03 NATURE

Section 1

The Nature of Kyushu

One of the highlights of traveling around Kyushu is undoubtedly the opportunity to admire magnificent and mysterious natural landscapes.
The dynamic and richly varied nature of Kyushu offers plenty of stunning views for you to enjoy, such as active volcanoes where you can feel the magma bubbling close to you, a caldera formed over thousands of centuries, a mysterious gorge created by the rapid cooling of lava flow, an enchanting limestone cave and a crystal clear lake.
A vast grassland plateau and a magnificent river flowing from the mountains to the plain are sure to leave you amazed. Terraced rice fields in a mountainous area will show you the original landscape of Japan through all seasons.
Surrounded by the Japan Sea, the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Kyushu also boasts a beautiful and varied coastline, with white sandy beaches, sheer cliffs eroded by the waves and many intricate bays and inlets. Another attractive feature of Kyushu is the presence of more than 2000 islands, which include the Natural World Heritage Site, Yakushima Island.
This region is also famous for its natural "onsen" hot springs. Hot springs in Kyushu have different water qualities and effects. There are "onsen" where you will feel like you are swimming in the ocean, where you can take a bath while admiring the starry sky or enjoy a stunning view surrounded by nature that will make you feel on top of the world.

  • >Terraced rice fields covered with snow in Takachiho Terraced rice fields covered with snow in Takachiho
  • Hirauchi seaside hotsprings in Yakushima Hirauchi seaside hotsprings in Yakushima

Seasons in Kyushu

Although warm throughout the year, Kyushu has four distinct seasons, with variations in temperature and rainfall, showing a different face and charm with every different season.
Bright green color starts to spread across the mountains in spring, and the color darkens and colorful flowers start to bloom as summer approaches. Spring and early summer bring many visitors who come to see cherry blossoms, field mustard flowers, and azaleas. In summer, you can enjoy the beautiful roses and take part in various water activities, including surfing, scuba diving, and river rafting.
In autumn, which is "the season of good appetite," you can enjoy many delicious local produce, including fruit and seafood. It is also the best time to view beautiful cosmos flowers in the highlands of Kyushu.
Winter in Kyushu is relatively warm, so you can enjoy sports and flowers as much as during the other seasons. Kyushu's Central Mountains, located in the center of Kyushu, sit at high altitudes and have low temperatures. Therefore, the area is covered with snow in winter, attracting many tourists who come for skiing and snowboarding.

  • Mt. Kaimondake and poppies at Lake Ikeda Mt. Kaimondake and poppies at Lake Ikeda
  • Kanoya Rose Garden Kanoya Rose Garden
  • Autumn at Saitobaru Burial Mounds Autumn at Saitobaru Burial Mounds
  • Cherry trees at Aya Equestrian Park Cherry trees at Aya Equestrian Park

Section 2

The Sea of Kyushu – Beaches and Islands

Surrounded by the ocean, the Kyushu region boasts beautiful coastal areas and beaches everywhere. Its eastern side, which features the scenic ria coastline, is designated as a Quasi-National Park and with its dynamic natural scenery is a great destination for a drive.
Miyazaki Prefecture is known for its many deep blue, transparent water beaches. Among them, that of Aoshima Island, conveniently near the airport, stands out as a swimming and water activities spot and it is well known worldwide as a premium surfing beach. Located near the beach is a unique rock formation called "Oni no Sentakuita (Ogre's Washboard)", a gently-sloped crag with regular layers eroded into a stair-like pattern that really does look like a huge washboard.

  • Kakeromajima Island - Tokuhama Beach Kakeromajima Island - Tokuhama Beach Blessed with transparent blue sea and lush greenery, this beautiful beach has become a popular filming location in Japan. With sea turtles often choosing this spot to lay their eggs, it is an ideal location to see the marine life up close.
  • Minamiosumi-cho - Kinko Bay Minamiosumi-cho - Kinko Bay A scenic spot designated as one of the "100 Landscapes of Japan." If the weather is fine, you can see Mt. Kaimondake, whose beautiful conical shape resembles that of Mt. Fuji, and the view at dusk with its vivid colors is even more magnificent.
  • Aoshima Island Aoshima Island A tourist destination where you can fully enjoy the beauty of nature. It also makes an ideal driving route. In summer its beautiful beaches attract many visitors.
  • Horikiri Pass - Ogre’s Washboard Horikiri Pass - "Ogre’s Washboard" A viewpoint from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. Here you can admire a unique rock formation called "Ogre's Washboard," created by erosion from powerful waves and tides.

