Airports – Arrive at Fukuoka Airport and depart from Kagoshima Airport.
Transport – It’s about 2 hours by train from Fukuoka to Nagasaki. Traveling from Nagasaki to Kumamoto takes 2 hours and 40 minutes, and it’s 2 hours and 20 minutes from there to Aso. Beppu is 2.5 hours from Aso. The best way of visiting Takachiho is to hire a car in either Kumamoto or Aso.
Going from Kumamoto to Kagoshima by Shinkansen takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. If you are not flying out of Kagoshima, the return trip to Fukuoka by Shinkansen takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Fukuoka, Kyushu’s biggest city, is a fine introduction to the charms of Japan’s largest southern island. Meet friendly locals by pulling up a chair at one of the city’s many famous yatai (outdoor food stalls) and ordering a bowl of ramen noodles. Fukuoka’s eye-catching modern architecture is best viewed at the Canal City and Hawks Town waterside developments. The Hakata Machiya Folk Museum showcases arts and crafts associated with local festivals and culture.
Picturesque Nagasaki has a cosmopolitan vibe thanks to centuries of international trade. There’s plenty to see here, including Chinese temples and Catholic churches; a mansion that served as the setting for Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly in Glover Garden; Hollander Slope, the old hilltop concession where the foreign community lived in the 19th century; plus, the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park.
Its center dominated by Japan’s third-largest castle, Kumamoto is the ideal base from which to tour central Kyushu. Visit Suizen-ji Garden early in the morning to avoid the crowds; it’s a small stroll garden, taking only 30 minutes to walk around, leaving you plenty of time to tour the traditional crafts center.
The town of Aso is the base for sightseeing around one of the world’s biggest calderas, Mount Aso. Of the five volcanic cones within the 130-km (mile) circumference crater, Mount Nakadake is active, A cable car (ropeway) that goes up to its steaming summit is indefinitely closed due to safety concerns.
In the touristy onsen resort of Beppu drop by the Boiling Hells (Jigoku) to see bubbling pools of mud and mineral-colored waters. On the beach, experience being buried up to your neck in hot sand. Then head 25 km (miles) inland to stay at the smaller, more refined onsen town of Yufuin, set next to serene Lake Kinrin.
Takachiho is at the heart of a mountainous area rich in local mythology and natural attractions, including caves associated with Shinto deities and the spectacular Takachiho Gorge, which you can see from river level in a rowboat.
With the smoking bulk of Sakurajima Volcano brooding across the bay, Kagoshima has an unforgettable setting. Take a boat out to the volcanic island for a closer look and for a dip in one of its onsen, Kagoshima has several pleasant gardens, including Sengan-e, (also known as Iso-teien), a well-designed aquarium, and a decent art museum.
To extend your trip…
The Saga Pottery Towns Tour, around Karatsu Bay, will appeal to ceramics enthusiasts.
For a taste of tropical Japan, fly to Na ha City, the capital of the southern archipelago of Okinawa.