One of my least explored regions in Japan is Kyushu, and I was thrilled to be given this opportunity to go around different prefectures in Kyushu this February!
Here’s my Kyushu Guide using JR Kyushu Rail Pass!
I’m assuming that most of you who are reading this are somewhat, to a mild extent, a Japan maniac like me so I am recommending this itinerary using JR Kyushu Rail Pass –
All Kyushu Area Pass 5 DAYS.
I mean after all, we want to make the most of it and conquer as many prefectures as we can right. Right? (Otherwise I’m forcing my #47PrefectureMission on you. Haha.)
Here’s the summary of my itinerary:
DAY 1: Nagasaki (day trip – Fukuoka based)
DAY 2: Kumamoto (stay at Aso)
DAY 3: Kagoshima (Return to Fukuoka)
DAY 4: Oita (stay at Oita)
DAY 5: Fukuoka (stay at Fukuoka or fly back home)
Cheesie Pro Tip 1: Make Fukuoka your base, and bring a day bag
Having a JR pass in hand means that you can make use of the benefits of riding the trains again and again, so if it makes your burden lighter (literally! I mean, haven’t your boyfriend complained about dragging your over-packed luggages or shopping for you?), it is actually not a bad idea to make Fukuoka your base camp and go on mini expeditions all around, since you will likely start and end your trip at Hakata, Fukuoka.
It is possible to do day trips to different prefectures from Fukuoka, except for Miyazaki, which is a little too far for day trips.
If you are staying in the same hotel in Fukuoka, you can leave your luggage at the hotel and pack for a one-night trip to other destinations, and return the next day.
Cheesie Pro Tip 2: Catching Themed Trains
There are many interesting themed trains and limited express operated by JR Kyushu, just take a look at how colorful the trains are! Not only do they have a distinctively attractive outlook, some of the trains even have special interior in all of the cars, such as “Aso Boy!” running from Beppu to Aso (more about that later)!
Cheesie Pro Tip 3: Prefecture-conquer with speedy shinkansen
JR Kyushu has Shinkansen running through 4 prefectures in Kyushu – Fukuoka, Saga, Kumamoto and Kagoshima. You can use your JR Kyushu Rail Pass for unlimited rides even on all the shinkansen, making prefecture-conquering a breeze. It is totally possible to conquer all 7 prefectures of Kyushu in 5 days, as you will for sure pass by Oita and Nagasaki is also easily accessible. The only tricky prefecture is Miyazaki, which probably will need slightly more time to explore, unless you don’t mind just routing through Takachiho Gorge and count it as checked (which was what I did years ago)!
Cheesie Pro Tip 4: FREE Reserved Seats!
Honestly I think JR Kyushu has gone overboard on niceness – You can actually request for a reserved seats at the station counter in Japan – FOR FREE.
While most rail passes are valid for only free-seating (reserved seats are available at additional fee), JR Kyushu Rail Pass lets you ride reserved seats up to 11 times for a 3-day pass and up to 16 times for a 5-day pass.
But of course, free reservation can only be done in Japan provided that the seats are available. (Otherwise you can take the non-reserved seats).
If you would like to secure a reserved seat for comfort to make sure you are well-rested for a long journey, it is still advisable that you pre-book your reserved seats in advance online, when you purchase your JR Kyushu Rail Pass. Each reserved seat is JPY1000 for adult and JPY500 for children, except for SL which costs only JPY840). Just make sure that your reservation number begins with ‘K”.
Now let’s start JR Kyushu Rail Pass journey!
