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Tour of Kyushu starting with Fukuoka Plan A

2 nights, 3 days

Tour of Kyushu starting with Fukuoka Plan A

Enjoying mother nature on Mt. Aso-san with one of the largest calderas in the world, and walking in the remote countryside that maintains the traditions and landscape of Japan.

Tokyo (Haneda Airport) > Fukuoka Airport, 1 hour 50 minutes
Tokyo Station > Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen, 5 hours 7 minutes
Shin-Osaka Station > Sanyo Shinkansen, 2 hours 30 minutes

You might find it convenient to use a 'Kyushu Zone' round-trip ticket (14,500 yen) that allows you to ride any local JR line (nonreserved seat) including Limited Express and Express Trains within Kyushu, and JR Kyushu buses. Tickets are valid for 5 days. They are available at major JR stations, travel centers and travel companies including JTB throughout Japan. It takes more time to issue than an ordinary ticket, so allow a little extra time when visiting the ticket counter.

1st Day
Kumamoto Aso Panorama Line
Hakata Station > (1 hour 15 minutes by JR Kagoshima Honsen line, Limited Express) > Kumamoto Station > (1 hour 10 minutes by Houhi Honsen line 'Kyushu Odan Tokkyu [Trans Kyushu Express]') > Aso Station > (40 minutes by bus, 540 yen) > Aso-san-Nishi (West side of Mt. Aso-san) Station > (4 minutes by ropeway) > Mt. Naka-dake Crater > Aso-san-Nishi Station > (Bus, 540 yen) > Aso Station

Go to Kumamoto Station from JR Hakata Station on the Kagoshima Honsen line. Change to a Trans Kyushu Express bound for Aso Station.
Mt. Aso-san
Mt. Aso-san is an active volcano with one of the world's largest calderas-18 km east to west, 25 km north to south and 128 km in circumference. The mountains surrounding Mt. Naka-dake rise to 900 m, and the volcano still emits fumes, creating extremely dynamic scenery.

On the way to Aso-san-Nishi Station by bus from Aso Station, you will be amazed by the vast 'Kusasenri-ga-hama' meadow that lies in the remains of a huge crater 1 km in diameter. Access to Kusasenri-ga-hama is not restricted in any way, so you are free to enjoy horseback riding or picnicking there. This landscape is also lovely in winter with a silvery, sparkling beauty.

Mt. Aso Ropeway
Take the Mt. Aso Ropeway (return ticket 820 yen) from Aso-san-Nishi Station to reach the crater of Mt. Naka-dake. You'll enjoy a magnificent view from the ropeway, which is the first one in the world to be built on an active volcano. This crater is 600 meters in circumference and 130 meters deep. As you walk across the jagged surface of lava rocks and take a closer look at the fuming crater with the smell of sulfur in the air, you get a true sense of the mysteries of the earth. Please note that you will not be allowed to get close to the crater if there is too much volcanic activity.

Next, we return to Aso Station and then travel on to Yufuin by Trans Kyushu Bus (2,100 yen). You need to book a bus ticket in advance. In seasons when the roads are particularly busy such as during the summer holidays, it is better to travel to Oita Station on a JR Trans Kyushu Express from Aso Station and then to Yufuin on the Yufu Kogen-sen line (Kyudai Honsen line).

The small town of Yufuin in Oita Prefecture is famous for its hot springs, and as many as 4 million people visit there each year. Great efforts have been made to control estate development and create a town that exists in harmony with nature. Yufuin is also known as a center for the arts. There are several galleries in the town and an Art Hall has been built in Yufuin Station designed by Arata Isozaki. In August every year, the Yufuin Film Festival is held.

Relax in a hot spring and ease away the fatigue of the day.

*Photo (C) Yufu City Commerce & Tourism Division

2nd Day
Old Town of Yufuin
Yufuin Station > Tsujibasha horse-drawn cab (1 hour) > Station > Yunotsubo Kaido Street > (20-minute walk) > Lake Kinrin-ko > (20-minute walk) > Yufuin Station > (1 hour 15 minutes by JR Kyudai Honsen line Limited Express) > Hita Station
Yunotsubo Kaido Street
You can tour noted spots in a horse-drawn cab or on an English-style classic bus called the 'Scarborough' from in front of the Tourist Information Center. Another good idea is to rent a bicycle. The horse-drawn cab follows a one-hour route around the old stone wall path overlooking Mt. Yufu-dake.

On 'Yunotsubo Kaido' Street with its lovely areas of greenery extending out from Yufuin Station, there are many attractive shops selling everything from craftworks such as glass products and pottery to food including confectionaries, soy sauce and jam. Walk on to Lake Kinrin-ko where a hot spring wells up from the bottom of the lake, and in the early morning particularly from autumn to winter the lake is covered with a mist creating an otherworldly atmosphere.

