The Four Seasons in Japan

Yusentei Park, an example of the role of nature in Japanese culture

Yusentei Park

If you spend enough time in Japan, you will most likely be told at some point that “Japan has four seasons” as one of the country’s most unique qualities. Although this seems a bit absurd considering that most countries have the same four seasons, the statement really implies that their Japan has four well-defined seasons (five effective seasons if tsuyu, the rainy season, is included), and that Japanese people have a deep-rooted fascination in the changes that each of those seasons brings. People view the stunning spring cherry blossoms, brilliant autumn leaves, tranquil snow-covered winter landscapes and seasonal flowers throughout the year with deep affection because these all have deep-reaching, symbolic meaning based on a uniquely Japanese love of nature — this is a common theme found throughout Japanese art, literature and poetry.

Japanese People also see the seasonal changes as personal, dynamic backdrops for the stories of their lives as well as symbolic representations of human life in general. Cherry blossoms, for example, start out young, bloom into something captivating and elegant in very a short time, and then wither and die not long after that — this is often used as a metaphor for our beautiful but tragically brief existences as human beings.

To see for yourself what changes the different seasons can bring, trying visiting Maizuru Park, Yusentei Park, Uminonakamichi Seaside Park and the flower fields of Nokonoshima Island Park at different times of the year.

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Fujiyoshi: Unique Yakitori Selections

Fujiyoshi

Fujiyoshi (藤よし) is a long-established yakitori shop located in Nishi-Nakasu (home to some of Fukuoka’s best restaurants) that provides nothing but the best in savory chicken skewers. They offer rare parts of the chicken not available at other shops at surprisingly affordable prices. Their lunch sets (available 11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.) provide a sampling of some of their best items at low prices (around 750 yen), and their evening prices are surprisingly affordable.

Their tsukune (Japanese-style meatball) skewers are to die for, and the bara (beef, vegetables and konjac) and kashiwa (white chicken meat) skewers are also very tasty. They even offer peta, which is — guess what? — chicken butt!

Fujiyoshi is 5-6 min. on foot from exit 6 of Tenjin-minami Station (Nanakuma Subway Line), 6-7 min. on foot from exit 1 of Nakasu-Kawabata Station (Kuko Subway Line, Hakozaki Subway Line) and exit 16 of Tenjin Station (Kuko Subway Line), and 10–12 min. on foot from Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station (Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta Line). They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (closed on Sundays).

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Fukuoka Beach Guide Updated and Upgraded for 2013

Keya Beach

The Fukuoka Beach Guide has been updated for 2013 and upgraded to a permanent section of the site. Select “Beaches” from the menu bar or click here to view the new beach guide!

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Hakata Port Tower and Bayside Place Hakata

Hakata Port Tower

Hakata Port Tower

Before Fukuoka’s shiny Momochi-area landmark Fukuoka Tower was built, the city had another bay-side landmark in the older, more industrial Hakata Port area. The modest-sized Hakata Port Tower, completed in 1964, is now eclipsed by many of the apartment and office buildings that have sprung up in the city’s ensuing growth, yet it still manages to retain its own unique brand of retro-style charm. It stands 100 m (328 ft.) tall and was designed by architect Tachu Naito–the same architect who designed Tokyo Tower, Osaka’s current Tsutenkaku Tower, and Nagoya TV Tower. Furthermore, Hakata Port Tower is the first thing that both domestic and international passengers see when arriving in Fukuoka by boat.

The tower is not overly impressive, but it has a certain retro-style, down-to-earth feel that makes is strangely attractive. It can be quite pleasant at night when illuminated and accompanied only by the sound of waves lapping against the wharf. Although it is hard to imagine this tower being a central landmark in the city, it is important to remember that Fukuoka used to be much smaller than it is now, and the city’s rapid rate of growth simply left Hakata Port Tower in the dust.

Bayside Place Hakata with Hakata Port Tower in the background

Bayside Place Hakata is a small but charming shopping complex located next to the tower and the local ferry terminal (the international ferry terminal is only a short distance away). It boasts a fair assortment of shops (including duty-free shops), and a large aquarium adorns the entrance area. Although Bayside Place isn’t worth going out of the way to see, you can combine it with a visit to the tower or grab a bite to eat and buy souvenirs before departing by ferry. Sightseeing boats also connect this complex to Tenjin Central Park.