Nagasaki prefecture (day trip)
08:00 Arrived at Fukuoka Airport
09:31 Take the Huis Ten Bosch Limited Express Train from Hakata Station to Huis Ten Bosch Station
11:22 Explore Huis Ten Bosch
19:49 Leave Huis Ten Bosch before 8pm and head back to Hakata
Stay: One of the Blossom Hotels in near Hakata Station (I stayed at JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Chuo)
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【JR Kyushu Rail Pass】 I made it to Kyushu today! 😍 Check out my stories for more tips traveling around Kyushu with an <All Kyushu Area> 5-day Pass! First destination: Huis Ten Bosch in Sasebo, Nagasaki! Take the cute orange Huis Ten Bosch train directly from Hakata Station all the way to Huis Ten Bosch in less than 2 hours! Pro tip: Flash your JR Kyushu Rail Pass for a 5% discount on Huis Ten Bosch entrance ticket! 🎟🎭🌷 #cheesieinNagasaki #JRKyushuRailPass
Huis Ten Bosch can be considered as Kyushu’s largest and most popular theme park, and I have been there at least 5 times so far in different season!
Although Nagasaki has plenty to explore, you may want to spend a whole day in Huis Ten Bosch itself as there are endless permanent and seasonal attractions in the park to keep you busy the entire day.
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【JR Kyushu Rail Pass】 To get to Huis Ten Bosch, simply hop on the tangerine JR Kyushu Huis Ten Bosch Limited Express!🧡 With only less than 2 hours of train ride from Hakata Station, the Dutch Village theme park in Nagasaki makes a great day trip from Fukuoka if you have an entire day to spend. #cheesieinFukuoka #JRKyushuRailPass
Access from Hakata: Hop on the JR Kyushu Huis Ten Bosch Limited Express running hourly between Huis Ten Bosch Station and Hakata Station (110 minutes, around 3800 yen, fully covered by JR Kyushu Rail Pass).
Huis Ten Bosch
Love this Ducth-themed amusement park! I have been here at least 5 times, and each season is full of its charm, be it a plethora of seasonal flowers or winter illumination.
When I posted snaps of stories and photos in Instagram, many followers commented that they thought I had gone to Holland at first glance!
Cheese…r.. land? Haha.
Spot the fake princess in distress. (Also, I totally left my phone on the ground of the castle, only realizing it 20 mins later, and came back to retrieve it. Of course, it was exactly where it was. #OnlyinJapan.)
After a boat ride, we are crossing the bridge to a desert island!! Guess where we are going?
To fight dinosaurs!!! This is Jurassic Island.
Indulge in an excited virtual reality dinosaur hunting game on this desert island. Pro tip: choose the smaller gun if you want to avoid having sore biceps. Haha.
For One Piece fans, know that there’s a One Piece dedicated zone and also a boat adventure!
Although quieter at night, Huis Ten Bosch transforms into a wonderland of lights with its dazzling illumination, feeling like Christmas all over again. Just so you know, Huis Ten Bosch has been awarded as one of the best illuminations in Japan for consecutively 7 years!
This year’s theme is “Wishes Wonderland“.
Lots of instagenic spots for you to save as inventory for your IG #throwbacks too.
What to eat:
Lemon Steak at “De Rode Leeuw” serves a tantalizing steak with a hint of citrus! Apparently A Sasebo specialty, this hearty meal keeps you going for the long day that awaits.
Even more popular in Sasebo is the must-eat Sasebo Burger. A rather time-saving meal so you can go on an extra Ferris Wheel ride!
Kumamoto prefecture (pack for one night)
*Leave luggage at hotel
07:00 Take the Sonic Limited Express train to Beppu (Oita)
09:22 Brief stop at Beppu and explore the station
10:05 Take the Asoboy Limited Express train and head to Aso
12:20 Arrive at Aso
12:30 Take a quick taxi ride to Ume Kura for lunch
14:00 Take taxi to El Patio Ranch for Horse riding around Kusasenri
*Alternate Itinerary: Explore Aso Farm Land
Stay: Aso Plaza Hotel
This is Sonic in electric blue. Love all the colorful trains by JR Kyushu. Might be a good idea to assemble a collage of all different colors and models into your photo album!
Brief stop at Beppu Station. You can’t see it from this photo (as it is strategically blocked by the roof) but Beppu Station has an onsen symbol next to its station name!!
While Beppu, the famous onsen city is worth another day of exploring, a quick hand-soak in its thermal goodness at the public hand bath right outside Beppu Station is perfect for people who only have 10 minutes to spare.
