In April, I took my parent-in-law and my aunts to Kyushu, Japan for a family trip. During our 12-day, self-guided tour around the northern areas of Kyushu we have:
- set foot in over 13 cities,
- rode on a mini cruise,
- visited local markets,
- soaked in hot springs,
- sat in a designer train, and
- ate lots of delicious Japanese food.
What’s the best part of the trip? Well, I loved everything! But if we must choose, here are the top 6 things to do in Northern Kyushu based on our experience.
Drink at a Standing Sake Bar in Hakata
We discovered this tiny standing sake bar in the B1 level of Amu Plaza Hakata, adjoined to Hakata Station. There is minimal signage. I didn’t realized it was a sake bar until I noticed the empty bottles that lined the standing area facing the walkway. The bar offers 9 different sake from Kyushu that rotates every month and only has room for about 5-6 people. This is a great place to try sake from different regions of Kyushu and we often see locals hang out here after work. If standing doesn’t appeal to you, there are a few tables just outside the bar. However, standing is more authentic in our opinion.
Eat Sushi at Karato Market’s Sushi Battle
While not located in Fukuoka, the Karato Market is only a 5 mins boat ride away from the Mojiko JR Station. Every weekend (Friday – Sunday), the fish market holds a special event call the “Sushi Battle“. During the event, visitors can buy sushi, chirashi don and other seafood delicacies from fish vendors at a very reasonable price! Sold by the piece, sushi prices range from ¥100 to ¥600. Fugu, or puffer fish, is a speciality in this area so you can find fugu sushi, sashimi, deep-fried puffer fish and even puffer fish sake here!
Cruise Among the Islands in Sasebo
Kujukushima is a group of islands located about 25 minutes from the Sasebo Station. Kujuku means “99” in Japanese, so in English, it’s called the “99 Islands”. However, there are actually more than 200 islands in the area. At the Pearl Sea Resort, you can take a ride in one of two ships that circle amongst the islands in a 50 minutes cruise. During the cruise, we learned about the islands, their history and the important role they play for shellfish farming.
Eat a 5-Course Meal Served in Arita Porcelain
Arita was one of the first sites in Japan to produce porcelain called Arita-ware. There’s a special cuisine served in the area called Arita-Yaki Gozen which is a 5-course meal served in Arita-ware. The meal featured one local ingredient that is prepared in 5 different ways: grilled, boiled, steamed, vinegared/pickled and fried. We ate Arita-Yaki Gozen at Gallery Arita for a reasonable price of only ¥1,300!
Ride the A-Train to Misumi
We love riding designer trains that are available from JR Kyushu Railway. This time we rode the A-Train, which has a Southern European design. Enjoy a highball at the bar, buy exclusive souvenirs and get a free collectable stamp card while taking a ride to visit Misumi West Port, a designated world heritage site.
Navigate the Yanagawa Canals on a Riverboat
The canals in Yanagawa were initially constructed for irrigation but now they are tourist attractions for local and foreign travellers. There are several companies that operate riverboats called “donkobune” and offer tours around the canals. The riverboat is operated by boatman using a long pole. Besides operating the boat, the boatman also provides information on local history, points out interesting sights and sings traditional folk songs! The area is very tranquil and the perfect place for us city dwellers to step back, slow down and take in the moment.
Have you been to Northern Kyushu? Let me know in the comments! 🙂