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The southern Japanese island of Kyushu is wildly different from the main island of Honshu. Just visit the prefectures of Nagasaki or Saga and you will be greeted with an exotic and diverse fusion of cultures, owing to the Chinese and European influences on the region over time. This exciting and historically rich area has something for everyone, which is why the Japan National Tourism Organization’s Unveiling a New Japan | Captivating Experiences team has created a Kyushu itinerary for Nagasaki and Saga Prefectures that suits both first-time visitors to Japan as well as more seasoned travellers.
Kyushu – Nagasaki & Saga recommended itinerary
Morning: yabusame experience of traditional Japanese mounted archery in Takeo
Afternoon: Arita ware experience, Kouraku Kiln treasure hunting, pottery making experience
Evening: Autumn foliage illuminations at Mifuneyama Rakuen⇒ Stay the night at Takeo Onsen
Morning: Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort - sightseeing boat and aquarium in Sasebo
Afternoon: Visit Huis Ten Bosch, one of the largest theme parks in Japan
Evening: Stay the night at Huis Ten Bosch Hotel Europe
Morning: Visit Yutoku Inari Shrine for a worship experience and seasonal blossom viewing
Afternoon: Try traditional Shippoku cuisine at the historic ryotei restaurant Kagetsu
Evening: Beautiful night views at Mount Inasayama Observatory
Morning: Enjoy the island scenery of the Goto Islands
Afternoon: Fishing experience
Evening: Enjoy Scandinavian-style overnight glamping at Nordisk Village
The Nature & Shinto Shrine worship trip
Takeo yabusame: experience traditional Japanese mounted archery
Yabusame combines traditional Japanese horsemanship with skilful archery in a tradition dating back centuries. Yabusame began as a ritual by emperors and empresses in ancient times to pray to the gods for prosperity and good harvest. Over time, this ritual has stopped being an exclusive rite of Shinto shrines, priests and their descendants and has branched out to now include conservation societies with local members, special festival performances and tourist experiences.。
The history of Takeo’s yabusame dates back over eight hundred years and has been designated as an important intangible folk culture asset. Takeo Shrine’s yearly yabusame event is a great opportunity to experience the art first-hand. If you reserve in advance through the Takeo Yabusame Toubukai, you can also try mounted archery yourself! This special program will train you in horse riding and archery, with the ultimate aim of using the bow and arrow while horse riding. After an hour, your muscles will ache all over, but the moment the arrow hits the target makes it all worth it. Enjoy the huge sense of accomplishment that comes with mastering the great art of Japanese mounted archery.
Takeo yabusame mounted archery
- Address: Yabusame Stables (in front of Takeo Children’s Library), Takeo-cho, Takeo-shi, Saga Prefecture
- Access: 10 minutes by taxi from JR Takeo Onsen Station
- URL: http://www.takeo-kk.net/experience/002116.php
A glimpse into the action-packed tradition of Yabusame
Arita ware Kouraku Kiln warehouse treasure hunting and original potter's wheel experience
Arita in Saga Prefecture is one of the birthplaces of Japanese ceramics, and the Arita ware produced here (known in Japanese as "Arita-yaki’) is globally regarded as one of the finest types of porcelain, with a grand history of over four hundred years. The famous Kouraku Kiln, established in 1865 by Tokunaga Ceramics, not only sells Arita ware but also hosts a variety of permanent artists in residence. Arita ware moves with the times, with plenty of series that fuse modern designs with traditional manufacturing methods for fashionable and versatile ceramicware.
Kouraku Kiln offers several hands-on workshops, including potter’s wheel and ceramic design experiences, for the perfect opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Enjoy treasure hunting for discounted deals in the huge warehouse full of unique Arita ware!
Tokunaga Ceramics Kouraku Kiln
- Address: 2512 Maruo Hei, Arita-cho, Nishimatsuura-gun, Saga Prefecture
- Access: 5 minutes by taxi from JR Arita Station
- URL: https://kouraku.jp.net/en/
Get fired up over Arita-yaki, Japan’s finest ceramicware
One of Japan’s biggest autumn foliage and cherry blossom illumination spots: Mifuneyama Rakuen
Completed in the late Edo period, Mifuneyama Rakuen is a magnificent 150,000m² Japanese garden with a grand pond in its centre. Inside the garden sits the 210m high Mt. Mifune, a great beacon and symbol of Takeo. Here, visitors can enjoy beautiful scenery in each of the four seasons. In spring, two thousand cherry blossom trees bloom in glorious succession, as well as a bright and colourful azalea valley, many soft pastel wisteria trellises and other stunning spring foliage. In summer, you can enjoy fresh greenery, cool bamboo groves and vibrant hydrangeas.
