through the Four SeasonsSummerKyushu / Okinawa
Experience Summer in Japan's Sunny South
Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan's main four, is a popular travel destination during the summer months. Visitors are enticed by its rich history, famous local dishes and stunning nature.
In addition to beaches, hike through luxuriant forests, scale verdant mountain slopes, relax in ancient hot springs, or simply wander the streets sampling exquisite culinary delights.
Hike the Kunisakihantou Minemichi Long Trail
Immerse yourself this summer in the stunning natural beauty that defines the Kunisakihantou Minemichi Long Trail in Oita prefecture. The trail follows the ancient pilgrimage route traversed by Rokugo-manzan monks over a thousand years ago. As such, the trail incorporates many ancient shrines, temples, villages and holy sites.
Showcasing some of Japan's most celebrated mountain scenery, the trail provides ample opportunities for exploration, regardless of experience. While some treks are only suitable for experienced mountain climbers, other routes are more accessible, giving visitors a chance to come face to face with wild nature while learning about the history of the area and the religious practices of ancient Japan.
from the Kunisakihantou Minemichi hike finishing point to Kitsuki Station
by train from Kitsuki Station to Yufuin Station
All Aboard the Aru Ressha
Oita / Fukuoka
Enjoy a leisurely ride through Kyushu from Oita to Fukuoka on the JR Kyushu Line's "Design & Story Train." The Aru Ressha is a full-scale reproduction of a luxury train that was commissioned in the 1900s but never had the chance to put into service. It finally began service in 2015 and currently runs between Yufuin and Hakata.
When the opulent train cars were initially purchased from the U.S. by the JR train company, they were given the moniker the "Train of Dreams." Now, a century later, you can ride in style aboard this piece of locomotive history while sampling gourmet dishes from Kyushu prepared by world famous chef, Yoshihiro Narisawa.
After enjoying the decadent meal, admire the beautiful interior of this antique train, and take in the resplendent mountain and ocean views of Kyushu in the summertime.
by train from Yufuin Station to Hakata Station
by train from Hakata Station to Nakasukawabata Station
Discover Fukoka's Famous Yatai Street
No trip to Fukuoka on Japan's major southern island of Kyushu would be complete without a visit to its iconic Yatai stalls, the vibrant food stands that line the city's streets. These open-air food stands allow visitors to discover popular Japanese street food dishes and are the perfect way to enjoy dinner on a balmy summer's evening.
While Yatai stalls can be found in many locations around Fukuoka, one of the best places to experience them is on the tiny island of Nakasu. You'll find many stalls lined up along the waterfront, providing a unique eating experience.
Expect to find street food staples like yakitori chicken skewers, oden, yakisoba fried noodles, tempura fried fish and vegetables, and gyoza dumplings. Yet, dig a little deeper and you'll uncover some surprises, like Western dishes and Chinese specialties too. The stalls can even be a place to try Fukuoka's famous Hakata Ramen known for its skinny, al dente noodles and white tonkotsu (pork-bone) broth.
by train from Hakata Station to Arita Station
Learn about Saga's Amazing Arita Porcelain
Visit Arita, Saga, this summer and discover the home of Arita-ware, the Japanese porcelain pottery tradition that has existed for more than 400 years. Arita was the first city in Japan to create and fire porcelain goods and has attracted much attention in the country and beyond.
Renowned for vivid, beautiful designs on pristine white backdrops, in many countries outside of Japan, Arita ware is known as Imari porcelain after the port it was originally shipped from.
Learn more about the history of this enchanting art at the Kyushu Ceramic Museum in Arita. Visit the working Gen-emon kiln and see firsthand how this world-famous porcelain is made. Of course, you can take a piece of porcelain home with countless pieces to purchase from local sellers.
by train from Arita Station to Hakata Station
by train from Hakata Station to Fukuokakūkō Station (Fukuoka Airport)
by plane from Fukuoka Airport to Naha Airport
by train from Naha Airport Station to Makishi Station (Yui Rail)
on foot from Makishi Station to Yachimun Street
See and feel the history of yachimun pottery in Okinawa
Continue exploring Japanese artistic traditions in Okinawa. Okinawan pottery, called yachimun, is characterized by functionality, powerful patterns and beauty. In the 1600s, Okinawa's royal government gathered a number of kilns in the Naha Tsuboya Yachimun Street area, and the district remains a center for yachimun Okinawan-style pottery to this day.
Here, the Naha Municipal Tsuboya Pottery Museum provides free audio tours to learn about the 6,600-year history of pottery in Okinawa. Explore kilns making both the unglazed arayachi style, originally used to hold the local liquor awamori, and the glazed joyachi style. In addition to tableware and shisa guardian lion dog figurines for sale, some workshops offer introductory classes for making your own yachimun, allowing visitors craft a one-of-a-kind souvenir.
by bus from Makishi Station to Koza
Experience Nightlife on the Streets of Koza
Okinawa is well-known for its unique mix of Japanese, native Okinawan, other Asian and American cultures, which blend to create a unique nightlife experience found nowhere else in the world, let alone mainland Japan. The center of Okinawa City, known to many by its original name "Koza" is home to the most authentic Okinawan nightlife experience and during the summer months the warm weather brings people out in their droves.
The main street called Koza Gate Street, also known as Koza's Gate2 Street, leads from the Kadena Air Base into the city and is lined with establishments serving food, drink and, of course, music. Experience a unique blend of U.S. and Japanese cultures while walking the streets lined with colorful displays in English and Japanese.
The music scene on Koza's Gate 2 Street is very well known. Hear live music with genres ranging from blues to Latin, rock to rap, and traditional Okinawan folk music.
With a unique culture comes a unique cuisine. You'll find traditional Okinawan food like goya (bitter melon) and soki soba (noodles). U.S. staples like hotdogs and hamburgers. And fusion dishes like pork rice balls and nuyaru burgers (burgers with bitter melon!).
by express bus from Goya Station to Naha Airport
by plane from Naha Airport to Ishigaki Island
Relax on Ishigaki Island's Glorious Beaches
Complete your summer tour with a restorative trip to Ishigaki Island. Relax on white sand beaches, unwind at beautiful hotels, and swim in the warm southern waters. Snorkeling, diving and surfing trips are also readily available for adventurous travelers.
You'll find snorkeling facilities on every major beach on the island, while dive shops along the coast are fully equipped to facilitate your underwater adventure. While beneath the waves, look out for the unforgettable sight of Okinawa's famous manta rays. Near Kabira Bay, witness the famous Manta Scramble, where large numbers of these majestic sea creatures swim together in a mesmerizing dance.
Yonehara Beach has some of the best snorkeling and diving in Japan, while Sukuji Beach is known nationwide for its soft sand and crystalline waters. Sunset Beach is the ideal spot for a BBQ and, of course, to experience a spectacular sunset.
Shikoku is brimming with natural beauty and rich cultural traditions. At the island's heart, vast mountains and crystal-clear streams make for an impressive scene, while encircling the entire island is an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route complete with no less than 88 temples.