Hop on “Aso Boy!” running between Beppu and Aso. The journey is about 2 hours.
Here’s a video of the interior:
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【JR Kyushu Rail Pass】 Today I’m heading to Aso on <Aso Boy!> a themed Limited Express running between Beppu (Oita prefecture) and Aso (Kumamoto Prefecture). This train is sooooo adorable and is decorated all over with Aso Kuroemon, a black puppy. You can enjoy a panoramic view from the 1st and last car on reserved seats, or walk through different cars as you wish to discover special decorated seats, a Kuro Cafe, and even children’s play area!☕️🏔🚞 The train ride is about 2 hours from Beppu to Aso but your little ones will be be kept entertained with the wooden ball pool and lots of story books!📚 #cheesieinOita #JRKyushuRailPass
El Patio Ranch
El Patio Range offers the most authentic horse riding experience! While most parks let you get on the horseback and circle one round led by a trainer; here at El Patio range you will be interacting with your own very well-tempered stallion and gently jaunt through the endless vast meadows of Aso highland. Take this chance to feel rightfully cavalier.
A really beautiful experience I won’t want you to miss, I must say.
There are ponies and hounds running wild to entertain your little ones too.
Alternate itinerary: Aso Farm Land
We only popped by here after closing hours (in winter time its operation hour is shorter), but for someone who’s looking for a natural retreat, I couldn’t recommend a better place than Aso Farm Land.
What does Aso Farm Land offer?
Insanely massive with over 400 uniquely themed dome hotels, Aso Farm Land is a wholesome family-oriented resort that offers volanic onsen, healing spa, petting zoo, aquarium, workshops for family, fishing, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, and even its own vegetable farms!
And also, cows with Kumamon make up.
Look at the variety of adorable themed rooms it offers! I know I’d love to be back here with the kids someday.
Eat: Aso Umekura
For meat lovers, this restaurant will not go wrong. Akaushi beef is Aso’s prime wagyu. A wholesome set meal will cost you JPY3000 but it’s a luxury worth having!
Grill your own wagyu on sizzling lava stone hot plate just the right rareness you like it.
Having swooned over adorable dome-like cottage, I must say that my accommodation of the night was nothing less impressive.
Spend a night surrounded by Kumamon, anyone?
With a smashing view of sunset over Aso’s nature too. How many Kumamon is too many Kumamon?
(Note: There’s only one special Kumamon-themed room and it will be JPY2000 extra compared to other standard rooms)
Bonus? Roof top open-air onsen.
Kagoshima prefecture (day trip)
8:57: Take the Yamabiko expressway bus to Kumamoto (JPY1000, not covered in JR Kyushu Rail Pass)
10:44: Reach Kumamoto Station
11:18 Take Sakura Shinkansen to Kagoshima Chuo Station
12:04 Purchase Kagoshima City One Day Pass (JPY600) for city sightseeing (explore Sakurajima, Tenmonkan Arcade, etc)
18:04: Get on Mizuho Shinkansen and return to Hakata
19:23 Reach Hakata and return to hotel
Stay: One of the Blossom Hotels in near Hakata Station (I stayed at JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Fukuoka)
For a change, we are taking the bus today. Hop on the free shuttle bus provided by Aso Plaza Hotel to get to Aso Station, so you can catch the express bus heading to Kumamoto Station.
And from the very newly renovated Kumamoto Station, catch a Sakura bullet train that heads towards Kagoshima-Chuo Station.
You can purchase a Kagoshima City Bus One Day Pass at the station for only JPY600 that allows you to ride one a majority of buses to get around town. Get on a city bus and tram as usual, and just show it to the driver when you alight.
One of Kagoshima’s top attractions is of course the active volcano, Sakurajima, which could be accessed via a 15-min ferry ride from Kagoshima Port.
Sakura ferry to Sakurajima!
