One to two weeks in Kyushu itinerary, Japan

Need some help with your one week Kyushu itinerary? In this post, I’ll give suggestions for how to spend 7 or 14 days in Kyushu based on my own 10 day route around the island.

I never expected my week in Kyushu to be my favourite of the four weeks I spent in Japan but it was a truly fantastic place to explore. I loved Fukuoka, the capital of Kyushu and a city with all the arcades, karaoke booths, temples and cute Japanese touches of it’s more famous city counterparts. As someone who loves nature, seeing the volcanoes in Aso and Kagoshima was pretty awesome. Plus I was surprised to find multi-coloured hot springs in Beppu!

This post will be particularly helpful for anyone looking for a JR Kyushu rail pass itinerary or budget backpackers on the SUNQ Bus Pass. Everything on this list is accessible by public transport, and suitable for families, couples – or solo travellers like me!

TIP: You must buy your JR Rail Pass before your trip. This is because the rail pass is only attended to be used by tourists. (There are a limited number available for direct purchase in Japan at a higher price.

Please note: this post most likely contains affiliate links! These links can help me keep this site going – but cost you no extra.

One to two weeks Kyushu Itinerary:

  • Begin in Fukuoka
  • Beppu
  • Aso
  • Kumamoto
  • Kagoshima
  • Back to Fukuoka
  • Alternative route options

Please note, this guide most likely contains affiliate links. This costs you no extra but gives me some spare change if you make a purchase.

It’s worth remembering Kyushu is huge, and you will have to be selective. I’ve tried to combine the BEST places that are fairly easy to access from each other, so you get a unique range of nature and cities to visit without suffering from travel burn out. If you prefer a slow pace and only have one week, be selective about which places you visit!

Thinking of visiting this beautiful part of Japan? Here are my suggestions for the ultimate 7 – 14 day Kyushu itinerary.

How to get to Kyushu?

Fukuoka great place to start or/and end in Kyushu as it’s linked to the rest of Japan by Shinkansen. I took the train from Hiroshima direct to Fukuoka.

Alternatively, Fukuoka is made very accessible by it’s Hakata Airport. You can fly here internationally, or fly directly from Tokyo. It is particularly easy to fly here via Singapore since this is an international transport hub.

FUKUOKA

I really liked Fukuoka as a city because it still has all of Japan’s craziness but it feels like a real, working city – it is the largest city in Kyushu. Don’t expect to see so many tourists when you visit Kyushu! It’s Fukuoka where I enjoyed arcades alongside the locals, my first karaoke booth experience, ate at a green tea themed bakery and saw a very impressive anime water show. This water show is free and can be seen at Canal City Shopping centre any evening at 8pm – it is the best I’ve ever seen, with projections which tell a story over an entire building, with perfectly timed fountains. Hard to explain but honestly worth it!

Speaking of, Canal City Shopping Centre is beautiful and worth a stop if you like shopping or not. The entire mall is built around an artificial canal. They also regularly have upcoming J-pop groups performing (free to view). I saw all the men singing along to 3 separate girl groups when I was just passing through… very unique, that’s for sure.

I visited Tocho-ji Temple to see its red pagoda and Buddha Statue. I also visited Kushida Shrine, famous for being home to the Hakata Gion Yamasaka festival. This festival sees huge decorative floats begin their journey from Kushida Shrine and take a walk through Fukuoka city. I could see them in storage when I visited!

You can also take the tube to the Fukuoka Tower and Seaside Momochi area. 

Fukuoka Tower is very 234m tall with an observation deck at 134m with views of the city. It is the city’s tallest building. Seaside Momochi is a unique ‘modern style’, manmade beach area. Momochihama Beach is a huge stretch of sand, making it popular on sunny days.

When I visited this part of Fukuoka, there were huge, huge crowds of teenage girls outside Fukuoka Yafuoku Dome, waiting for their favourite J-pop band. Merchandisers were making great money selling t-shirts sporting their favourite stars.

One of my favourite things to do in Fukuoka was walking around the Hakata Castle ruins. From here, I walked to Ohori Park. Maybe you’ll see the terrapins and giant carp enjoying the lake in the centre of this park too.

For more information about what to do in Fukuoka, how to spend your evening and where to eat, please view my updated Fukuoka Guide here:

Things to do in Fukuoka – my complete guide.

BEPPU

2 hours from Fukuoka, Beppu is a small resort city set between Beppu Bay and volcanic mountains, Beppu is famous for its hot springs – it has over 2000 of them! So this is the perfect place to try out a Japanese onsen. However, the real event here is the hot springs you can’t get into. The famous ‘jigoku’ which literally translates as ‘hell’ refers to multi-coloured springs which reach up to 100 degrees celsius. The volume of water dispelled daily in Beppu is second only to Yellowstone, USA.

