Southern Kyushu Trip from 31 Jan to 16 Feb 2019

This is my yearly ritual for my Chinese New Year getaway and the start of a new trip for 2019. You can imagine my excitement by the mere thought of it especially soon after my recent year end trip.

I have initially planned for this trip from 2 Feb to 16 Feb 2019. Unfortunately, the flight tickets are way too expensive this time round which left me worried about having to cancel this trip.

After filtering with the various dates, I managed to get a flight ticket from Japan Airlines at a price that I am prepared to part at least 😂😂 (guess I am left with no other choice unless I am prepared to cancel this trip).

The itinerary for this road trip has been planned with all the accommodation pre-booked in advance, so this is a definite must go. Accommodation costs can set you back on your budget if you booked it last minute. This is also one of the key reason that I have to make things happen.

So with this slight amendment, I will have to depart 2 days earlier on 31 Jan instead of 2 Feb. Luckily, I managed to book the 2 initial nights at a reasonable pricing.

This trip will focus on covering the balance 5 Prefectures in Kyushu namely Saga, Oita, Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Miyazaki. With that, I would have completed the entire Kyushu which means I am left with Honshu and Okinawa to explore.

Having said that, I am good to go for now as planned. Woohoo…..

Without second guess, enjoying a good supper at Plaza Premium and SATS lounge prior to my red-eye flight at 02:20 hrs.

Hainanese Chicken Rice, Laksa, Kway Teow Soup and Fruity Red Velvet With Pistachio Sauce

It was an uneventful flight as usual and we arrive into Haneda Airport as scheduled at local time 09:50 hrs for my connecting flight to Fukuoka Airport at 12:15 hrs.

This is my first time flying via Japan Airlines and I must say that I am happy and impressed with the flight service. Will definitely consider flying with them again in future.

First meal of the trip at Japan Gourmet Port inside Haneda Domestic Airport

Jakoten (Fried Fish Cake) Udon

Beef Don

Following closely by a steaming pork bun.

Thereafter, proceeded for my connecting flight to Fukuoka.

Here I am after a 2 hour flight.

After claiming baggage, headed off to the airport subway for Hakata Station. It is just 2 stations away and the ride took about 6 mins.

I will be staying over at the Hakata Green Hotel No 2 which is a short walk away from the Hakata Station East Exit.

As it was raining, we have decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the shops inside Hakata Station.

While walking along the alley street from the hotel, just felt compelled to step in to KFC. 😂

The minestrone soup, fried chicken and scone biscuit with maple syrup just taste so good… maybe made in Japan I suppose… 😀

Had a good & fun time sampling free snacks in the various malls (Hankyu, Hakata Ekinaka Shopping Street, AMU Plaza and Deitos). These are some of the interesting things that we do whenever we are in Japan. 😉

Had a good sushi meal at Uogashi.

Followed by more food snacks at A&K Beer & Food Station on Level 10 of Hakata Station.

Beef Steak – goes extremely well with the sauerkraut (german kimchi). Quality is good but definitely no where in comparison to Kobe Beef. Guess I am truly spoilt after my last encounter that I subconsciously tend to compare when it comes to savouring beef. 😂

Seafood Pizza – their pizza crust is thin with a tint of charred makes it tastefully good and importantly value for money at ¥1,000.

It has been a long and tiring day since we started with all the travelling and what better way than to end the night early to recharge ourselves to prepare for tomorrow.

Day 2 – Rise and shine to a nice cold morning at 6 degrees.

Breakfast is at my all time favourite Doutor Cafe near Hakata Station.

This visit holds a special memories to me as it was exactly 3 years ago at this same Doutor Cafe outlet that I first had the experience and fell in love with it thereon. I feel so blessed and fortunate to be back again 3 years later to the same outlet.

After a good charge up, strolled down to Hakata Canal City (within 10 to 15 mins walk from Hakata Station West Exit) for retail therapy.

Hakata Canal City is a large shopping and entertainment complex in Fukuoka. It is often called the “city within the city” as it boasts numerous attractions including shops; cafes; restaurant; a movie theatre.

Hakata is known as the land of the ramens. So a visit to Hakata wouldn’t be complete without having a bowl of ramen. Since I am here, there is no reason not to pay homage to their ramens.