Nearby, there are public baths and the Marc Chagall Yufuin Kinrin-ko Art Museum.
More than 20 museums and galleries are situated in Yufuin. If you are interested in art, there's plenty to see here.

'Yufuin-no-mori' train
After spending some relaxation time, visit Hita on the JR Kyudai Honsen line, also known as the Yufu-Kogen line. From the train window you will see forested rural scenery stretching to the horizon. This line is not an electrified track, so the train runs on diesel. If you wish to take a Limited Express, we recommend the 'Yufuin-no-mori' train, with its lavish wood interiors, buffet and salon cars. If there are more than 3 people in your party, it might be better to book a compartment. The driver's compartment is set on the 2nd floor, so the front carriage has a panoramic window seat that boasts an unobstructed forward view. You would also need to book this seat ahead of time.

Hita-onsen Hot Spring
You stay overnight at Hita-onsen Hot Spring. Hita City in Oita Prefecture is situated at a key point for Kyushu inland traffic. This area was very prosperous during the Edo Period about 200 years ago and the town still retains the atmosphere of those days.

The geography blessed with mountains and rivers is one of the reasons why the area flourished. The timber industry is actively promoted here and good-quality Japanese cedar generally refers to Hita cedar. Trees cut in the mountains used to be loaded on rafts and transported downriver. The woodworking industry making geta (Japanese wooden sandals) or lacquerware using this cedar is still famous today.

During the Edo period, Hita has been famous as one of the important strongpoints, and directly controlled by the Shogunate government; so it was home to the public offices and that the customs of Edo, Osaka, and Nagasaki found their way in and a unique commercial culture was established here. Old streets and traditions, like those found in Kyoto, still exist in Hita, which is why it is called the 'Little Kyoto' of Oita.

Two large rivers flow through the area, and several of the inns offer a riverboat service called Yakata-bune (old-fashioned houseboat). A 2-hour cruise, available even in winter, leaves the dock after 6:00 in the evening, and a lovely dinner is served on the boat.

*Photo (C) Yufu City Commerce & Tourism Division
*Photo (C) Marc Chagall Yufuin Kinrin-ko Art Museum
*Photo (C) Yufuin Hot Spring Tourism Association
*Photo (C) Hita City Tourist Association

3rd Day
Tour of Hita, the Little Kyoto of Kyushu
Tourist information > (Bicycle rental or walk, etc.) > Hirose Museum > Shizantei Kaikokan > Hita Gion-Yamahoko Kaikan > JR Hita Station > (2 hours by JR Limited Express on the Kyudai Honsen line) > JR Hakata Station
Mameda Area
As you tour the town of Hita (it's a good idea to rent a bicycle at the station), it is easy to picture life as it would have been here 200 years ago.

The central area of the town is called Mameda and this is where the public office of the Edo government was established in the old days. The chamberlain merchants who worked in this office handling government funds were very successful with their money lending, etc. and the town flourished.

Hina Dolls
We can get some idea of the town's prosperity through the luxurious heirloom Hina dolls. In Japan, March 3rd is the Doll Festival or Peach Blossom Festival, a day to pray for girls' sound growth and happiness. To celebrate this festival, a pair of dolls portraying the wedding ceremony of an emperor and empress is put on display. These are the Hina dolls. In many cases, the dolls are displayed on a decorative terrace of shelves like a staircase, with other dolls representing servants, flowers and food.

From February 15 to March every year, carefully preserved Hina dolls are displayed at about 20 places in the town. However, you can also see Hina dolls anytime at the 'Hirose Shiryokan', a museum built in the former warehouse of a business tycoon of the time.

Shizantei Kaikokan
Years ago, 'Shizantei Kaikokan' was a restaurant that served officials visiting Hita. Today, it houses collections of pottery and kitchen utensils and is well worth a visit. We also recommend visiting the liquor shops, drug stores, and storehouses for miso (bean paste) and soy sauce where you can imagine life as it was here in the old days. Another attraction is the 'Tenryo Festival' held on Saturday and Sunday around the 20th of October, where a parade of costumed samurai and princesses recall the prosperous atmosphere of times gone by.

Hita Gion Festival
Furthermore, on the Saturday and Sunday following the 20th of July, the grand 'Hita Gion Festival' is held in Hita every year. Flamboyant Yamahoko floats pass through the town, and the festivities are on the same scale as the famous Gion Festival in Kyoto. You can also view the Yamahoko at other times by going to the 'Hita Gion Yamahoko Kaikan' Hall.

Ukai (cormorant fishing)
Another famous feature of Hita is 'Ukai (cormorant fishing)', which has been going on here for 400 years. Cormorants are released into the river to catch sweetfish, and the technique demonstrated by a lone fisherman managing from 6 to 8 cormorants is remarkable. The fishing season is from May 20 to the end of October every year. If you are visiting during this time, try one of the many sweetfish dishes prepared by Hita's specialty restaurants.

*Photo (C) Hita City Tourist Association