old Karatsu streets and original Japanese pottery from Karatsu, called Karatsuware. After our castle visit, we walk 20 minutes inland to visit galleries and shops showcasing Karatsuware, the regional pottery handcrafted using unique Japanese designs. A short distance from the main pottery street, Kawashima Tofu restaurant (zarudoufu.co.jp website in Japanese) makes superb fresh tofu and delectable tofu ice cream. This small place makes the absolute best tofu we had in Japan. Near the JR Karatsu Station, Furusato Kaikan Arpino is a specialty shopping center with souvenir shops and a Karatsu-Yaki pottery shop. We take our return train to Fukuoka City after our visit.
Yanagawa (Fukuoka Prefecture) – Yanagawa is a charming town in the southwestern part of the Fukuoka Prefecture. Yanagawa, originally a farming village, is a popular tourist destination for its boat tours along the town’s pretty canals and its unique regional cuisine. The Nishitetsu Fukuoka Line services direct train routes from the Tenjin Station in Fukuoka to Yanagawa (approximately 60 minutes). Upon arrival in the Yanagawa Station, we purchase tickets for a boat tour that includes the shuttle transfer to the Shogetsu Punting Station, the starting point of the boat tours. The boat tours, called Kawakudari (going downstream) proceed downstream in the canals around the town, revealing picturesque small bridges, historical buildings and waterfront shops. The boat tours (yanagawakk.co.jp/index_e.html) depart every 30 minutes, are offered as group or private excursions and take around 1 hour. The calm waters guide the traditional wooden boats, called donkobune, near the historic Yanagawa Castle Moat Water Gate, along pretty greenery and near the front of the Rokkyu Restaurant, the ending point of the tour. At the restaurant, we sample the local specialty of Unagi Meshi, a charcoal grilled eel served over rice and seasoned with a special sauce. Afterward, free shuttle bus (or taxi) are available to transfer to the Yanagawa Station where we take the return train to Fukuoka.
Dazaifu (Fukuoka Prefecture) – Dazaifu, a historic town in Fukuoka Prefecture, is known for its historical sites, celebrated shrines and beautiful gardens. The Nishitetsu Fukuoka Line services direct train routes from the Tenjin Station in Fukuoka to the Futsukaichi Station, and offers transfer using a local train to the Dazaifu Station. Dazaifu is an ancient administrative capital of Kyushu, established in the 7th century. It showcases a traditional architecture, tree lined streets and famous landmarks. The Dazaifu Tenmangu is a Shinto Shrine dedicated to the memory of Sugawara Michizane. It is surrounded by lovely ponds, small bridges and Asian plum trees. The Komyozenji Temple, constructed during the Kamakura period, is surrounded by beautiful Japanese garden designed with pebble stones, flowers, trees and moss. The Kanzeonji Temple is a Buddhist Temple constructed in memory of the Empress Saimei and illustrates the symbols of the Heian period. After our sightseeing, we stroll through town and browse for souvenirs before taking the train back to Fukuoka. Note: The Kyushu National Museum is within a 15 minutes’ walking distance to the Dazaifu Station. We did not have sufficient time to explore it during our visit.
Kumamoto (Kumamoto Prefecture) – The Kumamoto Prefecture, located in the central part of Kyushu, boasts a stunning topography of mountains, rivers, parks, hot springs and sea. The visitors to the Aso-Kuju National Park discover stunning grasslands, forests, volcanic group of Mount Aso and Kuju mountain range. The village of Kurokawa Onsen, situated north of Mount Aso, is surrounded by mountains, grottos and forests, and is popular for its natural hot-springs. Kumamoto, the capital city of Kumamoto Prefecture, is known for its historical monuments and wonderful cuisine. A direct train Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train) departs the JR Hakata Station in Fukuoka and arrives to the JR Kumamoto Station. The Tsubame express train takes 50 minutes while the Sakura supper express train takes 40 minutes to arrive to Kumamoto. At the front entrance of the JR Kumamoto Station, the Shiromegurin (Kumamoto Castle Tour Bus) loops around the cultural monuments of the city. The Kumamoto Castle, originally constructed by Kato Kiyomasa in 1607, is one of Japan’s three main castles. The expansive castle complex encompasses a fortified castle with stone walls, turrets and moats, and a beautiful garden with gingko and cherry trees. The reconstructed Honmaru-Goten Palace is decorated with elaborate paintings, featuring traditional Japanese motifs.
Nokonoshima Island Park (Fukuoka Prefecture) – Situated a short ferry ride from Fukuoka City, the Nakonoshima Island is a small island loved for its greenery, flowers and views of Hakata Bay. The Meinohama Ferry Terminal, located in the northern part of Fukuoka City, provides regular ferry service to the Noko Ferry Terminal at the Nokonoshima Island. Upon arrival at the Noko Ferry Terminal, the Nishitetsu Bus offers convenient 1o minutes transfer to the Nokonoshima Island Park. The Nakonoshima Island Park, located on the northern part of the island, boasts a spectacular display of manicured gardens and seasonal flowers, such as cherry blossoms in the spring, sunflowers in the summer and colorful foliage in the autumn. The pretty walkways inside the park guide visitors to quaint shops, eateries, the Raku-Yaki pottery shop and wonderful lookout points with views of Hakata Bay.
