Kyushu up Close

Though the name literally means “Nine Provinces,” Kyushu today is made up of seven prefectures. Northernmost of the seven on the Kyushu mainland is Fukuoka Prefecture. With its proximity to the Asian mainland, this prefecture was one of the first areas in Japan to undergo cultural development. Today, the prefecture is a major industrial center. Southeast of Fukuoka is mountainous Oita Prefecture, which is characterized more by agriculture and forestry. For visitors, Oita is a prime spot because of its hot-spring resorts, among which Beppu is arguably Japan’s most famous spa. South of Oita is Miyazaki Prefecture, renowned for unspoiled mountainous scenery and beautiful seascapes. But Miyazaki is also a land of legend, many key scenes of Japanese mythology having had Miyazaki’s Takachiho as their setting.



Southernmost of Kyushu’s prefectures is Kagoshima, whose capital of the same name is dominated by the brooding volcano Sakurajima, one of many in this fiery prefecture. Notable among the subtropical chain of islands belonging to Kagoshima and reaching toward Okinawa is Yakushima, long a World Heritage Site. North of Kagoshima lies Kumamoto Prefecture, also known for its volcanoes, notably Mt. Aso, which has one of the world’s largest calderas. The attractive, green prefectural capital, Kumamoto, has at its heart the fine castle that is one of Japan’s most illustrious.


Northwest of Kumamoto is Nagasaki Prefecture. Its main city, Nagasaki, was for centuries the only the port open for foreign trade, and so it was the sole point of contact between Japan and the West. Nestled between Nagasaki and Fukuoka is Saga Prefecture. This prefecture is one of Japan’s major pottery centers, but part of Saga points to a longer history: the archeological site and historical park of Yoshinogari sheds fascinating light on life in this country a couple of millennia ago.