To see Beppu’s 7 hells is 2000 yen (£13.43) for all or 400 yen each.

If you prefer to buy tickets in advance, you can do so here: Hells of Beppu Admission Ticket

‘Tornado hell’ is one of the world’s most regularly erupting geysers. It goes off for approx. 8 minutes every 35 minutes and the water reaches up to 150 Celcius! Though it’s the blue and red boiling onsen are the most beautiful.

For lunch, you can head to one of the many stalls selling food boiled in the natural hot water. I recommend the Steam Kitchen aka Jigokumushikobo Kannawa – here you pick your order on a vending machine, and after it’s prepared you don big rubber gloves and place it yourself into the natural boiling water! Definitely the most unique foodie experience I had in Japan! (& the great news is, it’s suitable for veggies and carnivores alike.) My lunch experience was 1200 yen.

Head to my Kyushu highlights video on my Instagram @cassiethehag to see videos of the experience or wait till you get there and see if you get as confused as I was!

A very unique activity to try next on your Beppu itinerary is a hot spring sand bath… however, being buried in the sand didn’t appeal to me, despite the rumoured health benefits.

All the geothermic activity in Beppu is not surprising seeing as Kyushu is rife with volcanoes – the nearest, Aso, is 60 miles away and our next stop.

ASO

Aso Volcano is the biggest volcano in Japan (and one of the biggest volcanoes in the world). The crater is famous for its aqua blue lake which is sometimes closed due to toxic gas fumes. There are loads of touristy activities in the area, including horse-riding and museums, but taking a picnic or doing one of the hiking routes is probably the best option.

Visiting Aso Volcano can be temperamental as it has its own weather system, so check the weather and go early for the best chance of a clear view. Although I was unable to see into the famous crater due to a large display of toxic gas fumes during my visit, I was lucky to have clear views over the gorgeous nature instead. 

Check the status before you go:  http://www.aso.ne.jp/~volcano/eng/

The bus to the crater is 650 yen (£4.42) or 1300 yen return. Hiking or hitchhiking, either way, is of course free. I actually hitchhiked with a local on my way back down because I was worried about getting sunburnt.

You can also take an all-in Day Tour Around Aso which includes a lot of natural hidden gems and secret shrines that it’s hard to get to on your own.

If you stay in hostels, I would recommend Base Backpackers Aso – it had a great vibe and was one of the best-equipped hostels I’ve ever been to; think great tourist info, super clean kitchen (including cooking basics such as olive oil and fresh garlic) and helpful hosts. On my first evening, they even ordered veggie food to the hostel for me because I was tired! It cost 650 yen.

I decided to spend a second night in Aso because I loved the landscape so much! On the second day in Aso, you could take a day trip to Karawara Onsen.

I spent my second day in Aso simply enjoying the gorgeous countryside and walking up to one of the small Buddhist temples in the area. Unfortunately, the main gate and offering hall of Aso Shrine (20 minutes by bus from Aso Station) collapsed in the 2016 earthquake. Aso Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, so one of the small, secluded local temples make a good alternative.

KUMAMOTO

In Kumamoto, you can see Kumamoto Castle which dates back to the 17th century. Although it was badly damaged in the 2016 7.0 earthquake, it remains a significant landmark. It has a fascinating history and a key visit for anyone interested in samurais!

I had 9 days in Kyushu, and to avoid travel burn out I decided to miss Kumamoto from my itinerary in order to avoid travel fatigue.

One of THE most beautiful things you can do in Kyushu is now available to do on a Kumamoto day trip: Take a Takachiho Gorge Day Tour

On this tour you can take a guided walk along the stunning Takachiho Gorge, go rowing on the gorge to admire the rock formations and turquoise waters, see the beautiful Manai waterfall and visit sacred caves and shrines, plus a regional meal.

I still got to meet the Kumamoto mascot though! Meet Kumamon.

KAGOSHIMA

In Kagoshima, the main attraction is Sakurajima volcano which looms just off the coast. It translates to Cherry Blossom volcano and formed during an enormous eruption 22000 years ago. The ferry from Kagoshima to Sakurajima was 290 yen (return) and takes 15 minutes each way.

Once you arrive on Sakurajima Island, it is common to view key attractions by bus. You can pick a budget option, where the bus takes you to three of the key observation points on the island, or get a one-day bus pass for 500 yen. Upon arriving, the visitor centre at the ferry port can help you decide which route to take. You could also choose to rent a bike.

Highly recommended in Kagoshima is the Sengan-en Garden although I didn’t enter as this costs 1800 yen. I decided to skip it because it was out of my budget but this Japanese landscape garden, built in the 1700s, does look serene.

Other things to do in Kagoshima include visiting Mt Shiroyama for a beautiful view over the city or taking a steam sand bath.