A good way to experience ramen will be to visit the Ramen Stadium on the 5th floor in Canal City. It consists of 8 different restaurants and is a great place to sample ramen dishes from all over Japan.

Most of the restaurants have machines outside where you purchase a ticket and some machines have English menus too. Else, you just need to place order based on the pictures on the machine.

Well, we settled at 本田商店 and ordered a meal set to satisfy our ramen cravings.

Guess you can never go wrong when you are in the land of the ramens. 😅

On the 1st floor of the North Building of Canal City, chanced upon Tempura Tendon Tenya Asakusa Tokyo.

They serve really champion tempura that I simply could not resist. Best part, value for money aka cheap & good. Oishi desu👍

Enjoying “water dance” at the fountain area in Canal City.

After Canal City, popped over to Kawabata Shotengai to continue shopping at their old style shopping street.

Since being in Fukuoka, it is a must to have a meal at Ichiran and what better way than to dine at their Ichiran Honten (flagship store) in Nakasu, Fukuoka.

Ichiran Ramen is a Japanese ramen food-serving business specialising in tonkatsu ramen.

They only serve one type of ramen.

Strolling the street of Nakasu and enjoying the night view.

Kyoto-style home cooking at Obanzai aburi-yaki sake nana restaurant located on Level 9 of OIOI Plaza.

Day 3 – Waking up to our natural alarm clock this morning. Today, we will be departing Fukuoka for Saga.

Had a quick bite at MOS Burger prior to car collection.

Collected my car at Nippon-Rent-A-Car Shop near to Hakata Station West Exit.

I was issued with a Toyota Corolla Axio for the next 12 days road trip. As usual, did my routine car check prior to driving off.

First stop, did a detour to Kitakyushu to Kanmon Tunnel.

Kanmon Tunnel is an undersea tunnel crossing the Kanmon Straits between Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi and Kitakyushu, Fukuoka in Western Japan. This is the direct link between Honshu and Kyushu, two of Japan’s 4 main islands.

Brief history of Kanmon Tunnel

The Kanmon Tunnel at 3,461.4m in length was planned in 1937. Although construction was intterupted by the war, this undersea tunnel was completed 21 years later in March of 1958. Underneath the roadway, the tunnel is even equipped with a path on which both pedestrians and cyclists can pass (780m of which is underwater).

The Kanmon Tunnel and the Kanmon Bridge which opened in 1973 plays an important role even now as major arteries connecting Honshu and Kyushu.

I started walking from the Moji side through the pedestrian tunnel.

From the tunnel entrance, you will need to take a lift to the B1 to commence the start of walk.

Intersection point between Fukuoka (福岡) and Yamaguchi (山口).

Here I am on the other end of the tunnel, Shimonoseki side.

Enjoying beautiful sightseeing coastal view.

Had a superb blowfish and sushi meal at 平家茶屋.

Headed back down to Tosu thereafter. Tosu is a city located on the eastern part of Saga Prefecture.

Checking-in at Chisun Inn Tosu for the next 2 nights.

Interestingly, the hotel is just minutes away from Tosu Premium outlet and we decided to drop by given its close proximity instead of waiting for the scheduled visit tomorrow.

Snacking Cold Udon and Takoyaki at the Outlet Food Court.

Spotted a huge Komeda’s Coffee joint near to the hotel and couldn’t help but stopped by for a cup of kohi and some light snacks.

Certainly a great way to end a great night.

Day 4 – A gloomy and wet morning. Took a leisure drive to Yobuko Morning Market Street.

Yobuko fish market is one of the 3 biggest morning markets in Japan. It is located in Karatsu, in the Saga Prefecture of Kyushu.

Here you will find a lot of local fresh produce. The market is open from 7.30am to 12 noon daily.

Scenic view of Yobuko port.

Street snacking along the morning market street.

Seems like squid is their specialty here.

Next, visited Imari, one of the 2 towns (another one being Arita) in western Saga Prefecture that are known for pottery.

Followed by a visit to Arita Porcelain Park, a small theme park located in Arita Town, Saga Prefecture.