The view from the ferry itself is quite spectacular, as you see volcano approaching. It’s quite a rare chance to spot an fuming active volcano but here at Sakurajima, the possibility is extremely high as the volcano is so active that there’s mini eruptions happening every day.
I recommend going on a half-day tour on taxi. You can hire private taxi right at the port once you alight at Sakurajima.
Your driver will bring you to all the most scenic spots on the former island and if you understand Japanese, they are also really good guides. Although even for an almost-fluent Japanese speaker like me, I couldn’t really quite catch their thick Kyushu accent. But what I do know, is that they are so so proud and have so much love for their hometown that listening to them passionately recounting each significant event that happened in the history of Sakurajima, although unable to fully grasp the whole story, is an attraction in itself.
Also, Cheesie-trivia time! Noticed that I call it the “former island”? Yes, Sakurajima was an island, before an eruption over a hundred year ago connected it to mainland Kagoshima!
One of the beautiful lookout point our driver brought us to.
A Simba moment! Haha.
There are a whole bunch of curiously-shaped rocks formed by centuries-old lava all over. It’s quite a sight to behold, especially when you spot familiar characters that might or might not have been intentionally formed.
A #Cheesiehuggingdaikon moment.
Sakurajima daikon is legit the world’s largest species of daikon!!! The largest daikon could easily weight 30KG!
Cheesie Trivia Time again – which I totally stole from my driver guide – growing daikon this colossal is only possible on Sakurajima because of the nutritious volcanic soil, and the adorable heart shape is a result of the hard lava soil underground preventing the daikon to grow deep under, but stretch sideways instead.
Once you are done with the island (I recommend about half a day), you can return to Kagoshima city by the same ferry again and explore the city on buses and trams.
Tenmonkan is a great place for shopping and eating, and I recommend dropping by “Jokiya” (蒸気屋) for the fluffiest steamed cake that has been Kagoshima’s nostalgic favorite since decades ago.
Eat: Tonkatsu Maruichi
As you probably would have already known, Kagoshima is very famous for its kurobuta (black pork), so you can imagine how premium their tonkatsu must be! We had lunch at Tonkatsu Maruichi, where juicy pork is deep-fried crispy, served with a specially concocted tonkatsu sauce. Portion is extremely large, the one I ordered is a mini size!!
Oita prefecture (pack for one night)
Leave luggage in hotel.
09:24 Take the Yufuin no Mori Limited Express Train from Hakata station to Yufuin
11:36 Reach Yufuin Station
Lunch: MURATA Fushoan (soba)
Sightsseing: Kinrin Lake, Yufuin Floral Village, Onsen in Yama no Hotel Mousouen, COMICO ART MUSEUM YUFUIN.
16:51 Leave Yufuin and head to Oita
17:45 Arrive at Oita Station
Stay: JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Oita
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【JR Kyushu Rail Pass】 Today I’m revisiting the beautiful Yufuin Onsen (#由布院温泉) in Oita Prefecture! I took Yufuin no Mori Limited Express, a resort-style classical train from Hakata Station to Yufuin Station. 💚🍀 The journey takes about 2 hours and you can enjoy a Yufuin specialty bento from the snack bar while immersing yourself in the rich nature of the train journey. Swipe to see the adorably-shaped Mt Kirikabu (#切株山) and beautiful Jion Falls (#慈恩の滝) on the way to Yufuin. I am repeating myself all the time but I looooove scenic train rides I’d rather stay up for the therapeutic vista than to snooze in order to take the fatigue away!💚 Cheesie Trivia: by the way if you are wondering why there are two different kanji for “Yufuin”, note that 「由布院」refers to the onsen resort and 「湯布院」to the town of Oita prefecture. 😊 #cheesieinOita #JRKyushuRailPass #YufuinnoMori
Themed train again! After a 2-hour relaxing ride on Yufuin No Mori Limited Express, we have arrived at Yufuin Station.
If you have a few minutes to spare, wind your tired feet down at the free public footbath right at Yufuin Station (but BYOT – bring your own towel.)
My Secret Lunch Place!