In autumn, Mifuneyama Rakuen is known for its amazing foliage illuminations that take place on a grand scale. Thanks to the garden’s varied topography, the illuminated red, yellow and orange trees at many different elevations create a fantastic view that will take your breath away. See the reflections of the trees in the huge mirror-like pond, and take in this special evening scenery that is very different to the daytime view. Dainty snow-covered plum blossoms in winter are also a sight not to be missed.
Mifuneyama Rakuen Autumn Leaves Festival
- Address: 4100 Oaza Takeo, Takeo-cho, Takeo-shi, Saga Prefecture
- Access: 5 minutes by taxi from JR Takeo Onsen Station
- Opening Hours: 8:00-17:30, 17:30-22:00
- URL: https://www.mifuneyamarakuen.jp/en/
Yutoku Inari Shrine: experience a traditional Japanese worship event with Shinto priests and priestesses
Yutoku Inari Shrine, in Kashima City, Saga Prefecture, is one of the three major Inari shrines in Japan, along with Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto and Kasama Inari Shrine in Ibaraki. Many people flock to Yutoku Inari Shrine to pray for business, love and luck, and the stunning seasonal flower decorations and unique good luck charms and wooden blocks are a particular hit with younger generations.
Yutoku Inari Shrine in Kashima City, Saga Prefecture, is one of the three major Inari shrines in Japan, along with Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto and Kasama Inari Shrine in Ibaraki. Many people flock to Yutoku Inari Shrine to pray for business, love and luck. The stunning seasonal flower decorations, unique good luck charms and wooden blocks are a particular hit with younger generations.
Yutoku Inari Shrine
- Address: Furueda, Kashima-shi, Saga Prefecture
- Access: 10 minutes by taxi from JR Hizen-Kashima Station
- URL: https://www.yutokusan.jp/en/
Learn proper worship etiquette at one of Japan’s most important Inari shrines
Historic ryotei restaurant Kagetsu: go back in time to the old geisha and courtesan district of Maruyama and try traditional Shippoku cuisine at this Prefecturally Designated Historic Site
Geisha and courtesan entertainment districts known as "hanamachi" were an integral part of traditional Japanese culture, and Maruyama in Nagasaki was historically regarded as one of the three major hanamachi of Japan – the other two being Shimabara in Kyoto and Yoshiwara in Edo. Nagasaki was the only place in Japan where foreigners were allowed to reside until the Meiji restoration, so Maruyama flourished with the development of overseas trade. It fast became a buzzing entertainment hotspot for traders, political and business leaders, artists and writers to gather during the Edo period, including famous figures such as Sakamoto Ryoma and Sun Yat-sen. The historic ryotei restaurant Kagetsu is a Prefecturally Designated Historic Site that has perfectly preserved the architecture, culture and atmosphere from the peak of the hanamachi era - real resident geishas included. It functions as a museum, a time capsule and a restaurant, serving traditional Nagasaki Shippoku cuisine.
Shippoku cuisine is a tantalising fusion of world flavours, cleverly combining elements of Chinese, European and Japanese cuisine. The food is shared between everyone sitting around a large, round table, similar to Chinese food culture. Kagetsu also offers traditional Japanese cuisine using freshly caught local fish and ingredients.
Historic Ryotei Restaurant 'Kagetsu'
- Address: 2-1 Maruyama-cho, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture
- Access: From JR Nagasaki Station, take the Nagasaki Electric Tramway to Shiambashi Station, and walk about 4 minutes.
- Opening Hours: 12:00 - 15:00 (Last order 13:30), 18:00 - 22:00 (Last order 19:30)
- URL: https://www.ryoutei-kagetsu.co.jp/english/
Gaze upon one of the top three night views in the world at Mount Inasayama Observatory
The night view from the Mount Inasayama Observatory was chosen alongside scenery from Shanghai and Morocco as one of the top three night views in the world. With Nagasaki’s charming port city landscape stretching out below in a glorious panoramic display of lights, it’s easy to see why. The observatory sits nestled at the peak of 333m tall Mt. Inasayama, easily reachable by ropeway or a one-kilometre hike. Even the observatory design itself is cleverly thought out, displaying unique scattered floor lights that pinpoint landmarks on the horizon. Many budding photographers gather at this scenic spot, so don’t forget your camera. Take the ropeway back down for even more dazzling aerial views.
Mount Inasayama Observatory
- Address: Inasa-cho, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture
- Access: From JR Nagasaki Station, take Nagasaki Bus No. 3 or 4 (bound for Shimo-Ohashi, Koebaru, or Aikawa) to Ropeway-mae Bus Stop, and walk about 3 minutes.