The Porcelain Park is a recreation of a traditional German village and is located just on the outskirts of Arita on the road to Hasami.

Settled for a quick lunch at 旬鲜酒房 in Porcelain Park.

Ordered their premium set and a bowl of udon before heading back to Tosu Premium Outlet.

Continuing with round 2 of retail therapy.

Early dinner at Pietro Italian Restaurant in the outlet mall.

Salad with Butter Baguette

Minestrone Soup with Garlic Baguette

Sausage & Bacon Pizza

Mushroom & Bacon Japanese-Styled Spaghetti

This is certainly one of the better Italian meal that I have had. All the above items are damn power. 👍👍👍

Try it if you have the chance to do so when you visit Tosu Premium Outlet.

As the night is still young, spent the rest of our time along the main street of Tosu.

Had a sweet dessert treat at Bleu Champs Theme Patissiere before calling it a night.

I must admit that this is one of the tastiest Tiramisu cake that I ever had so far.

Day 5 – A bright morning awaits. Today we will be departing Tosu for Oita.

Kick starting our tummy with a great breakast at Komeda’s Coffee.

We will be covering a couple of attractions while enroute to Oita.

1st attraction – Yabakei Gorge, an area of outstanding natural scenery and beauty located on Kyushu in the north of Oita Prefecture, south of the town of Nakatsu.

2nd attraction – Kokonoe Yume Suspension Bridge, Japan’s highest pedestrain suspension bridge.

It is located in the western Oita Prefecture and is like walking across the sky. Similar to the Mishima Walk that I had in Tokyo.

It presents panoramic scenes of Oita’s verdant countryside, including 2 waterfalls, the Naruko River and the valley 173 metres below.

A shot of observatory deck taken from the bridge.

Had an early lunch at one of the eatery shop near the bridge area before heading off to the next attraction.

While enroute, drove past Makinoto Pass in the mountaineous area. This is a pass (located at an altitude of 1,330m high) connecting Aso and Beppu through the Yamanami Highway. It is also popular with trekkers climbing up the Kuju Mountain Range.

3rd attraction – Harajiri no taki (Waterfalls). One of Japan’s Top 100 waterfalls and when seen from above, the falls are lined up in beautiful arch shaped, thus dubbed or nicknamed the Oriental Niagara.

The Harajiri Falls are about 120m wide and 20m high. It seems as though the waterfalls appear out of the blue in the middle of the flat land.

Beautiful sight and certainly great for picturesque.

There is a suspension bridge above the falls, Takimi-bashi. It provides visitors with a great vantage point to overlook the magnificient falls as well as to get around the site.

Final attraction – Usuki Stone Buddhas, a collection of stone sculptures of Buddhas in Usuki, Oita Prefecture.

In Japan, Buddha statues are usally made of wood or metal. Stone statues are rarer and Usuki’s are the only stone Buddhas in Japan to be designated as national treasures.

Checking in to Hotel Nikko Oita Oasis Tower thereafter where I will be putting up for the next 2 nights.

Spending the rest of the night at JR Oita Station before ending another eventful day.

Enjoying our simple, quiet and peaceful re-union dinner at 大分旬海鲜料理 on 4th floor of Amu Plaza.

Day 6 – Wishing one and all a Happy Lunar New Year. 祝大家在新的一年里; 心想事成, 事事顺利, 财源广进, 身体安康, 万事如意, 恭喜发财!

All time favourite breakfast joint, Doutor Cafe.

After a hearty breakfast, set off to Yufuin for sightseeing.

1st stopover – Lake Kinrin (金鳞湖), famous for its morning mists created when water welling up from hot & cold springs mix.

Can you spot the morning mists?

Beautiful scenery around Lake Kinrin.

How do you like my silhouette shot? 😃

2nd stopover – Yunotsubo Kaido (Yunotsubo Main Street)

“Yunotsubo” is a street near Yufuin Station which gives off the atmosphere of the Edo period. It is filled with a variety of shops which sell Yufuin and Oita specialty products, food, souvenirs and many more. It is always packed with tourists.

Enjoying a good steak snacking

Cooling off at Bee Honey. Their honey is really tasty.

Up close and personal with Mount Yufu while driving up the mountain range.