Ok guys, I rarely so strongly recommend a restaurant but here’s one – Murata Fushoan (Murata 不生庵). Probably one of the best soba I’ve ever had. And I don’t even like soba that much.
This place is so so hidden that cabbing here is probably most recommended. The plus side – it’s a secret place that not many tourists know about (yet). And now you all do. You are welcome.
Kamo Zarusoba that one of our team members had.
I had the kurobuta cha-shu warm soba. I tried to ask the okamisan (lady owner) what is the soup stock made of, but she won’t spill the secret. It was like none of the soba with clear dashi I’ve had in my life – so incredibly flavorful and additive I had to empty the entire bowl. It was SO GOOD.
It’s good food that comes with a price tag that matches – lunch would easily cost you JPY2000 and above here, given how soba is made a pretty economical fast food in this era. But worth every single yen I promise.
Day Trip Onsen
Yufuin is one of the most popular hot spring spots in Kyushu, so even if you don’t stay overnight it’s tempting to just go get a quick soak at one of its day-trip onsen. I went to Musoen, an massive outdoor bath with a smashing view. No photo allowed so you can hop over to this website to get an idea: https://www.tabirai.net/sightseeing/feature/yufuin-higaeri-onsen.aspx
The more I explore Yufuin, the more it reminds me of Kanto’s Hakone. Great onsen, quaint local towns, and a sense for art.
Advanced reservation is needed for the guide tour (and they only do guide tours!), and you can do it online.
The fact that it is designed by Kuma Kengo gives it another layer of appeal for those with an eye for architecture. I’m not so good at making buildings sound attractive, but the museum’s guide will make sure you don’t miss out a single carefully tailored detail by Kuma Kengo into making COMICO ART MUSEUM YUFUIN a durable yet aesthetical masterpiece.
Here’s the second floor of the museum which is a lounge you get to read a few curated books and sip on warm tea.
You will also spot the famous white puppy sculpture designed by Yoshimoto Nara, a native to Aomori prefecture, which a similar giant white dog is also tenant at local Aomori Art Museum.
For those familiar with Yufuin, Yufuin Floral Village needs no further introduction.
Albeit small in size, this English-themed amusement park recreated the street of the Cotswolds region in England, which is the filming location for Harry Potter, allowing you to relive scenes from your favorite wizard stories.
Accidentally Hermoine. For those who prefers Japanese wizardry, you will also find favorite characters from Kiki’s delivery here, making the entire park a great spot for some Insta scores.
Take a stroll in the area to explore other themed cafes and souvenir shops too.
The symbol of Yufuin – make a brief stop this lake in the vicinity of Yufuin Floral Village, famous for its steamy morning mist that gives a mysterious vibe to the lake, due to its two thermal springs just below the lake’s surface.
Time to move on to Oita city from Yufuin in less than an hour.
Eat: All Oita Specialty in a box
Randomly wandered into a restaurant within Oita Station’s AMU Plaza shopping mall and settled for this meal all for myself – sorry I forgot to note down the name of the restaurant, but it features a set meal comprises of all Oita’s popular food, a great feast for a lone guest so make sure you come with someone with extra stomach space, or if alone, come very hungry.
This hotel was one of my favorite of the trip, mainly because it’s so impossibly rare to find a modern hotel with full onsen facility tucked right in the heart of a buzzling city!
Not to mention, it is also directly connected to Oita Station and a shopping mall – AMU Plaza Oita just below the hotel, making the stay ultra convenient.
The room was, just as all other JR Kyushu Blossom hotels, cozy and spacious.
But what sets it apart is the roof top outdoor onsen overlooking Oita city’s dazzling skyline. I’m in love. (Photo from Blossom Oita’s official website.)
Breakfast was incredibly fulfilling too!
