Kyushu Japan... A mythical mysterious wonderland of sights that exceeded my wildest dreams!
This relatively unknown, to Australians, destination is the south westernmost of Japan’s main islands. It has a mostly subtropical climate so not as cool as Hokkaido in winter. With active volcanoes, beaches, and natural hot springs it is a destination to put on your list.
Beppu, in the Oita prefecture, is home to more than 2000 Onsen, (hot springs.) It is also home to the famous Beppu Hells. (Jigoku)
There are seven Hells in Bepu and I was lucky enough to visit three of them.
The first is the Blood Hells (Chinoike -Jigoku). The water in the ponds of this hell is red, hence the name blood hells. It is extremely hot at around 78C so one would not want to touch it. The area is wheelchair friendly and easy to get about for an older person.
Next door is the Oniishibozu Jigoku. These are bubbling hot mud which look like the shaven heads of monks. Surrounded by stunning autumn colours and green foliage these are a true wonderland.
Umi Jigoku, the Sea Hell, is perhaps the most beautiful. Steaming hot with a deep cobalt blue colour makes for an extremely pleasant experience. Ponds full of lotus flowers abound as do the trees of autumn colours.
The leaves of the lotus plant are strong enough to support a small child. There are a couple of blood ponds here as well. All boiling hot.
A particular delicacy at the Hells is a steamed custard pudding with caramel base. Quite delicious.
Not too far away from Beppu is the town of Matama. Unbelievable sunsets can be viewed from Matama Beach. Photographers from all over the world gather at this beach all hoping for that perfect shot.
A short drive to the farming community of Tashimunosho and one can see ancient rice paddies and farms nestled between the towering hills. These areas are all easily accessed by over 60’s, mobile or not. There are no long hikes in Beppu.
Leaving Beppu, take a train ride on the Sea Gaia to Nobeoka in the Miyazaki Prefecture.
Up big mountains, along the seashore and through farming areas and small towns. This is a great trip.
Takachiho, in my opinion is the jewel in Japan’s crown. I was in awe of everything I laid eyes on. From the deep gorges to the small towns. The autumn colours on the mountain sides and along the streets had to be seen to be believed.
Once again the pristine waters meandering through the Takachiho Gorge were unbelievable.
The vibrant red leaves of the Maple, a native tree of Japan, the brilliant yellow of the ginkgo, Tokyo’s symbol tree, the almost as brilliant yellow of the larch tree, orange red cherry trees and the red of the Rowan tree. The deep green of the cedars. A sight to behold.
A boat trip on the crystal waters of the Takachiho gorge to see the beautiful Manai Waterfall is another must do activity. There are many steps down to the boat so not suitable for those with limited mobility, but never fear. The falls can be viewed from the bridge above.
Takachiho village is a lovely little village in which to take a night time stroll. The winding streets and small shops and cafes are indeed interesting.
Takachiho Shrine, located on the edge of the town centre is a beautiful shrine nestled between a stand of tall cedars.
It is the site of one of the most important legends in Japanese mythology. Amaterasu, the Shinto Sun Goddess, became so outraged at her brothers cruel tricks that she hid herself in a cave and thus deprived the world of her life giving light.
A cultural performance about how the other Gods lured her out and thus restored light to the world is indeed an amazing experience.
A few hours’ drive away is Japan’s largest active volcano, Mount Aso. It stands in the Aso Kuju National Park in Kumamoto prefecture.
Mt Aso is amongst the largest volcanoes in the world. Enjoy a horse ride around the outer rim, or for the more flexible, a pushbike ride.
There is a lookout high above the crater. Amazingly the floor of the volcano is dotted with homes and farms, all very fertile because of the soil. I do not think I would like to live down there though. It could erupt at any given moment. The last eruption was in 2016.
Still very interesting to see this place.
Kyushu is thought to be the birthplace of Japan. It is where it all began and a more amazing island I have yet to see.
Text & Images (c) 2021 Jennifer Lockhart