3rd stopover – Lake Shidaka, a lake at an altitude of 600m located in the Aso Kuju National Park.

It is famous for being designated as one of the best scenery in Beppu Sansho in Taisho Period.

Proceeded to Beppu to spend the rest of the afternoon before heading back to Oita.

Had a good lunch at 味噌乃家 in Youme mall.

Made a pit stop at Tamoura Beach.

Was totally memerised by the beautiful scenic coastal drive from Beppu to Oita.

View of Galleria Takemachi Shopping Arcade from our hotel room.

Going for Yakitori dinner at 五郎一 located inside Galleria Takemachi which is right across the hotel before retiring for the night.

Day 7 – Greeted with a wet morning. We will be bidding farewell to Oita and making our way to Miyazaki.

Charging up at Komeda’s Coffee for a power breakfast before checking out of hotel.

Immediately after check-out, drove off to Umagase while enroute to Miyazaki.

Umagase is a cape that cuts out into the Pacific Ocean. The coastline marked by intricate waterways sandwiched between cliffs.

The cliffs are 70m high and the waves’s splashing against them is an enchanting sight.

Superb view of the Umagase cliff from the Umagase lookout.

Can you spot the Hososhima Lighthouse?

Bonus vain shot taken at Umagase Cliff. 🤗

Hososhima Lighthouse, standing at approximately 100m above sea level was built with red brick in 1910 and was reconstructed in 1941.

Cooling off with their local soft serve at the Umagase Teahouse before moving off to the next destination, Takachiho Gorge.

While on the journey, spotted Joyfull restaurant along the way and decided to step in for a late lunch.

I have seen many Joyfull restaurant for this road trip and had always wanted to check it out but did not have the right opportunity to do so for the past few days.

I am glad that I checked it out else I will be missing out big time. 😀

It is similar to Victoria, Bikkuri Donkey, Saizeriya and Steak & Hamburg.

Verdict : the food is damn champion and super value for money! 😋😋😋 👍👍👍

Continuing my journey to Takachiho Gorge after a satisfying meal.

Takachiho Gorge is a narrow chasm cut through the rock by the Gokase River.

You can enjoy the gorge in two perspectives; one from below by renting a boat and rowing down the river.

Two from above by walking the paved path that runs along the edge of the gorge.

Manai Waterfall is about 17m high and was selected as one of 100 most beautiful falls in Japan.

Sennin no Byoubuiwa Cliff is 70m high. Only the hermits who have divine power can make this beautiful cliff hence the name. (Sennin means a hermit and Byoubuiwa means a wall of rock)

Kihachi no Chikaraishi Rock is a 200 ton rock. According to legend in Takachiho, Mikeiri-no-mikoto got rid of Kihachi whose behaviour is bad and governed Takachiho area. This is the stone which was thrown at Mikeiri-no-mikoto by Kihachi for seeing which of them is the strongest.

Takachiho Three Bridges – you can see three different structured bridges from Takachiho Gorge walking path. The spot you can see three different structured bridges together is very rare. The lowest bridge is called Shin-bashi bridge, the second one is called Takachiho-ohashi Bridge and the highest one is called Shinto-Takachiho-ohashi Bridge.

Onokoro-ike Pond / Onokoro-jima Island is a small island which is in Onokoro-ike Pond. This island is the first island made by deities. In spring, they have a shrine festival at Takachiho Shrine. On the festival day, they will carry mikoshi and go into Onokoro-ike Pond with turning around Onokoro-jima Island three times as purification ceremony.

Checking-in to APA Hotel Miyazaki Nobeoka Ekimae for the next 2 nights.

Nobeoka is a city located in the north of Miyazaki Prefecture and is a small quiet town.

Lady luck must be shining on me. There is a Joyfull Restaurant just behind the APA Hotel and best part, it is open 24 hours. That means I will be able to try more of their menu items given its close proximity.

There is no prize in guessing where to go for dinner next. 😀

Another wonderful meal awaits before ending the night.

Day 8 – mid way through our 17 days’ trip.

Starting the morning with a power breakfast at Joyfull Restaurant.

Made a visit to Aoshima Island this morning.

Aoshima Island is a small beautiful island just off the coast of the resort beaches south of Miyazaki City.