The tower is free to enter, and it is open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Hours for Bayside Place vary by shop, but most are open from around 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

To get to both facilities, take bus 46 or 99 from the Hakata Station area (220 yen, 20-30 min.) or bus 49 or 90 from the Tenjin area (180 yen, 10-15 min.) to Hakatafuto bus stop. Ferries and boats also provide connections to Tenjin Central Park, Uminonakamichi Seaside Park and Saitozaki, Shikanoshima Island and other destinations. It is also possible to walk from Gofukumachi Station (Hakozaki Subway Line) to either facility in about 20 minutes.

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Japanese Addresses and Meanings of Place Names

The Japanese address system is much different from systems found in Western countries. Most small streets are unnamed, and in most cities the addresses are based on named areas which are divided and subdivided into numbered sections.  For example, the address 福岡県福岡市中央区天神1-2-3 (in romanized form, 1-2-3 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken) indicates a building in is located in the 3rd go of the 2nd banchi of the 1st chome of the Tenjin area, which in turn is part of Chuo Ward (ku), which is part of Fukuoka City (shi), which is part of Fukuoka Prefecture (ken). Buildings names (most buildings are named), floors and room numbers are often included in addresses. A more detailed overview of the Japanese address system is provide here.

So where do place names such as “Tenjin” in the above example come from? By taking a closer look at these names, we can actually learn a lot about each neighborhood itself. For example, Kego and Sumiyoshi came from names of Shinto shrines in their respective neighborhoods, while “Tenjin” was taken from the name of a deity enshrined at Suikyo Tenmangu Shrine in the current Tenjin area; Nagahama, Momochi-hama and Minato (lit. “port”) came from names of seaside areas and ports; Kiyokawa (Kiyo River) and Nakasu (“riverine island”) came from geographical features; Tojinmachi (lit. “town of Chinese people,” referring to a past Chinese population) and jonai (lit. “inside the castle grounds” in reference to Fukuoka Castle) stem from historical and/or descriptive aspects; and some are simply based on surrounding facilities such as Hakate-ekimae (“in front of Hakata Station”) and Ohori-koen (“Ohori Park”). Not only names of neighborhoods, but names of stations, cities, prefectures and even people provide fascinating glimpses into both the past and the present.

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Kyushu Ramen: A Comparison of Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Kagoshima

Kagoshima-style ramen

Kagoshima-style ramen

Hakata ramen, also known Nagahama ramen, comes from Fukuoka and is by far the most famous style ramen from Kyushu. However, within the island of Kyushu itself, Fukuoka’s ramen is only one of the three major varieties, the other two being Kumamoto ramen and Kagoshima ramen. Although all three are forms of tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen, they have various defining characteristics that set them apart. The following is a quick summary of the characteristics of each style.

Fukuoka ramen (known as “Hakata ramen” and “Nagahama ramen”):

  • Hakata ramen has its origins in Kurume ramen, a style with a strong and rich taste (kotteri) — Kurume ramen is considered to be the original ramen of Kyushu
  • Has an oily, milky broth made by boiling pork bones at high temperatures to liquefy the innards to produce an incredibly rich taste and strong stench that can make Hakata ramen a bit difficult at first for inexperienced diners
  • Uses ultra-thin, straight, firm noodles
  • The concept of kaedama, which involves paying a small fee to get a refill of noodles to put in your remaining soup after finishing the first serving, is a unique concept originating from Fukuoka
  • Few or no additional ingredients are used in addition to soup, noodles, chashu pork and green onions, as shops rely on the quality of these basic ingredients to showcase the talents of the chef

Kumamoto ramen:

  • Like Hakata ramen, Kumamoto ramen also has its origins in Kurume ramen, the original Kyushu ramen
  • This ramen style features a strong flavor similar to its Kurume predecessor, but without the oily taste that characterizes Hakata ramen, making it a bit easier to eat for diners who are not used to strong-tasting ramen broth
  • Seasoned with garlic chips and sesame oil to give it a pleasing fragrance and make potential customers hungry
  • Uses rather thick, straight, firm (sometimes even chewy) noodles
  • Most Kumamoto ramen shops do not utilize the kaedama noodle-refill system found in Fukuoka

Kagoshima ramen:

  • Kagoshima ramen is the only Kyushu ramen that did not originate from Kurume, and it was not influenced by Kurume ramen during the course of its development
  • Rather than pure pork-bone (tonkotsu) soup, pork bones are used together with chicken bones, vegetables, kelp and/or other ingredients to make a mixed soup, resulting in a lighter and less greasy taste than the other styles of Kyushu ramen
  • Kurobuta (Berkshire pork), a famous product of Kagoshima, is often used (bones for making broth, chashu pork added to the finished dish, etc.)
  • The noodles are often medium-thick and resemble Okinawa-style soba, and they are usually made without using kansui (a type of alkaline mineral water that gives most ramen noodles their yellowish hue)
  • Pickles (tsukemono) are usually served alongside ramen in Kagoshima
  • Many shops in Kagoshima have traditionally included miso ramen (a style rarely seen in Kyushu) on their menus in addition to tonkatsu-base ramens
  • Although ramen shops in Fukuoka and Kumamoto are differentiated by subtle variations in the same basic styles of ramen, shops in Kagoshima are unique in the wide variety of ramen types available overall

Check out the Finding Fukuoka ramen guide for a list of recommended ramen shops in Fukuoka City.

Image provided by Wikimedia Commons
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Mihara Tofu-ten

If you are a fan of tofu (which I certainly am), then Mihara Tofu-ten (三原豆腐店) should be your first stop in Fukuoka. From standard tofu dishes to innovative tofu delicacies and desserts, this shop has it all. A carefully assembled collection of nihonshu (Japanese sake) balances out the meal perfectly.

I personally recommend trying their atsu-age fried tofu (a type of abura-age) as well as their yuba (the thin tofu “skin” formed on the surface when soy milk is boiled), both of which are stunning.

Mihara Tofu-ten is located in Nishi-Nakasu, so it is only a short walk from Tenjin, Nakasu and Haruyoshi. It is very close to Tenjin Central Park and Deaibashi Bridge — the latter is located inside Central Park and offers some of the best river views in the city, especially at night. The ACROS Fukuoka building (with a free rooftop observatory and unique eco-conscious architecture) and most of Tenjin’s most popular shopping centers are also nearby.

Mihara Tofu-ten is 7-10 min. on foot from exit 16 of Tenjin Station (Kuko Subway Line), the central or south exit of Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station (Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta Line), exit 5 of Tenjin-minami Station (Nanakuma Subway Line), or exit 1 of Nakasu-Kawabata Station (Kuko Subway Line).  It is 3-4 min. on foot from Haruyoshi bus stop (take route 6, 6-1, 8. 46, 80 or 100 from the Tenjin area, or route 6, 6-1 or 100 from the Hakata Gate side of Hakata Station).

Restaurant hours are 5:00 p.m. to midnight (last order at 11:30 p.m.) with a business holiday on Sundays. Their location on Google Maps can be viewed here.

Mihara Tofu-ten’s Japanese website can be viewed here.

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Seasonal Events and Traditions in Fukuoka

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival

This section provides an overview of some of the most popular events and seasonal traditions in and around Fukuoka City. Because these events offer a cultural experience that cannot be had through sightseeing alone, I recommend that all visitors consider including one of them in their itineraries. This information is also available in the permanent section on this website, which will be updated as necessary.

First Sunrise of the Year from Fukuoka Tower (January 1)

Aside from visiting Shinto Shrines and spending time with family, viewing the first sunrise of the year (hatsu hinode) together with friends and loved ones is a popular tradition in Japan. Fukuoka Tower opens its doors for this important yearly event, giving viewers the chance to enjoy a view of the spectacular sunrise above Fukuoka City and Hakata Bay from the observatory deck at an elevation of 123 meters (403.5 feet).

  • Location: Fukuoka Tower
  • Time: tickets sales being at 4:30 a.m. and the tower opens at 5:30 a.m.
  • Cost: admission for non-Japanese visitors is 640 yen for adults, 400 yen for elementary and middle school students, 200 yen for children (age 4 or older), and 500 yen for senior citizens (age 65 or older)

Setsubun Festival at Kushida Shrine (February 3)

Considered to be the last day of winter in the traditional calendar, the Setsubun Festival is celebrated on February 3 throughout Japan. Fukuokans celebrate by visiting Kushida Shrine and throwing soy beans at dancing actors wearing devil masks as part of a Shinto cleansing ritual to drive away evil spirits. A large, white-painted Japanese female face is installed over the shrine gate entrance, and visitors enter through its mouth.

  • Location: Kushida Shrine, which is 5-7 min. on foot from exit 3 of Gion Station (Kuko Subway Line), or mere steps away from Kushida Jinja/Hakata Machiya Furusatokan-mae bus stop (“Green” loop bus)
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Jojima Sake Festival (February 11)

This is probably Fukuoka’s largest nihonshu (Japanese sake) related event, and it is held every year on February 11 (National Foundation Day) in the southern Kurume area. Local sake breweries of this rural area open their doors to visitors, offering free and low-priced samples of many of their freshly made nihonshu and occasional fruit liqueurs as well as food cooked by staff and locals. A central event area is also set up so people can compare sake from different makers and enjoy traditional yatai food stall food found at many Japanese festivals. Although individual kurabiraki (open brewery events) are better for seasoned sake drinkers, Jojima is a great place for those who are interested in Japan’s most delicious drink but do not yet have much experience with it. Be warned, however, that this is a very crowded event, especially in the central event area (the individual breweries tend to be more enjoyable).

  • Location: Southern Kurume (Jojima) area. Take the Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta Line from Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station to Nishitetsu Mizuma Station (this station is closest) or the JR Kagoshima Main Line from Hakata Station to Araki Station. Free shuttle buses provide transport between the different event sites, although some sites are within walking distance of the station and each other. The shuttle buses tend to be very crowded, so taxis are a faster and less tiring option if you are with a group.
  • Recommendations: The central event area is a bit overrated and overcrowded, so I recommend visiting individual breweries instead. My personal favorites are Morinokura (杜の蔵), located right next to Mizuma Station, as well as Asahigiku (旭菊) and Hananotsuyu (花の露).

Plum Blossoms at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (Late February to late March)

Dazaifu is one of the most famous spots for viewing late-winter/early-spring plum blossoms in the Fukuoka City area. The area surrounding Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine has around 6,000 plum trees of 197 different varieties whose flowers blossom in various different shapes and colors for a beautiful spectacle. Not only do plum blossoms bring a brightness to the world that is absent throughout the dreary winter, they also provide a preview of sorts for the stunning spectacle of cherry blossoms to come later in the spring.

Spring Cherry Blossom Viewing (Late March to early April)

Cherry blossoms are one of Japan’s most famous natural symbols, and Fukuoka has plenty of great spots for viewing them during their short period of bloom in the spring. Although cherry trees begin to blossom early in March, the best time for viewing (full bloom) generally starts in late March or early April and last for about a week — everything depends on the weather that year. The Japanese tradition is to bring food, drinks (usually beer and chu-hi) and blankets/tarps outside and have picnics with friends or family under the trees.

Hakata Dontaku Port Festival (May 3-4)

Dontaku, an old citizens’ festival dating back 830 years, is one of Fukuoka’s largest and most important events. Decorative parade floats and participants dressed in traditional Hakata-style clothing precess down Meiji Boulevard from the old neighborhood of Gofukumachi to Tenjin in the city center, and performance stages and traditional festival food stalls are set up all over the city. Because this event is held during the “Golden Week” holiday period, around 2 million visitors attend each year.

  • Location: Many events are held in the Tenjin area, as well as in the Hakata Port area (near Bayside Place Hakata) and in front of Hakata Station

Beer Gardens (July)

Outdoor beer gardens open throughout the city during the summer, often on building rooftops in the central part of town. Although they tend to be overpriced from the perspective of most Europeans and North Americans, they do offer a good chance to enjoy cold beer and good eats along with cool breezes and sometimes even great views provided by rooftop dining areas.

  • Locations: the rooftop area of JR Hakata City, various buildings around Tenjin, and elsewhere

Beach (Ocean Swimming) Season (July and August)

Beach swimming can be enjoyed in Fukuoka from the end of the rainy season (usually early or mid-July) to mid- to late-August, when the jellyfish start to appear. Beach lounging, on the other hand, is usually possible from June or earlier (weather permitting) up through September. The more popular beaches have shops selling food and drinks right on the beach, beach umbrella rentals, bathroom shower facilities and more, although these tend to be available only during the peak swimming season.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival (July 15)

This festival, centering on Kushida Shrine in the Gion (Hakata) area, began about 760 years ago. It has become widely known throughout Japan and has received an “Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property” designation from the national government. Starting on July 1st, elaborately decorated 10-meter-tall yamakasa parade floats are set up around the city. On July 15, races are held along a 5-km course (starting at exactly 4:59 a.m. and continuing for 1 hour) with 1-ton floats each carried by about 100 men — about 26-28 men carry each float at one time, and they switch off when they get tired. The men wear tiny (and very revealing) loincloths, which is why it is known as one of Japan’s “naked man” festivals. Carriers fly through the streets to the beats of drums, their floats’ lanterns illuminated brightly, while spectators splash the teams of men with water and shout out encouragement. Yamakasa is one of the biggest festivals in Japan.

  • Location: Most of the festival activities take place around Kushida Shrine, which is 5-7 min. on foot from exit 3 of Gion Station (Kuko Subway Line), or mere steps away from Kushida Jinja/Hakata Machiya Furusatokan-mae bus stop (“Green” loop bus). A giant yamakasa float is on display here year-round. The races begin from Kushida Shrine and wind through the streets of the nearby neighborhoods. Buses and trains run throughout the night to accommodate festival-goers.
  • Time: the races start at exactly 4:59 a.m. and continue for one hour — many people simply stay out the whole night and head over to find a good viewing spot an hour or two before the races begin
  • Note: If you attend the race event on July 15, you will almost surely get wet because of all the water being thrown about.

Ohori Park Fireworks Display (August 1, but sometimes rescheduled due to weather)

Numerous firework festivals are held throughout the summer in and around Fukuoka, but the Ohori Park event is one of the best because of its colorful, long-lasting display of impressively large fireworks, which are reflected beautifully off of the park’s large pond. Furthermore, the fireworks are launched from the pond’s central island with viewers sitting around the pond’s perimeter, meaning that they can see and feel the explosions from a closer vantage point than at almost any other summer firework show. The result is one of Fukuoka’s most impressive pyrotechnic displays.

  • Location: Ohori Park (near Ohorikoen Station on the Kuko Subway Line)
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
  • Tip: Even though this event starts late in the evening, you will need to arrive in the afternoon or early evening if you want a place to sit (especially if you are attending as a group). Food and drinks are available at the event, but it is much more economical to buy your own snacks and drinks at a convenience store or supermarket in advance.

Nakasu Jazz (varies by year, but usually in late August / early September)

Despite being a relatively new event in Fukuoka, Nakasu Jazz has attracted tens of thousands of visitors each year. Live stages are set up around Tenjin and Nakasu for several days, and live jazz and swing performances are held for free at these outdoor venues. Although some music borders on pop and is meant for the more casual listener, talented jazz quartets also perform here and there, providing something for true jazz enthusiasts and musicians to listen to as well. The result is a laid-back city-center event where people wander the streets with drinks in hand, listening to cool music down by the river and enjoying the warm summer nights.

  • Location: Tenjin Central Park in Tenjin, the main street of Nakasu near Nakasu-Kawabata Station (Kuko Subway Line), and other venues in the Nakasu/Kawabata area
  • Time: generally from late afternoon or early evening until around 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. on scheduled event dates (vary by year)

Professional Sumo Tournament (Honbasho) (Mid-September)

The most important professional sumo wrestling tournaments (known as honbasho) are held in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka throughout the year, and although the Fukuoka tournament is smaller in scale than the others, it features the nation’s best sumo wrestlers and provides an opportunity to experience a deeply traditional and fascinating sport firsthand. Even if you are not a sports fan, you should see sumo once for the cultural experience alone.

  • Location: Fukuoka Kokusai Center (part of the Fukuoka Convention Center complex), located near the ferry terminals and Bayside Place Hakata. Take bus 80 from Tenjin (Solaria Stage-mae) or bus 88 or 99 from Hakata Station (Hakata-eki Sentaabiru-mae) to Kokusai-sentaa Sanparesu-mae bus stop (10-15 min., 180/220 yen) to get to Fukuoka Kokusai Center, and use one of the specially prepared buses waiting outside the venue after the event is over to get back to Tenjin / Hakata Station again afterward.
  • Event Period: the tournament last for 15 days, starting on the Sunday following the second Saturday of September
  • Ticket Cost: Prices range anywhere from 2,000 yen for non-reserved stadium seating to 22,600 yen for the most expensive reserved seating.

Hojoya (September 12-18)

Along with Dontaku and Yamakasa, Hojoya is one of Fukuoka’s three largest festivals, although it tends to be more standard-fare than the other two. Nevertheless, Hojoya provides a great opportunity to enjoy traditional festival yatai food stalls (about 700 in all), festival games, corny haunted houses and more. It is held along the approach to Hakozaki Shrine, and it was originally started as a way to pay respect to all living things.

  • Location: along the approach to Hakozaki Shrine, starting from Hakozakimiyamae Station (Hakozaki Subway Line)

Winter Illumination (December)

Sparkling lights illuminate central Fukuoka city during December in celebration of the Christmas season. The number of decorated areas as well as the scale of the decorations seems to be on the rise every year, making for new surprises every time December comes around. During the holiday period, Kego Park also features an ice skating rink, which was newly expanded with the park renovations completed in 2013.

  • Locations: The most impressive light displays are located on the west side of JR Hakata City (Hakata Station), in Kego Park near Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station, and in Canal City, although smaller displays can be found here and there throughout the city
Note: Image provided by Wikimedia Commons
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JR’s “Seven Stars in Kyushu” Luxury Sightseeing Train

Concept drawing of the train

Conceptual drawing of the train (image provided by Wikipedia)

The Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) is planning to launch a new luxury train service in October 2013 known as “Seven Stars in Kyushu.” They are referring to it in English as a “cruise train,” and much like a cruise ship it will cater to rich customers with a lot of money to spare. The “seven” in the name refers to the seven prefectures of Kyushu, the seven cars in the train, and the seven attractions (according to JR) of Kyushu: “nature, cuisine, hot springs, history and culture, power spots, friendliness, and train travel” — these are listed on JR’s site.

The 7 train cars carry only 28 guests, who will stay in posh suites and be treated to fine cuisine in the dining car. An observatory car is also available. Although ticket prices have yet to be confirmed, they are estimated to range from 150,000 to 400,000 yen for the shorter one-night, two-day journey, and from 380,000 to 950,000 yen for the longer three-night, four-day journey (950,000 yen is more than US$10,000 at the moment). As the train’s name implies, it passes through all seven of Kyushu’s prefectures and makes stops at famous spots along the way, offering strolls through the famous hot spring town of Yufuin, bus tours of Mount Aso and more. The idea is to provide customers with a luxury “train cruise” to the sightseeing highlights of Kyushu, giving them an easily digestible version of Japan’s most ancient land. The tours target visitors from overseas in particular, as well as Japanese citizens visiting from outside of Kyushu.

Because a large number of rich foreign tourists do visit Japan every year, this high-risk plan may just work out for JR Kyushu. Their website cites about 1 million visitors to Kyushu every year, although it does not specify who those people are (this may include exchange students, may not include many wealthy tourists, and so forth).

However, I am not particularly interested in how profitable this enterprise will be. In terms of giving foreign visitors a genuine, worthwhile sightseeing experience and teaching them more about Japan, I am not a big supporter of the “Seven Stars in Kyushu.” Here are my two primary reasons:

  • This type of tour reinforces the common idea that Kyushu is just a small island that can be seen in a couple of days. It has been more than two years since I moved here from Osaka, and despite my constant traveling I have barely scratched the surface of Kyushu as a whole, let alone Fukuoka.
  • I once traveled a full loop around Kyushu using only local trains (and the occasional bus and ferry), and despite setting aside about two weeks for the journey I still felt incredibly rushed and wished I could have stopped at more places along the way. There is no way a traveler can experience even a small part of Kyushu over a couple of days on a luxury train journey following only JR lines (not the most scenic in Kyushu). In other words, traveling around Kyushu at such a fast past is basically a waste of time. These tours will not expose visitors to Kyushu’s unique culture, its people, or amazing local cuisines.

I am not saying that the concept is uninteresting, because JR Kyushu has shown definite creativity with this endeavor. It may actually  work out well since they are targeting rich clients who care more about luxury than a genuine experience. And, admittedly, the concept drawings for the train interiors make it look pretty nice. However, I am opposed to it based on personal principle: I believe that the best way to travel around Kyushu is slowly, immersing oneself along the way. There is already an abundance of companies promoting shallow tourism that only exposes customers to stereotypes and contrived situations.

Read more about the project and judge for yourself at the “Seven Stars in Kyushu” English-language website.

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New Ramen Section on Finding Fukuoka!

I have added a new permanent ramen guide section to the website! Now you can see all the recommended ramen restaurants I have recommended in past posts all in one place, as well as a new “ramen tutorial” section to get you up to speed this famous Fukuokan dish. Click here or on “Ramen” in the top menu bar or side menu list above to access the new page.

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