Although Japan is a relatively small country it’s not compact, and its large near islands are complemented by multitudinous smaller specks extending far south. The large southern island of Kyushu works really nicely as part of a second trip (or first - don’t let us prescribe). It offers some of Japan’s most seductive scenery and is still rarely visited by travellers. The landscape flattens and widens and, at its best, becomes a lush, verdant green. A land of laid back cities, quiet homesteads, majestic gorges and imposing volcanoes - a warm, welcoming wilderness.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
The major cities of Japan all have fascinating histories, but often they seem out of sync with each other. Nagasaki was the only port permitted to open to foreign trade for 200 years up to 1859, leading to its unusual mix of cultural influences. Dotted around the city is an eclectic collection of buildings that tell a story of undulating trade and tolerance between its contrasting cultures. Nagasaki’s most famous dish, champon, has Chinese origins. The Portuguese, who traded guns and tobacco, also came bearing cake, and today Nagasaki is famous across Japan for its delicious Castella sponge. The city also takes its more sombre legacy seriously, with relentless local activism against nuclear weapons.
The river-formed chasm of Takachiho Gorge, and its picturesque waterfalls, make this area well worth dedicating some proper time to. Dominating the region is the active Asosan volcano and its huge caldera peppered with towns, walking trails, and active peaks. Fertile soil provides delicious grazing for herds of cows and horses, and a gorgeous landscape to walk through. On the surface, the beautiful scenery is reminiscent of bucolic scenes in many travellers’ home countries, but when you remember you’re walking in a volcano, that’s hard to beat! The five peaks of Asosan are said to resemble a sleeping Bhudda, and felt to be just as sacred.
Besides being aware that Fukuoka is a city in Japan, most travellers know very little about this interesting destination. It offers a certain exuberance that is perhaps best reflected in the plethora of yatai (food stalls) that pepper its characterful streets. Amble, walk or run (if you're hungry) between stalls, eating as much as you wish. Most of the world’s top foodstuffs can be found here, but its most famous dish is Hakata ramen which is a superstar among its ilk. Order it with a side of karaage fried chicken and a frosted glass of Asahi and you’ll be in foodie heaven. Eat your fill, recharge back at your hotel, then step out into the warm air of Nakasu island for dinner with the locals.
Wander along the ancient trails of Kumano Kodo and its spiritual shrines, enjoying the peaceful, and enchanting surroundings as well as taking in the hospitality of local families along the way.