Aoshima is connected to the mainland by a bridge and is ringed by white beaches surrounding a subtropical jungle at the island’s centre.

At the centre of the island is Aoshima Jinja, a colorful shrine set back in the jungle that is said to bring good luck to married couples.

Had a great lunch at Aoshima Cafe & Restaurant beside the garden.

Enjoying the flowers at the garden after lunch.

Scenic view from Iruka-misaki cape along the coastal drive.

Another shrine visit up next, Udo Shrine.

Located on the Nichinan Coast south of Miyazaki City is dedicated to Yamasachihiko, the father of Emperor Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan.

This brightly painted shrine is set in a cave on the side of a cliff

overlooking the ocean and so enjoys a spectacular view.

Clay pebble throwing for good luck at Kame Iwa.

Yeah. I had 2 out of the 5 clay pebbles into the pond. Looks like I am gonna to enjoy good luck in the Year of the Pig. 💪💪💪

Drove over to Heiwadai Park in Miyazaki City which is one of the recommended attraction.

Unfortunately, it was raining when we reached the park and that dampened the visit. ☹

Nevertheless, still managed to capture a nice shot of the Peace Tower.

The Peace Tower was made of stone collected from around the world in 1940 and stands at a height of 37m.

While on the way back to Nobeoka City, spotted an AEON Mall and decided to stopover for some bargain.

Look at what I got! 😲

Another wonderful dinner at Joyfull Restaurant before ending another great tiring day with all the long drive.

Day 9, will be departing Miyazaki for Kagoshima which is about 240km away.

Charging up with a power breakfast at Sukiya in anticipation of the long distance drive.

Arrived into our first stop at Senganen Garden after about 2.5 hours drive.

Senganen Garden also known as Isoteien is a Japanese style landscape garden along the coast north of downtown Kagoshima.

Site of Reverberatory Furnance, located inside Senganen’s paid area not far from the entrance. This working structure is 20m high and was used to melt iron and produce cannon.

Sighted various types of fruit trees.

Snacking on their local sweet treats.

This is really a beautiful garden and certainly great for picturesque.

One can easily spent a couple of hours enjoying the garden scenery.

Lunch at Ohkatei, this restaurant offers the best of Kagoshima cuisine curated by their head chef using only the finest local ingredients.

Enjoying a spectacular view of the garden and Sakurajima from the restaurant.

Kagoshima Specialty Gozen (limited to 15 sets a day)

Sea Bream Chazuke

Really awesome meal. Oishi desu! 👍👍👍

Another beautiful shot taken from the Sakurajima viewpoint.

Interesting find 😲

Moving on next to Shiroyama Park in downtown Kagoshima that extends over Mount Shiroyama.

This park is most famous for its Shiroyama Observatory with spectacular views over downtown Kagoshima, Kagoshima Bay and Sakurajima.

Checking-in to Hotel Gasthof for the next 2 nights.

Interestingly, this hotel provides complimentary sake for guests. 👍

The hotel is conveniently located next to train station, food streets, AEON Mall & AMU Plaza.

Afternoon sweet treats at Hoshino Coffee.

Light dinner at Tenmonkan Mujyaki.

One of the must eat in Kagoshima is their Kurobuta (black pig).

This is one of the famous places that sell kakigori, a local favourite amongst residents which is a kind of dessert made from shaved ice which is then topped with a mixed of sweet condensed milk, fruit, jelly and beans.

Similar to our ice kachang or Korean bingsu

A must try local dessert!

Day 10 – this morning we will be visiting Sakurajima.

Kick start with a morning tummy warming at Mister Donut. Simple yet tasty food.

Sakurajima is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and the symbol of Kagoshima.

The volcano smokes constantly and minor eruptions often take place multiple times per day. It is located in the middle of Kagoshima Bay and is the area’s most prominent geographic feature, having an elevation of 1,117m and a circumference of about 50km.

Sakurajima has 3 main peaks : Kita-dake (north peak at 1,117m), Naka-dake (middle peak at 1,060m) and Minami-dake (southern peak at 1,040m).

Car boarding at Kagoshima Ferry Terminal for Sakurajima.

