The What and Where of Kyushu

For Japanese, the significance of Kyushu goes back beyond the dawn of history. Kyushu
is a center of myth and legend: it is the place where the fabled ancestors of the Japanese
people are said to have touched down after descending from heaven. This part of the
country can be regarded as the cradle of Japanese culture and civilization.

Geography has done much to shape the character of Kyushu. The proximity of this
island to Korea and China meant that until the twentieth century, Kyushu was the most
international part of Japan. Since very ancient times, it was through this part of Japan
that the products and ideas of the outside world entered the country. Kyushu encouraged
foreign trade and was a pioneer in accepting technologies, artifacts and residents from
the West.

That international character has certainly extended into the modern era. Kyushu today
utilizes its prime geographic position to support a burgeoning trade with mainland Asia.
And that helps Kyushu account for almost 10% of Japan’s GDP. Kyushu boasts the fourth-largest economic zone in the country after the metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Osaka and
Nagoya, and the size of Kyushu’s gross regional product puts its economy at about the
same level as Belgium’s, which ranks 20th in the world.