Getting around Kagoshima is very easy! From my hostel, I just caught a tram to the ferry port. See how cute my tram was below – and he also had the butt of a pig, for some reason.

Finally, I took the train from Kagoshima back to Fukuoka. This was the longest distance on my JR Kyushu rail pass itinerary, taking almost 3 hours.

ALTERNATE PLACES TO VISIT ON A KYUSHU ITINERARY

YUFUIN – another onsen town only 10km from Beppu and perhaps most well-known for its trendy shopping area which includes everything from boutique shops to Heidi-themed market stalls, and even a floral market inspired by The Cotswold in England. Mount Yufu and Lake Kinrinko make it a good stop for nature-lovers too.

NAGASAKI – Sadly most well-known for being the second location where an atomic bomb was dropped during WWII, instantly killing thousands. Today it is home to a beautiful peace park and the lookout point from Mount Inasa has amazing views over the city. 

The city has both traditional Japanese influences and also Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese architecture – interestingly, Nagasaki was the only port city in Japan from the 16th – 19th century. 

From Nagasaki, you could also visit HUIS TEN BOSCH – a Dutch-themed theme park. I can hear you booking your ticket already. 🙂 

TAKACHIHO GORGE – Wow, this looks gorgeous! Many people skip it because it’s trickier to get to (myself included) but the photos of people boating down the gorge are stunning. This, along with the Miyazaki prefecture it’s situated in, would be a wonderful addition for anyone on a self-drive holiday, especially if you love nature! I would love to go back and visit here and the Oita prefecture. As mentioned above, I’ve notice you can now take a Takachiho Gorge Day Tour from Kumamoto

KIRISHIMA or KUROKAWA ONSEN – For a more secluded onsen experience and the perfect place to stay in a Ryokan. The nature here looks incredible so good for those who like chilling out in sleepy villages at the end of a long hike.

YAKUSHIMA – Beautiful island full of moss-covered forests and the inspiration behind Princess Mononoke. Accessible by plane or ferry from mainland Kyushu. Hiking trails can be taken individually with a bit of research, or use a guide. I would love to visit Yakushima more than anything!

GETTING AROUND KYUSHU

JR KYUSHU RAIL PASS

This gives you unlimited use of JR trains in Kyushu for 3 or 5 consecutive days. It will cost 8500 – 1800 yen depending on which option you want. You can buy this online or at any major station in Kyushu once you arrive.

3-5 day rail pass just for Kyushu: JR Kyushu Rail Pass (3 or 5 days)

Alternatively, use the Whole Japan rail pass.

Click here for a 7, 14, or 21 day JR Rail Pass for the whole of Japan: Whole Japan Rail Pass

SUNQ BUS PASS

Runs on 99% of long-distance and local buses in Kyushu and gives you unlimited use of them for 3 or 4 consecutive days. Usually costs 9000 – 14000 yen depending on which area/length of time you book it for.

Click here for your budget transport option around Kyushu: Kyushu SunQ Pass

SELF-DRIVE

If you’re not on a budget, self-drive itineraries are an amazing way to immerse yourself more fully in the nature and culture of another country. 

HINT: calculate approximate transport costs based on your itinerary BEFORE buying a pass – it might work out cheaper to buy all tickets separately. 

I travelled Japan without a sim or data to save money! Sim cards are available from the airport of phone stores around the city. However, if you’re in a group or couple a pocket WiFi device is way more affordable. 

FIRST-TIME IN JAPAN?

Get your 7 day JR Rail Pass in advance with a 4G Sim card included.

Or simply save time by purchasing your 4G Sim card in advance – you can pick it up from the airport when you arrive!

If you prefer, you can take a Pocket Wifi.

Book top-rated travel insurance with World Nomads. They have flexible insurance options which you can even book when you’re already on the road.

What else would you like to a one week Kyushu itinerary?

16 Comments

  1. The volcano and geyser look fantastic! I’d love to explore more of Japan, I’ve only been to Tokyo and this itinerary is inspiring!

  2. This looks so amazing! I had never heard of this area in Japan before! Now I wanna go :p

  3. Such a detailed guide, thanks so much! A trip to Japan has been on my travel wish list for years, but I haven’t looked into any specific areas/places to visit yet. I’ll certainly take your recommendations onboard though as I love geysers and the mountainscapes in this article look amazing too!

  4. Great post Cassie! I’ve spent months in Kyushu for work but only one day off a week it was hard to get out very much (I still did crazy 10 hour round trips like to Mt Aso tho). This gives me some great ideas for next time I’m down there.

    1. aw thanks so much Kristen! There was so much more I wanted to see there but I was so worried about sticking to my budget at that part of my trip xx

  5. Japan is my favorite country and I love exploring less touristy places. During our last trip we went to Nagoya and rarely saw tourists. Huis Ten Bosch is definitely on my bucketlist :))

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