The ferry ride takes aproximately 15 mins.

Picked up useful tips from the Sakurajima Visitor Centre upon landing.

Following the driving route sequence, headed off to the 1st place of interest, Karasujima Observatory.

Karasujima once located in the sea was buried under Taisho Lava. Since then plants grew naturally on the lavaand vegetated island was made.

2nd place of interest – Akamizu Observatory Square.

A great view of Taisho Lava and Kinko-Bay.

There is also a memorial monument of the “Sakurajima all-night concert”.

3rd place of interest – Yunohira Observatory. The highest observation point accessible to the public on Sakurajima, 373m above sea level. The view is impactful.

4th place of interest – Arimura Lava Observatory. Here you get to see Taisho Lava and Showa Lava at the same time.

5th place of interest – Kurokami Buried Shrine Gate. The shrine gate is being buried 2m in depth by Taisho Eruption.

6th place of interest – Kurokami viewing spot. It is the best location to observe Showa Lava and the Showa Crater.

Final place of interest – Sakurajima Dinosaur Park. You get to see huge dinosaur statutes and this park is extremely popular amongst children. One of the dinosaur comes with a 50m-long slide too.

Can you spot which one?

Enjoying a late tasty lunch at Aji no Chinman (珍满) in Sakurajima before heading back to Kagoshima.

Thereafter, spent the rest of the afternoon at Tenmonkan dori in downtown Kagoshima.

More sightseeing in downtown Kagoshima.

What better way than to be treated with a superb Italian meal at Affro De Buono before ending the night.

How time flies, I am already into Day 11 of my trip before I knew it.

Today, I will be departing Kagoshima for Hitoyoshi.

Before bidding farewell to Kagoshima, we had a sumptious traditional Japanese breakfast at the hotel prior to check-out.

Very decent food spread and certainly one of the better traditional Japanese breakfast that I ever had.

With a happy belly, travelled down to Hitoyoshi next.

Hitoyoshi is known as the “Little Kyoto” of Kyushu, has a slow & retro atmosphere and is surrounded on all sides by mountains.

There are a couple of attractions in Hitoyoshi that are worth visiting.

Aoi Aso Shrine (青井阿蘇神社) is a Shinto shrine in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture. It was originally established as a prefectural shrine but is currently designated as a National Treasures of Japan.

What is a Shinto shrine?

A Shinto shrine is a structure whose main purpose is to house one or more kami (spirits or phenomena that are worshipped in the religion of Shinto). Its most important building is used for the safekeeping of sacred objects and not for worship.

Historical facts of Aoi Aso Shrine.

Ruins of Hitoyoshi Castle

Hitoyoshi is a 12th century castle, now ruins and is recognized as one of Japan’s top 100 castles.

One of the main experience-based tourism in the Hitoyoshi/Kuma district is going down the Kuma River, which is famous as one of the 3 rapidest rivers in Japan.

There are 2 courses; the seiryu (clear stream) course, going down the river from the dock in Hitoyoshi to the berth in Kuma Village, a total of 8km for 90 min; and the kyuryu (rapid stream) course, going down from the berth to just down of the Kyusendo Cave, a total of 10km for 90 min (both courses require advance reservation).

Both course trips use the same kind of boat, a traditional wooden river boat flat-bottomed and narrow.

Seiryu course is slow and is planned to enjoy the lifestyle of waterfowls and fish as well as wild mountains herbs from each season and operates all year round while the kyuryu course is thrilling, dynamically going down the 5 major rapids and this course only operates for 7 months a year from April to the end of October.

Boarding point for the Kumagawa Boat trip.

Kumagawa Boatman

Scenic views of the Kumagawa River

Enjoying the Kumagawa Boat trip

Proceeded for lunch at Cafe Gusto. Another joint similar to Joyfull Restaurant.

Food is awesomely delicious too.

Made a visit to Sengetsu Shozu distillery for some good shochu appreciation.

You can do a short distillery tour

followed by shochu sampling thereafter.

With a satisfying drink, went over to Station Business Hotel Tenshukaku for my check-in for tonight.

This hotel is conveniently located right opposite Hitoyoshi Station.

Hitoyoshi Rail Museum Mozoca Station 868 – a fun train railway museum for young children.

