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Help needed with travel plan

We are a family of 4 adults arriving in Fukuoka in late March and departing Tokyo 11 days later. We have already locked in 4 nights/3 days in Tokyo, and are planning 3 nights in Kyoto, and possibly one in Hiroshima/Miyajima, so have 2 nights/3 part-days we need ideas for.
We arrive late morning in Fukuoka and it would seem a shame not to see some of Kyushu ... But we are just not sure what is possible in the time we have available. We would like to stay in a spa/ryokan at some point in our stay, so possibly one night in Nagasaki or in Fukuoka, and one night in Beppu/Yufuin? We like travelling by train, and liked the idea of taking the No-Mori, but cannot find timetables beyond the end of February. Also, not sure how long it will take to clear immigration/customs and get from the airport to the train station, which will have an impact on how far we can travel on our first day in Japan. Please help us.

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  • Hi,
    I spent over a decade living in Kyushu, so I can try and help you out here. If you'd like to spend some time at a hot spring, then Kyushu has some of Japan's best. They are literally all across Japan though.

    If you only had one place you could visit in Fukuoka, I would suggest you go see the Nanzoin Temple about 20 minutes from Hakata Stn by train. It is one of the best in Japan yet virtually unknown to all the tourist guidebook "experts".
    http://www.thejapanfaq.com/fukpic.html
    https://goo.gl/novUi0
    The city is famous for its pork broth ramen (tonkotsu ramen), so try some while there - especially at one of the ramen stalls (yatai) in Nakasu in the evening. It's very pungent but they are very proud of it.
    You'll also be there with good timing to see the cherry blossoms in Japan. You'll likely see more later on in your trip, but in Fukuoka some good places are Nishi Koen, Maizuru Koen, and Uminonakamichi. The Fukuoka airport is much smaller than other larger cities, so you should be able to clear customs and immigration within 30-45 minutes. From there you'll need to take a free bus to the domestic terminal to get the subway, or for convenience you all could take a taxi straight from the international terminal to your hotel (as long as you don't have too much baggage as well). You'd likely be too early to check in but many places will store your stuff for free there until check in time (but verify that with the hotel first).

    For hot springs in Kyushu, some popular places are Beppu/Yufuin, Unzen, Takeo, Futsukaichi, and Kurokawa. If you want a truly unique experience, I suggest Kurokawa - there are outdoor baths in a foresty atmosphere, and it is unforgettable.
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4575.html

    To make the most of your time and see some of Kyushu, I suggest you spend your arrival day in Fukuoka, one day in Nagasaki, and one day in Kagoshima. Kagoshima is just 90 minutes from Fukuoka by bullet train, and has some beautiful sights - not many places you can walk near a live volcano puffing away. The Senganen Garden there is also very nice.
    Nagasaki is really the most interesting city on the island, and not just because of the A-Bombing. It is worth a couple days to see the city but you can cover the best in just a day.
    Plus if you get a 14 day JR Rail Pass, you can definitely get some great savings with all these side trips added in. Within Fukuoka, many good places are close to a subway station, so a subway day pass is a good buy. Also in Nagasaki and Kagoshima there are streetcar day passes which are good too.
    You can see both Hiroshima and Miyajima in a day with an early morning start. You can cover the Peace Park/Museum, castle, Shukkeien Garden and Okonomiyaki-mura in the city of you like, and in Miyajima, aside from the Itsukushima Shrine with the giant "floating" torii, the Daishoin Temple is also a must-see place. There are several other pagodas and temples, and climbing Mt. Misen offers a fantastic view over the island and whole area.
    If you can see the shrine at both high and low tides, you'll really be blessed. The shrine looks better at high tide, and at low tide you can walk out onto the beach to the giant torii gate.
    http://www.tides4fishing.com/jp/hiroshima/itsukushima
    Since you are already seeing Tokyo, you can largely skip Osaka during the day. But after the temples of Kyoto close down around 5 PM, you can zip over to Osaka for the evening. At night the city comes alive and has some great places to see, such as Dotonbori, plus the night views from the Umeda Sky Bldg and Abeno Harukas Bldg are wonderful.
    On another evening, you could also go and see Kobe.

    I also suggest you take at least half a day and see Nara - it was also a former capital and has some of Japan's best sights. Missing the Todaiji Great Buddha would be a tragedy. Nara Park has a lot of other great places, such as Kasuga Shrine, Kofukuji Temple, the Isuien and Yoshikien Gardens, and feeding the many deer in the area.

    If you are chasing the cherry blossoms, you can look at these forecast sites to see when they start. Unfortunately accurate predictions really only start about a month before the season starts, but if you look at these from mid-February from time to time, you can start to get some idea. On average though, your timing is very good.
    http://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php
    http://sakura.weathermap.jp/
    http://www.rurubu.com/season/spring/sakura/
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011.html

    You can see regular fares, routes and schedules on Hyperdia.
    http://www.hyperdia.com
    Under "More Options", be sure to uncheck the Nozomi box since you can't ride that train if you are using the JR pass.

    You can see previews of some of the best places to see in Japan on:
    https://www.youtube.com/user/thejapanfaq/videos

    There are also loads of other tips on
    http://www.thejapanfaq.com/the-best-japan-travel-tips/

    Hope that helps.


  • Wow, thank you - such a lot of detailed information, it has taken us a few days to look through it. We really want to experience as much as possible of what Kyushu has to offer - but we have such little time. Arriving around lunchtime on a Wednesday we can probably see something of Fukuoka or Nagasaki or Kagoshima but only one, spend the night, then have a day to get to Yufuin or Beppu or Kurokawa (to spend Thursday night) We love the pictures we have found online of Kurokawa, but will it be too difficult to get to without a car? The next day we will have to set off to Hiroshima/Miyajima in time to see something of both (as we move on to Kyoto via Himeji the following day). We do like train travel/public transport, can you tell me if the routes around Kyushu are interesting/picturesque and/or justify spending longer getting to places further away? We have seen some local routes on the Kyushu Railway Company website, but the timetables only go to the end of February. Do you know if there are timetables for March yet? We realise these trains probably aren't covered by the JR Rail Pass ... But could we possibly get a 3-day Kyushu pass, plus a 7-day JR Rail Pass? Thank you so much for your help.
  • Hi,
    Due to earthquake and flood damage, the route was changed for trains like the Yufuin no Mori - but yes, you can ride it with a Kyushu or full JR rail pass. I don't know about the timetable, but the next schedule should be coming out relatively soon, so you might want to check the JR Kyushu webpage from time to time. The scenery is not bad at all - certainly far better than by bullet train from Fukuoka to Hiroshima, which has a lot of black tunnels.
    For Kurokawa, it is not hard at all to get to - but it is a bit time consuming, so if you go to Kurokawa, it is better with an overnight. The list of "JR" trains that require a surcharge are on
    http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/about_jrp.html
    as you can see, it should not effect your plans.
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