With many isolated islands, around 600 of which are located in Nagasaki Prefecture alone, Kyushu has been regarded since ancient times as the center of Japan's diplomatic relations and is renowned not only for its natural beauty but also for its evocative historical atmosphere. Registered as a Natural World Heritage Site, Yakushima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture has a rich natural environment, which includes a unique remnant of primeval forest with the famous Jomon-sugi cedar. Yoron Island counts a total of 60 beautiful beaches, including the stunning Yurigahama Beach, a virtual paradise on earth with its white sand and sparkling emerald sea. Its clear waters are also perfect for snorkeling.

Yoron Island - Yurigahama Beach Yoron Island - Yurigahama Beach Yurigahama Beach is a pure white sandbar that appears only at low tide and for this reason it is also called "Phantom Beach." The sea surrounding it is incredibly clear. This paradise-like beach is the perfect place to soothe your mind.

Section 3

Mountains, waterfalls, valleys, and highlands in Kyushu

  • Viewing the huge Aso caldera from Mt. Daikanbo (Kumamoto Prefecture) Viewing the huge Aso caldera from Mt. Daikanbo (Kumamoto Prefecture)
  • A beautiful evening silhouette of Sakurajima (Kagoshima Prefecture) A beautiful evening silhouette of Sakurajima (Kagoshima Prefecture)

In Kyushu, there are many dynamic landscapes from which you can feel the power of the earth and nature. The major sightseeing spots include many national and quasi-national parks, such as Aso Kuju National Park, Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, Kyushu Chuo Sanchi Quasi-National Park, and Sobo-Katamuki Quasi-National Park, as well as mountains, valleys, and waterfalls.
The so-called “belly button of Kyushu,” Mt. Aso (1,592 m) in Aso Kuju National Park, has one of world’s largest calderas—18 km east to west and 25 km north to south—and people actually live in it. It is a symbol of Kumamoto Prefecture, known for breathtaking pastoral scenery, and was designated a Global Geopark in 2009 as well as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) in 2013. The highest mountain in Kyushu, Mt. Nakadake (1,791 m), is located in the Kuju Mountain Range, which has many beautiful seasonal mountain landscapes.

Crossing Kagoshima Prefecture and Miyazaki Prefecture, the Kirishima Mountain Range consists of about 20 mountains. Crossing Kagoshima Prefecture and Miyazaki Prefecture, the Kirishima Mountain Range consists of about 20 mountains.

Stretching from the Kirishima Mountain Range in southern Kyushu to Kinko Bay, the Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park includes the Kirishima Mountain Range, with its variety of attractive trekking routes, and the volcano Sakurajima (1,117 m), the symbol of Kagoshima Prefecture. Kirishima has more than a dozen waterfalls, with half of them greater than 20 meters high. Because of the precipitous mountains, it is said that there are still undiscovered waterfalls. The majestic Sakurajima rising out of the ocean can be seen from most places in Kagoshima City. Running from north to south at the center of Kyushu, just like a giant backbone, the Kyushu Central Mountains are designated as Kyushu Chuo Sanchi Mountain Quasi-National Park. With its string of deep valleys, the area has been called the last hidden scenic spot in Japan.

  • Takachiho Gorge, attracting photographers in every season (Miyazaki Prefecture) Takachiho Gorge, attracting photographers in every season (Miyazaki Prefecture)
  • Maruo-no-Taki Waterfall, a rare hot water waterfall with an onsen upstream Maruo-no-Taki Waterfall, a rare hot water waterfall with an onsen upstream (Kagoshima Prefecture)

Harajiri-no-Taki in Oita Prefecture has been dubbed the “Niagara Falls of the East” for its impressive scale Harajiri-no-Taki in Oita Prefecture has been dubbed the “Niagara Falls of the East” for its impressive scale

In June 2017, the Sobo-Katamuki-Okue Mountain Range and its surrounding area was designated a UNESCO Eco Park. It is rich in untouched nature, native landscapes and rare plants and animals. Within the Eco Park is Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture, one of Japan’s popular scenic spots. Rock columns with water falling between them create the unique landscape of this beautiful valley. The landscape scenery can be enjoyed throughout the seasons with fresh green in the spring, illumination in the summer and colorful foliage in the Autumn, exemplifying the transition of the seasons. Nature can be enjoyed up close from the walking path or slightly afar from a boat. Harajiri-no-Taki, a 120-m wide, 20-m high waterfall in Oita Prefecture, is a popular tourist spot. It is unique in that it is located in the middle of the countryside. The suspension bridge in front of the waterfall is a great place for viewing it from the front, but it is also possible to go to the bottom to get even closer. A Tulip festival is held in early April every year, celebrating the spring with 40,000 tulips of 100 varieties in bloom. You can enjoy a pleasant spring day in this wonderful atmosphere.