09:11 Take the Sonic Limited Express from Oita Station to Hakata Station
Fukuoka sightseeing using Fukuoka City Tourist Pass (not included in JR Kyushu Rail Pass)
Stay: One of Blossom Hotel near Hakata Station or return home
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【JR KYUSHU RAIL PASS】 Today is my last day in Kyushu and I’m back to Fukuoka city from Oita city via <Sonic Limited Express>, this time in pearly white color! I am totally enjoying my Kyushu train photo collections. 🚊 🚅 🚝🚞 Pro tip: Did you know that you can pre-book your reserved seat tickets online when you purchase your JR Kyushu Rail Pass? Each reserved seat is ¥1000 for adult and ¥500 for children (except for SL🚂 which costs only ¥500) to ensure you can sit down and take a good rest during the journey. Even more pro tip: Good news is, you can actually also request for a reserved seats at the station counter in Japan FOR FREE!! Each pass lets you ride a reserved seats 💺up to 16 times FOR FREE (when there are seats available. Otherwise you can take the non-reserved seat). *Make sure your reservation number begins with K. For 5 day pass: up to 16 times For 3 day pass: up to 11 times That will save you quite a lot! 😃 #cheesieinOita #JRKyushuRailPass
Once returned to Fukuoka, we bought the Fukuoka Tourist City Pass, which offers one day unlimited rides on buses, trains, subways and ferries to explore the city center.
Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine 太宰府天満宮
Dazaifu is no stranger to those who are familiar with Fukuoka.
Ume (plum blossom) had just started to bloom during my visit, which is one of its main attractions other than the many curious tales about its shrine’s origin.
I love taking photos of trees. I have a thing for big trees.
Magnificent century-old trees stood in granduer shading visitors from sun beams.
Check out also the Kuma-Kengo-designed Starbucks along the street leading up to the shrine for a cuppa.
Of course, umegae-mochi, the signature sweet snack that you mustn’t miss when visiting Dazaifu.
I’m pretty impartial when it comes to #47Prefecture, but I must spill that Hakata probably has all my favorite food. Tonkotsu ramen, Mizutaki, Motsunabe, Hakata amao ichigo and… mentaiko!
Located on 9F in Amu Plaza which is directly connected to Hakata Station, Shobo An is your most convenient eatery featuring mentaiko-everything.
My top recommendation is its menTAI ochazuke set. Capitalized “TAI” because “TAI” also means seabream in Japanese. You will get a bowl of rice topped with sea bream sashimi further topped with a whole sac of mentaiko. You can request your mentaiko to be “aburi” – torched for that extra fragrant punch!
Love that you can pour in specially made dashi for a bowl of ochazuke too!
Supper: Yatai (Outdoor food stalls)
A gourmet’s journey never ends at dinner in Fukuoka. Keep some space for some yatai‘s casual delights and a beer or two strolling along the waters of Nakasu.
Typically accommodating up to only 8-10 people in each tiny yatai, you can finall an array of local delicacies such as ramen, oden (!!), yakitori and other finger food that will go perfectly with your mug of nama biiru.
I noted that the oden here in Fukuoka is quite different from the rest of other prefectures. Gonna love that mentaiko fish cake thing!
Finally before leaving Hakata, gotta have that hot bowl of tonkotsu ramen – topped with mentaiko, of course.
Stay: Blossom Hakata Premier
I have tried staying in 3 different JR Kyushu Blossom Hotels in Hakata, all within a few minutes’ of walking distance from Hakata station (you can watch my IG stories for more), and each of them are sparkly clean, new and cozy.
My favorite of course has to be the most high end of all – Blossom Hakata Premier – everything just spells class.
I mean, how often do you get to afford a lobby this massive?
Room which comes with tatami.
This is the suite room which is too lux for a lone-traveler like me. Save it for a special occasion!
There’s also a stylish lounge offered specially to guests who stayed on the top floor, where authentic matcha is served upon check in right at this lounge, and you also enjoy free flow of selected alcohol drinks and titbits.
Note that the hotel is also just a 5-min walk away from massive shopping mall – Canal City Hakata.
That’s all for my 5-Day Kyushu itinerary on JR Kyushu Rail Pass!
For more snippets of my trip, you can watch all my IG stories here:
You can purchase JR Kyushu Rail Pass directly online here: