So you must have heard of Kyushu as one of the areas in Japan which is most popular because of its onsens. But Kyushu has more potential than just onsen, and if you come to Kyushu and go to the Northern part of it, Kita Kyushu, at least pay a visit to these destinations below, you’ll have the chance to see Kyushu from a different perspective!
During Christmas vacation last year, my friends and I decided to take a special “road trip” by train to Kita Kyushu in three days using the “JR Kita Kyushu Free Pass” (more details below), starting from Beppu city – the heart of onsen capital Oita Prefecture.
You will have to use the Sonic express from Beppu to Hakata (Fukuoka) and from there take another Sonic express to Nagasaki. It takes about 2 hours by Sonic train for Beppu-Hakata and another 1 hour 50 minutes of Sonic train for Hakata-Nagasaki.
Where to go in Nagasaki?
Known as the city which suffered one of the atomic bombs in 1945, Nagasaki also has a variety of religious places, therefore in addition to visiting the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park, you can also visit other spots such as Glover Garden and Oura Church (both located along Dutch Slope), take a walk around Megane Bridge and China Town, as well as visit famous shrines and churches, even treat yourself to a dinner in Mount Inasa.
We departed from Beppu in the early morning and reached Nagasaki by noon, and spent the remain day-time walking along the Dutch Slope, which has Glover Garden and Oura Church. We also walked around Megane Bridge, took a short walk in China Town and ate out in Mount Inasa.
Glover Garden – an open air museum, exhibiting mansions of former Western residents in Nagasaki. A 5-minute walk from “Ouratenshudo-shita” tram station on line number 5. The entrance is next to the Oura Catholic Church. It is open from 8:00 until 18:00 (until 21:00 or 21:30 in summer and during peak seasons). Admission ends 20 minutes before closing time. Admission fee for adults is 610 yen.
Megane Bridge – the most beautiful stone bridge that crosses the Nakajima River in central Nagasaki. Take a short walk from “Nigiwaibashi” tram stop on the tram lines number 4 and 5. There is a heart-shaped stone near the bridge where you can make a wish for everlasting love.
China Town (Japan’s oldest China town), which takes a 2-minute walk from the Tsujimachi tram stop which is on tram lines 1 and 5.
Restaurants here typically open between 11:00 and 15:00 for lunch and from 17:00 to 21:00 for dinner.
Mount Inasa – one of Japan’s best night views. I’d recommend you to take the 5-minute (1,230yen roundtrip) by ropeway to the mountain, operation hours are from 9:00 to 22:00. There are many restaurants which offer views from the observation deck so you can enjoy your meal and Nagasaki night views!
The second day in Nagasaki, we woke up quite early and visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park, then head for Huis Ten Bosch at noon and spent the whole day there.
Huis Ten Bosch (ハウステンボス) is a theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki which was created to resemble a Dutch town. It is named after one of three official residences of the Dutch Royal Family. The spacious theme park with a European atmosphere will give you the feeling like you are in a real Dutch Town, thanks to the canals, signature Dutch windmills, beautiful gardens, and buildings.
The theme park is divided into two areas: the Theme Park Zone which requires paid admission and the Free Zone which can (obviously) be entered for free. Both places offer free and paid attractions, although most of them are located in the Theme Park Zone. We purchased “Free pass” passports, which are available for most of the attractions in the Theme Park Zone, but you still have to pay for the paid attractions in the Free Zone.
Access: 75 minutes by train from Nagasaki Station, with the fares around 1470 yen, fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and Kyushu Rail Pass.
Hours: From 10:00 to 20:00 during low season and from 9:00 to 21:00 during peak season. Admission ends one hour before closing time.
Fees: 6,100 yen (admission to Theme Park Zone and unlimited entry to most attractions). 3,600 yen (admission to the Theme Park Zone only). Paid attractions typically cost 300 to 1,,000 yen each.
We left Nagasaki and took the Sonic express to Kokura in the early morning of the third day. It takes 1 hour and 50 minutes for Nagasaki-Hakata, and around 50minutes for Hakata-Kokura. We got to Kokura by lunch time and had lunch inside the station.
The first place we visited after we reached Kokura was Kokura Castle because it’s the nearest spot from the station. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the southwest exit gate of Kokura Station.
Kokura Castle was built in 1602 at the beginning of the Edo Era, and its top floor offers panoramic views of the city. The grounds are now called Katsuyama Park, which is a popular cherry blossom spot with cherry blossoms that usually bloom around early April. Operation hours are from 9:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from November to March). Admission ends 30 minutes before closing. Admission fees are 350 yen (castle only) and 300 yen (garden only). Or 700 yen for the castle, garden, and nearby Matsumoto Seicho Memorial Museum.
Manga Museum This was the next nearby spot, but only a 3-minute walk from the opposite exit gate side (north exit) to Kokura Castle. The museum owns the fifth (temporary exhibitions) and sixth floors (permanent exhibitions) of Aru-Aru City, a mall related to all things about manga and anime, games and idol group merchandise. It introduces the history of manga with a focus on artists who have influenced Kitakyushu City.
Especially on the 6th floor, you can find a comic book library where visitors can feel free to read any of the titles available. Opening hours are from 11:00 to 19:00 (until 20:00 during summer). Admission ends 30 minutes before closing. It is closed on Tuesdays (or the following day if Tuesday is a holiday), and New Year holidays. Admission fee is 400 yen (separate fees for temporary exhibitions), so it took us around 800 yen to visit both floors.
To get to Mojiko Port, we took the JR Kagoshima Line (13 minutes, 280 yen). Mojiko Station and various sightseeing spots around Moji Port are located within an area spanning about two kilometers along the bay, which you can freely walk around to explore. It’s an old international trading port that has been around since the 19th century. There are still well-preserved Western-style buildings from the Meiji and Taisho periods, some of which are open to visitors and house things like libraries, cafes, restaurants and museums. You’d want to check out the Moji Customs Building which is not only an art gallery, with an eye-catching red-brick exterior, but is also the area’s tallest building.
You can also enjoy yourself at the Mojiko Retro Observation Room (10:00 to 22:00 (entry until 21:30)- 300yen), which is located 103 meters above ground; the Kanmon Kaikyo Museum, a modern museum along the way. Eventually, you can reach Kaikyo Plaza, a shopping facility where souvenirs and local produce are on sale and is also home to many restaurants in the port area.
We ended our trip by taking the Sonic express back to Hakata Station and had dinner there. Along the way from Kokura to Hakata, you can see other interesting spots such as Space World (but we did not go because there was not enough time), also if you come to this area in late April to mid-May and during the maple leaf season in autumn, you may want to visit the Kawachi Fujien Wisteria Garden.
*Space World is permanently closed.
Transportation: We purchased the JR Kita Kyushu Free Pass for 3 days at 7,400yen (the discount price for foreign students). You can check here for more information since they also offer an All Kyushu Area Pass, for the duration of 3 days or 5 days.
Accommodation: We only stayed for 2 nights at Nagasaki, at Glover House, a nice hotel which located is right on the Dutch Slope, around a 1-minute walk to reach Glover Garden and Oura Church. Glover House offers a free drink bar on the 1st floor, and dinner and breakfast if you inform them beforehand.
Eating: Don’t forget to enjoy famous Nagasaki dishes, such as chanpon, Castella cake, braised pork with steamed leaf buns, and don’t forget to try Kokura and Hakata ramen!
If you do make a trip to Kita Kyushu, it will be worth it!