Fukuoka’s Coastline (Fukuoka Prefecture) – Fukuoka’s coastline reveals its pretty beaches, lush vegetation and rocky shoreline along the Genkai Sea. The Genkai Sea borders the northern coast of the Fukuoka Prefecture and Saga Prefecture, exposing natural rocks formations, beaches and national park. We organize a private 1-day tour (car and driver) through our hotel to explore Fukuoka’s coastline. The pretty coastal route takes us to Itoshima, a picturesque city and an ideal place to degust the amazing regional Japanese cuisine. The Kihachi Restaurant (wakon-kihachisou.com, website in Japanese) serves superb Japanese lunch sets, consisting of soup, salad, sashimi, tempura and dessert. After lunch, we follow the coastal route to Sakurai Futamigaura, a lovely beach overlooking two large rocks in the middle of the sea. The two rocks connected by a rope, are a popular destination to observe memorable sunsets. Our journey continues to the fishing village of Keya to take a half an hour boat tour to Keya-No-Ohto, a natural monument of basalt rock cave formations. After the boat excursion, we drive inland to the Shiraito Waterfalls, an officially designated “Place of Scenic Beauty in Japan”. Beautiful maple trees and lush vegetation surround the Shiraito Waterfalls. During our visit, we observe other visitors eating Nagashi Somen, white noodles served sliding in running water down bamboo flumes. This special way of serving noodles requires the skillful use of chopsticks.
Culinary Tourism – Kyushu together with Fukuoka, its largest city, is a remarkable regional culinary center. In the evenings, Fukuoka’s city center and its river banks are lined with traditional outdoor food stalls, called Yatai. Those casual dining venues offer freshly prepared delicious food and a lively atmosphere. The Fukuoka Prefecture boasts a unique collection of regional delicacies. The Ramen noodles, brought to Japan from China, evolved as a staple food in Japan. Hakata Ramen is a specialty dish from Hakata, an eastern district of Fukuoka City. Hakata Ramen, is known for the Tonkotsu, a rich-flavored and milky-colored soup that is based on pork bones and served with ramen noodles and various toppings. Ichiran (en.ichiran.com/ramen), an established restaurant chain started in Fukuoka, specializes in Tonkotsu Ramen. A visit to Yanagawa, a city of waterways in the Fukuoka Prefecture, enables a degustation of the regional specialty called Unagi Meshi. The aromatic and succulent Unagi Meshi is a charcoal-grilled eel, served over rice mixed with a special sauce. In the center of Kyushu Island, the Kumamoto Prefecture boasts its own unique specialties, such as Karashi Renkon. The Karashi Renkon is a deep-fried lotus root stuffed with a pungent mixture of miso paste and spicy karashi mustard. This unique dish is an acquired taste, ideally combining the crunchy lotus root with the pungent mustard flavors. The Genkai Sea, bordering the northern coast of the Fukuoka Prefecture, supplies extraordinary fresh and diverse seafood. The Fresh Squid Sashimi is a culinary treat, consisting of fresh and translucent raw squid served on a bed of ice. The Itoshima Peninsula, situated an hour away from the Fukuoka City, is known for its beautiful beaches, hiking trails, beautiful sunsets and delicious Oysters. In the winter, the port towns along the peninsula offer various fresh seafood, including fresh oysters.
Kyushu Cuisine– Japan is an island country with an abundant supply of seafood, vegetables and seaweed. In southern Japan, Kyushu stands out with its temperate climate, relaxed way of life and unique regional cuisine. The Kyushu cuisine encompasses both traditional epicurean delicacies and simpler dishes served at Yatai, Fukuoka’s famous street food stalls. In the evening, we join other visitors and locals for a dinner served at a Yatai, where we degust surprisingly refreshing Vegetables and Shrimp Tempura and a delicious grilled squid. As we explore Fukuoka, we sample different versions of the Japanese delicacy of Mentaiko. Mentaiko, also called Terako, is made of whole sacs of cod roe, cured with salt. Karashi Mentaiko is a strong-flavored and spicy Mentaiko that is marinated with red chili peppers. In Fukuoka, we sample different versions of this delicacy: cured, spicy and lightly seared. An excursion to Karatsu Bay includes a delicious lunch at the Genyo Restaurant, consisting of fresh squid (Ika) and Sashimi. We are impressed with the freshness and decadent flavors of this classic Japanese delicacy of fresh raw fish sliced into thin pieces. Fukuoka’s fine dining restaurants create elaborate multi-course meals. Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese multi-course dinner and a symbol of Japanese fine dining. Kaiseki is influenced by the cuisine of the imperial court, revealing an intricate palette of sublime dishes.
Grand Hyatt Fukuoka – The Grand Hyatt Fukuoka, situated in the Hakata district in Fukuoka, offers classic luxury and an ideal location to explore the city and Kyushu. The hotel has a collection of suites and rooms decorated in a modern and minimalistic style. The Grand Club lounge (under construction at the time of our writing) serves breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails. The Grand Hyatt Fukuoka is connected to the mall complex, housing shops, cinema and casual eateries. The hotel provides a convenient access to the Hakata Station and Tenjin Station, regional railway centers connecting Fukuoka to cities across Kyushu.