Singaporeans love going to Japan, so it is safe to say that the land of the rising sun is high up on our travel wishlist when travel is allowed again. To make your first trip a unique one you’ll remember, consider heading west to more untouched regions that offer plenty of nature, culture and fun outdoor activities.
To inspire you, we spotlight two key regions: the volcanic island of Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island characterised by hot springs, unique gastronomic experiences and rustic beauty, and Chugoku, a haven of heritage sites and divine natural wonders. If you’re thinking of kicking off your trip at Fukuoka, one of the prefectures in Kyushu, consider hopping on a direct flight via Singapore Airlines (SIA).
#1 An abundance of Japanese delicacies to satisfy your cravings
When in Kyushu: Your foodie journey begins upon landing in Fukuoka, the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen. Slurp bowls of the creamy pork bone broth noodle dish at the many open-air food stalls or yatai along the Naka river.
Over in Oita prefecture’s Beppu, famous for its extraordinary hot springs, partake in centuries-old tradition by steaming your own meal at one of the area’s stone cooking spots. This method harnesses naturally hot, mineral-laden onsen steam to cook your vegetables, meat, pork buns and more, resulting in healthier and more flavourful meals.
Kyushu also boasts one of the best wagyu beef in the world. In Miyazaki, you can savour it in the following styles: shabu shabu (cooked in broth), sukiyaki (simmered with vegetables) or teppanyaki (pan-fried or grilled).
When in Chugoku: You can’t visit Hiroshima without sampling their renowned specialty dishes – okonomiyaki (prepared differently from the ones in Osaka), oysters (served every way you can imagine – raw with soy sauce or ponzu, in hotpots, deep-fried, grilled, or on a bed of fluffy, hot rice) and sake (there are over 40 rice wine breweries in the prefecture itself). Don’t forget to pick up a box of momiji manju, maple leaf-shaped cakes with a sweet bean paste filling.
Other travel highlights include sampling fugu-ryori or puffer fish cuisine in Yamaguchi, slurping up Izumo soba noodles in Shimane and going on fruit-picking tours in Okayama farms.
#2 Endless supply of fresh air and scenic views at every turn
When in Kyushu: For city dwellers, Western Japan’s plethora of national parks and heritage sites offer a rejuvenating escape from the concrete jungle. Try shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) in Yakushima’s ancient forests, which involves taking a meditative stroll and basking in the natural atmosphere. The Unesco World Heritage Island is home to Japan’s oldest cedar trees, including one that’s over 3,000 years old!
Pay a visit to Munakata Taisha’s trio of Shinto shrines dedicated to the three goddesses of Munakata, where you can see cultural artefacts and ritual sites along with sweeping vistas of the Genkai Sea.
When in Chugoku: The vast San’in Kaigan National Park is part of San’in Kaigan Global Geopark, a designated Unesco Global Geopark, characterised by unique rock formations, dramatic cliffs and caves shaped by powerful waves from the Sea of Japan over millions of years. Enjoy stunning views along the Kasumi coast – it’s particularly scenic 365 days a year.
Animal lovers should also make a day trip to Okunoshima or Rabbit Island, where you can walk around and feed the island’s free-roaming furry inhabitants – over 1,000 of them! Explore the island via its picturesque walking trails that take you along the coastline and into the mountain.
Then, travel back in time at Hagi, one of Japan’s most beautifully-preserved castle towns in Yamaguchi prefecture – home to five Unesco World Heritage Sites. Don a kimono and stroll the ancient streets lined with samurai and merchant buildings from the Edo Period.
#3 Unforgettable outdoor experiences for adventure lovers
When in Kyushu: Get your adrenaline pumping with the region’s myriad outdoor activities amid spectacular landscapes. In Miyazaki, ride a rowboat through Takachiho Gorge, a deep and narrow chasm made of volcanic basalt columns that seem otherworldly, especially once you arrive at the 17m-tall Minainotaki waterfall.
Also not to be missed is Fukuoka’s Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, a sprawling family-friendly attraction comprising flower gardens, wide open lawns, playgrounds, a water park, petting zoo and a huge aquarium. The easiest way to get around? Rent a bicycle or opt for a fun segway tour!
When in Chugoku: A visit to the 90m-tall Tottori Sand Dunes is a must when you’re in the Tottori prefecture, as they’re one of the largest in Japan. You can enjoy sports such as paragliding and sandboarding, or go on camel rides.
Immerse yourself in nature with a hike up Mount Daisen, an inactive volcanic mountain that’s the tallest in the Chugoku region. There are dozens of hiking trails with varying difficulty levels, all of which reward you with unbeatable views of the Sea of Japan and surrounding mountain ranges. In winter, the mountain is also a popular spot for skiing.