This railway museum highlighted the establishment of Hisatsu line, displaying its history through video and models. There is also a food outlet, shop for souvenirs and stationeries plus an observatory deck on the 2-3 floor as well.

Kids can also have fun riding on the mini-train from indoor of Mozoca station to outdoor Hitoyoshi station.

This circular building is just 2 min walk from Hitoyoshi station.

Had a light dinner at one of their local cafe before calling it a night.

Day 12 – Departed Hitoyoshi for Kumamoto main city.

Enjoying a nice breakfast at Cafe Gusto before heading off to Kyusendo limestone cave while enroute to Kumamoto.

Kyusendo cave is the largest limestone caves in Kyushu.

Here you can get to explore the 1km route which is open to the public and this part of the cave will take about 30 mins to explore.

It features rock formations such as stalagmites and stalagtites.

Next up will be to Kumamoto Castle. Kumamoto Castle is a hilltop Japanese castle located in Kumamoto Prefecture.

The castle keep (天守閣 tenshukaku) is a concrete reconstruction built in 1960 but several ancillary wooden buildings remain of the original castle.

Unfortunately during this trip of mine, the Kumamoto Castle is closed for reconstruction because of the earthquake that happened on 16 Apr 2016 that destroyed a large part of the structure.

The boulders are properly categorized and grouped (each of the boulders are clearly marked with numbers) according to where it falls from to aid in subsequent reconstruction works.

Following up will be a visit to Suizenji Garden (水前寺成趣園).

Suizenji Garden is a spacious Japanese style landscape garden in Kumamoto and is best enjoyed by strolling along a circular path.

Doing a late lunch at a family restaurant along the street of Suizenji.

Savouring their local dessert; dango and manju.

Proceeded to visit Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art Chibajo Branch after a good meal.

This distinctive modern-design structure is one of the works which participated in “Kumamoto Art-polis” project after having been renovated from an old prefectural library.

Made another visit to Hanaokayama before hotel check-in.

Mount Hanaoka stands at 133m, offers a beautiful nightscape and a sweeping view of Kumamoto city.

In the centre of Hanaoka Mountain Park stands a stupa containing Buddha’s holy remains donated by former Indian Prime Minister Nehru as a prayer for world peace and spirit stones representing those who died in action during World War II.

Checking-in to Nest Hotel Kumamoto where it will be my abode for the next 2 nights.

The hotel is conveniently located about 5 mins away from the downtown area, Sunroad Shinshigai.

Thus, spending the remaining time exploring the downtown area before ending the night.

Had a good soup curry dinner at Coco-ichibanya.

Day 13 – waking up to a freezing morning at zero degree celcius.

Finally I had the chance to try out Tonkatsu Matsunoya (a 24 x 7 joint) which I missed when I was in Nagoya last time.

Their tonkatsu is super value for money, literally cheap & good! Oishi!

Will be doing a couple of sightseeing attraction for today.

Starting with Nabegataki Fall.

Nabegataki Fall is renowned for its hollow space in the back of the fall. It is called “Uramino-taki” or “Backside viewing waterfall” as you can walk across the back of the fall and see the view through the water curtain.

The super eruption about ninety thousand years ago formed Aso Caldera and the pyroclastic flow from it was deposited widely in Oguni area. In time, the accumulated volcanic ash became hard rocks and the soft layer of earth under the rocks was gradually eroded by water, which formed the hollow space in the back of the fall that is being observed now.

Fun facts about Nabegataki Fall

Length of brink : 20m

Height : 10m

Back of the fall

Width : 45m

Depth : 13m

Up next, made a visit to Aso Shrine.

Unfortunately during this trip, the shrine is also closed for reconstruction works due to the 16 Apr 2016 earthquake. ☹

Aso Shrine was considered the most important shrine in Kumamoto Prefecture. The shrine’s most impressive feature is its two-storey Ramon Gate which is one of Japan’s three largest gates of its kind.

Catching a quick lunch at Bistro Mont in Aso City.

Followed by the final visit to Mount Aso.

View of Mount Aso taken from photo spot “Torupa” in the mountains while enroute from Aso Shrine to Nakadake Crater.

Mount Aso is an active volcano in the centre of Kyushu which most recently erupted in 2016 but has since calmed down again.

Aso’s ancient caldera ranks among the world’s largest with a diameter of up to 25km and a circumference of over 100km. In the centre of the caldera stand the mountain’s active volcano peaks including Mount Nakadake whose spectacular crater is accessible to tourists.

Actual crater view picture from Aso Volcano Museum.

View of Nakadake Crater from afar.

Up close and personal view of Nakadake Crater.

The newest formed volcano, Komezuka.

After a great sightseeing day, time to head back to Kumamoto City. While at downtown, spotted both of favourite joints; Sushizanmai and Cumo Salvatore.

It is hard to decide dinner venue given both tough options.

Well, in the end decided to have best of both worlds after much internal struggle.

Day 14 – time to bid farewell to Kumamoto and head back to Fukuoka. This will mark the completion of the 12 days road trip in Kyushu.

Powering up with a great breakfast at Royal Host, a local hospitality restaurant before continuing the long drive down to Fukuoka.

Made a stopover at Itoshima Peninsula in Fukuoka before checking-in to hotel.

Itoshima is a closely guarded secret for many Fukuoka locals as it is a beach paradise located less than an hour from the centre of Fukuoka City.

This is definitely a place for you if you are the sun, sea & sand person.

You will get to enjoy the scenic views when you drive through the coastline around the peninsula.

Now you know what I mean…..😲😲😲

Took a quick bite at Seafood Shirahayama near Keya Beach.

There are several excellent beachside cafes in Futamigaura.

Futamigaura is also home to Meoto Iwa, a pair of frequently photographed “husband & wife” rocks linked together by a rope.

Had another snack break at Restaurant Futamigaura.

View of Meoto Iwa from the restaurant.

Checking-in to Hakata Green Hotel No. 2 for the next 3 nights thereafter before car return.

Summary of the 12 days road trip

Cost of rental car : ¥147,420 ($1,850)

Toll charge : ¥30,360 ($380)

Petrol cost : ¥20,873 ($262)

Distance travelled : 2,274 km

I was intrigued by this eatery joint, 一幸舎 in Hakata Station that sells dry version ramen which looks like “mee-pok” and only limited bowls are available each day.

The “mee-pok” ramen is super tasty. Do try it if you have the chance to do so.

Day 15 – the next 3 days will be spent relaxing in Hakata City. Enjoying leisure window shopping, chilling out at cafes and the cool breezing weather before back to tropical weather again. 😀

Had a nice brunch at Tendon Tenya Asakusa Tokyo.

Great time snacking & food sampling at various supermarket in Tenjin.

Memerised by the beautiful night view of Hakata City.

Had a light meal at one of the restaurant in the underground food street inside Hakata City.

Day 16 – 2nd last day of my 17 days’ trip.

Enjoying a traditional local Japanese breakfast at Daifuku (大福) to start another wonderful day.

Having a good pizza buffet at Shakey’s Pizza, Canal City.

They serve a good variety spread of pizzas. I love especially their dessert pizza. Really affordable price at ¥1,188 per pax. The Japanese are really champion on Italian cuisine. 👍👍👍

Structure of the Lantern donated by Hakata Merchant.

In 1899, Hakata merchant Yahiro Rihei planted a cherry tree on the bank of Nakagawa River and opened an amusement park called “Mukojima”. This lantern was constructed to commemorate that event. In 1954, the lantern was moved to this site. The trademarks of the merchant families of Fukuoka and Hakata in Yahiro’s day are engraved on the lantern.

Canal City riverbank

Interesting seasonal colourful bread spotted in one of the confectionery shop.

A splendid dinner at Sushizanmai to end the final night in Fukuoka.

Day 17 – last day in Fukuoka. Time to depart Japan for home coming.

Having mixed feeling about departing Japan. After spending a good 17 days here, it saddens to leave this beautiful country but on the other hand, all good things will have to come to an end. With this, I can then look forward to my next upcoming trip in mid April 2019.

One for the road breakfast at my all time favourite Doutor Cafe prior to home coming. Always a good way to mark a grand finale wherever possible.

Farewell Fukuoka 👋👋

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