  • Omae Valley, known for its autumn foliage as well as for mountain stream fishing (Miyazaki Prefecture) Omae Valley, known for its autumn foliage as well as for mountain stream fishing (Miyazaki Prefecture)
  • Kuju Plateau, with nature stretching as far as the eye can see and pleasant breezes (Oita Prefecture)
Kuju Plateau, with nature stretching as far as the eye can see and pleasant breezes (Oita Prefecture)

Section 4

Autumn-colored leaves in Kyushu

  • Autumn leaves around Lake Kinrin, near Yufuin (Oita Prefecture) Autumn leaves around Lake Kinrin, near Yufuin (Oita Prefecture)
  • Kirishima mountains lit up in golden colors (Kagoshima Prefecture) Kirishima mountains lit up in golden colors (Kagoshima Prefecture)

Among the beautiful sceneries of the four clear-cut seasons of Japan, that of autumn leaves is one of the best. Because the climate of Kyushu is rather mild, the season for viewing the autumn leaves usually begins in the north from late October, which is later than on the main island of Honshu, and lasts quite long, until early December. During the high season, Kyushu draws a lot of visitors from Japan and abroad to appreciate the “art of autumn.” Because Kyushu is a very mountainous island, centered around the Kyushu Chuo Mountain Range, magnificent scenic beauty is abundant in the still pristine nature of the mountain regions. The following information introduces places in Kyushu where autumn leaves can be enjoyed in harmonious natural settings combining grand nature, crisp, clean air, and shrines and temples, as well as trekking courses and illumination events at nighttime. This autumn, how about visiting the major autumn leaves viewing spots in Kyushu ?

  • A tunnel of beautiful autumn leaves in Daikozen-ji Temple (Saga Prefecture)
  • A tunnel of beautiful autumn leaves in Daikozen-ji Temple (Saga Prefecture)

A tunnel of beautiful autumn leaves in Daikozen-ji Temple (Saga Prefecture)

  • A tunnel of beautiful autumn leaves in Daikozen-ji Temple (Saga Prefecture)
  • A tunnel of beautiful autumn leaves in Daikozen-ji Temple (Saga Prefecture)

Mifuneyama Rakuen holds one of Japan’s biggest events of garden illumination (Saga Prefecture)

Daikozen-ji Temple is a mountain temple with about 1,300 years of history, well known in recent years as an autumn leaves spot. Brilliantly colored leaves present visitors with a strikingly beautiful spectacle. In the spacious landscape garden of Mifuneyama Rakuen, which took three years to construct, some 500 trees brilliantly turning deep red can be viewed. Some autumn leaves spots are lit up at night for a limited period. The illuminated leaves emerging out of the darkness create a fabulous, touching sight that is very different from that of the daytime.

  • Major autumn leaves viewing spots in Kyushu that are worth a visit
  • Major autumn leaves viewing spots in Kyushu that are worth a visit

Located in Oita Prefecture, the Kuju Mountain Range consists of 1,700-meter class mountains. Starting from late October, the entire area turns yellow and red, resembling a colorful carpet. The view from the scenic "Yamanami Highway," one of the most popular driving routes of Kyushu, surrounded by autumnal colors on both sides, is stunning.

  • Major autumn leaves viewing spots in Kyushu that are worth a visit
  • Major autumn leaves viewing spots in Kyushu that are worth a visit

Lying across Kagoshima Prefecture and Miyazaki Prefecture, Kirishima Mountain Range attracts many visitors with its wide range of wonderful trekking routes. The area is especially popular in autumn, when it is covered with maple trees and Japanese pampas grass. A 2-hour trekking course, suitable even for beginners, takes you through autumn colored trees creating a beautiful contrast with the cobalt blue water of lakes. In addition, Kirishima-jingu Shrine, known as the strongest “power spot” in southern Kyushu, sees its precincts and front approach painted with brilliant colored leaves in autumn, making an even finer backdrop for the gorgeously decorated main hall of the shine.

  • Major autumn leaves viewing spots in Kyushu that are worth a visit
  • Major autumn leaves viewing spots in Kyushu that are worth a visit

Although Takachiho Gorge is a popular sightseeing spot throughout the year for its scenery, it is especially beautiful around Onokoro Pond and Mihashi Bridge overlooking Manai-no-taki Waterfall from mid to late November, when the leaves show off their best colors.

  • Soyo-kyo Gorge dressed in autumn colors   Soyo-kyo Gorge dressed in autumn colors
  • Autumn scenery around the Umenoki Todoroki Park Suspension Bridge (Kumamoto Prefecture) Autumn scenery around the Umenoki Todoroki Park Suspension Bridge (Kumamoto Prefecture)

Soyo-kyo Gorge is a magnificent canyon extending over 10 km with a range of steep cliffs as high as 200 meters. The sweeping view looking down from Nagasakibana Observatory, located on the Miyazaki-Kumamoto prefectural border, is called the “Grand Canyon of Kyushu,” and in this season is painted brightly with colorful maple trees and Japanese zelkova.

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