- Opening hours: Ropeway and Slope Car: 9:00-22:00 / Observatory: 9:00-22:00 (Rooftop observatory open 24 hours)
- URL: https://www.inasayama.com/
Visit one of the largest theme parks in Japan, Huis Ten Bosch
Huis Ten Bosch in Sasebo, Nagasaki, boasts an area twice the size of Tokyo Disneyland, making it one of the biggest theme parks in Japan. The old-fashioned clock tower, colourful fields of flowers, windmills, canals, cobblestone pavements and gothic architecture make it seem as if you have stepped out of Japan and into a picturesque Dutch village. With plenty of scenic photo spots, entertainment facilities and delicious restaurants, there is never a lack of things to see and do.
Make sure not to miss the night-time illuminations. Bright LED lights, 3D technology and beautiful sound effects are used to light up the park’s architecture and landscapes for a wonderfully scenic experience. Enjoy being treated like Dutch royalty by staying at Huis Ten Bosch Hotel Europe for the night; the hotel offers luxurious European-style rooms, elegant music events in the lobby, private ferry rides along the river and a delicious, moreish breakfast.
Huis Ten Bosch
- Address: 1-1 Huistenbosch-cho, Sasebo-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture
- Access: Directly connected to JR Huis Ten Bosch Station
- Opening hours: Sun-Fri 9:00-21:00 (last admission at 20:00), Sat 9:00-22:00 (last admission at 21:00), hours on national holidays etc., may differ. Refer to the official website for more information.
- URL: https://english.huistenbosch.co.jp/
Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort
The Kujukushima islands are a group of islands stretching 25km north from just outside of Sasebo Bay. Although the name directly translates to “ninety-nine islands”, there are actually 208 islands, easily taking the prize for the highest island density in Japan. With a unique natural landscape and intricately woven ria coastal inlets, the Kujukushima islands are a place of great beauty.
The Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort is home to sightseeing boats, the Aquarium Umi Kirara, the Zoo and Botanical Garden Mori Kirara, souvenir stores, gourmet restaurants and more. Each of these facilities allows you to experience the Kujukushima island area, see the animals who live there and be immersed in nature.
Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort
- Address: 1008 Kashimae-cho, Sasebo-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture
- Access: 25 minutes by bus from JR Sasebo Station to Pearl Sea Resort and Kujukushima Aquarium
- Opening hours: See the official website for sightseeing boat timetable / Aquarium Umi Kirara: Mar-Oct 9:00-18:00 (last admission at 17:30), Nov-Feb 9:00-17:00 (last admission at 16:30) / Zoo and Botanical Garden Mori Kirara: 9:00-17:00 (last admission at 16:30)
- URL: https://pearlsea.jp/en/
Goto Islands: Nordisk Village luxury camping, sea fishing, and island experience
The Goto Islands lie at the westernmost point of Nagasaki Prefecture and are known for their stunning natural landscapes with clear blue seas, white sandy beaches and beautiful coastlines. Historically used as a base for Christian missionaries from the 16th century onwards, many beautiful Christian churches on the islands have still survived to this day as important pieces of cultural heritage.
For a luxurious glamping experience in the great outdoors, try Asia’s first Scandinavian-style glamping ground. Nordisk Village has renovated an old, disused elementary school building into a stylish and safe campground, focusing on the Scandinavian concept of “hygge” (cosiness). The renovated schoolhouse rooms are spacious and minimalistic, and there is also an option to stay in a glamping tent room for a fashionable, fun-filled and luxurious camping experience. Enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner around a snug campfire on one of Japan’s most scenic islands.
Goto Islands Nordisk Village
- Address: 1233 Tao, Tomiemachi, Goto-shi, Nagasaki Prefecture
- Access: 40 minutes from Nagasaki Airport to Nagasaki Port by Limousine Bus, 1 hour and 25 minutes from Nagasaki Port to Fukue Port by Jetfoil (Nagasaki to Fukue), then 30 minutes from Fukue Port by shuttle service or rental car.
- URL: https://www.nordiskvillage.jp/en/index.html
In this instalment, we have introduced Nagasaki and Saga Prefectures in Kyushu as part of the Japan National Tourism Organization’s Unveiling a New Japan | Captivating Experience project that presents exciting hands-on activities from regions around Japan. Why not include these great activities in your itinerary for your next trip to Japan? For more information, check out the website!
The Nature & Shinto Shrine worship trip
Unveiling a New Japan, Captivating Experiences