FUKUOKA, Japan – When one mentions Japan, most of us are always reminded of things, scenery, and activities that are representing of the nature of culture in the land of the rising sun. This could be due in part to what most tourists see when they visit the areas of Japan that’s highly popular to travelers—that would usually be Tokyo and Osaka. What most people don’t know is that there are more to Japan that what is usually presented to tourists—more than its usual shopping spots, bright lights, and great weather. In fact, some of the deepest facets of Japanese culture lie in the areas or prefecture that’s away from the cosmopolitan vibe of Tokyo.
Kyushu is one example of that kind of magnificent gem that’s hidden within Japan. And it deserves the spotlight this time so tourists and travelers could see what this town has to offer. Luckily for us–representatives of the media and advertising industry—we were invited by Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) last July to visit Kyushu to see and feel for ourselves the unique, pleasurable experiences that this place is proud to present to the rest of the world. We were flown there via Philippine Airlines’ direct flight from Manila to Fukuoka Airport.
Kyushu is an island region down southwest of Japan that is starting to become a very promising tourist destination. Despite being struck by earthquake twice last year, it has still stood its ground and continues to become a growing favourite among millennials with disposable money to spend on traveling. Kyushu is home to two of the biggest cities in Japan: Fukuoka and Kitakyushu, which is essentially where the rest of the prefecture population is concentrated. Fukuoka has a dense population, and its airport is Kyushu’s main transportation point going in and out of the island to other points in Japan. Here are some of the best tour spots we went to, for your reference when you also plan your trip to Kyushu!
Happy shopping at Aeon Daito Shopping Center
Real talk here: one does not simply go to any spots in Japan without shopping. The first order of the day upon reaching Kyushu via Fukuoka then to Nagasaki was to visit its shopping haven, which is Aeon Daito Shopping Center. We spent about an hour scouring the place for the best finds that one can buy at reasonable Yen rates. This is the place to be when you want to buy Japanese snacks, toys, and even bags and watches!
Back to being a kid at Huis Ten Bosch
Something about Huis Ten Bosch sparks excitement and giddiness in even the oldest of people. It is a theme park in Nagasaki which recreates the typical scene of old Netherlands by displaying replicas of old Dutch buildings. Huis Ten Bosch is a great, one stop shop place where you can enjoy amazing lights spectacle, great food, and awesome displays and shows. Yes, you can live out your young self here! We spent a night here as the place has everything you need—hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, and more.
Finding peace and quiet in Urakami Cathedral and Nagasaki Peace Park
It may seem like visiting somber places in Japan is a no-no if you want fun and excitement, but we disagree. We found that visiting the Urakami Cathedral and Nagasaki Peace Park was a good activity set for us by Japan National Tourism Organization. We believe that in order to fully understand a country’s history, culture, and heritage, one must go back and acknowledge the commemorations of the place. Urakami Cathedral, once known as being the largest Roman Catholic church in the East, stands ground today even after being completely demolished by the nuclear blast from a time in our history that we would all rather want to forget. One can see the headless statues of the saints, the bell tower that was blown off by the atomic bomb and a wooden figure of the Virgin Mary, which miraculously survived the heat of the nuclear blast. The same goes for Nagasaki Peace Park, which now stands as a commemoration spot and a sobering reminder of the horrors of war and nuclear bombing. The Nagasaki Peace Park can be found next to the Atomic Bomb Museum. We also visited the Twenty Six Martyrs museum and monument.
Shopping at Don Quijote
Don Quijote, or Don-ki per locals, is the best spot to buy great items at reasonable prices! Seriously, Don-ki is what a store should be if one is to merge Shopwise, Daiso, and SM department store. It is literally an all-in-one shop. We were given about an hour or so to shop ‘til we drop, but with usually multiple floors per store, an hour is simply not enough to drop!
Scenes from Old Japan
We were lucky to visit places that represent life in Old Japan: we went to Shimabara Castle in Nagasaki, where we marveled at the stark, five-story white building. We also visited Bukeyashiki, or the Aizu samurai residence, where it once served as the quarters of the region’s highest ranked samurai down to his family and servants. If you want to get a feel of how Samurais lived in the olden times, this is a good place to visit.
Other places and activities you can visit and do in Kyushu
If you have three to four days to spend in this location, we suggest you also go here:
Horseback riding in the vast fields of Kusasenri (if you want to feel majestic like an action star
Onsen experience (if you want to have a first-hand take of what it feels to skinny-dip in your birthday suit)
BeppuJigoku Tour (Jigoku literally means “hell”—you will understand when you come here. Visit this place if you want to find out why this area has been hated for over 1000 years but has now become a great tourist spot.)
Visit www.jnto.go.jp to find out more about the many places and activities to check out in Kyushu!
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