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Underrated Prefectures in Japan’s Kyushu Region

One of our goals here on Japanko Official is to show you the hidden side of Japan. To introduce you to less known places that most tourists never even heard of, let alone visit. That way, you, my fellow Japan fan, will know more about the country you dream of visiting. And I guarantee you that some of these places will blow your mind and make you put them on your must-see list.

Japan is a country of great diversity, full of rich culture and beautiful nature, and composed of 47 prefectures.

You have seen many of them through photos and videos shared online. However, many are rarely mentioned. These underrated prefectures in Japan are still waiting to be discovered by travelers. Since there are so many of them, in this post, we will focus on the ones on the island of Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island located in the south of the country.

I hope you will leave this blog post and my website with more knowledge about these interesting and underrated prefectures and that one or more of them will be on your must-visit list.

Table of Contents

Underrated Prefectures on Kyushu

So let’s jump right in. These are my top underrated prefectures in Japan’s Kyushu region:

  1. Fukuoka Prefecture
  2. Kagoshima Prefecture
  3. Saga Prefecture
  4. Oita Prefecture

Now let me tell you a bit more about each one of these and what makes them stand out in my humble opinion.

Old Japanese Karatsu Castle on Kyushu

Kyoo nite mo
Kyoo natsukashi ya

Even in Kyoto
Longing for Kyoto
Hearing the Cuckoo

Matsuo Basho,
17th century haiku poet

Fukuoka Prefecture - Travel Across Kyushu's Northern Tip

We start our adventure on the northern tip of Kyushu in the island’s most populous prefecture, Fukuoka. It is also the most economically vital part of the island since its major cities like Fukuoka and Kitakyushu hold large and advanced industries.

Despite all these impressive accolades, Fukuoka prefecture is still underrated when it comes to travel and tourism. That is unfortunate since there is so much to see.

You can explore the urban centers of Fukuoka and Kitakyushu and enjoy their museums and other attractions. You can wander the northern coastline and visit exciting places like the Uminonakamichi Seaside Park or the famed Sakurai Futamigaura’s Couple Stones.

One place you cannot miss is Yanagawa, the Venice of Japan. It is a town known across Japan for its calm canals and rivers that criss-cross the city in a way reminiscent of Venice.

Yanagawa Canals

Fukuoka prefecture points of interest

Here are some of the most exciting points of interest in the Fukuoka prefecture:

  • Ohori Park
  • Fukuoka Tower
  • Fukuoka Castle Ruins
  • Kitakyushu
  • Kawachi Wisteria Garden
  • Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
  • Yanagawa Canals
  • Kyushu Railway History Museum
  • Uminonakamichi Seaside Park
  • Sakurai Futamigaura’s Couple Stones

As you can see, this great prefecture has plenty to offer, and you won’t regret including it in your itinerary.

Fukuoka City At Night Kyushu Japan

Kagoshima Prefecture - More Places to See Than You Would Expect

Kagoshima Prefecture is often a place many people have heard of but never considered visiting nor learning more about. I know that was the case with me back in the day. Is it the same for you?

You will see now that it is a place worth visiting for its truly unique sights that you won’t find anywhere else in Japan and probably the world.

Kagoshima Prefecture is located on the opposite end of Kyushu compared to Fukuoka prefecture. Right on the southern tip.

It is considered the southernmost point of mainland Japan and a gateway to the southern islands and Okinawa. Most ferries depart from the capital, Kagoshima, and island hop until reaching Okinawa. One of our previous blogs can teach you more about getting to Okinawa.

So what are these unique places to visit in Kagoshima, Japan’s most southern prefecture?

Kagoshima City With Sakurajima Volcano On Kyushu

Let’s start with the capital Kagoshima, a modern city with a proud history. Like most Japanese cities, it offers plenty to its visitors, however, there is one thing that makes it stand out far above most other cities in Japan.

A huge volcano. You heard it right. A massive, active volcano is located right next to the city across a narrow bay. Its name is Sakurajima or Cherry Blossom Island, but fun fact, it is not an island! It used to be until the lava from an eruption in 1914 connected it to the mainland.

But the amazing facts about this island don’t stop there. Sakurajima’s last eruption was in 1955, and it is still ongoing! Every now and then, huge columns of smoke and ash rise above the volcano, often raining down on the city next to it. The sight of this mighty volcano next to a vast city is something you must see with your own eyes.

Kirishima Volcano Lake

Let me continue with the volcanic theme and tell you about the Kirishima area. An active volcanic area located in the northern part of Kagoshima prefecture on the border with Miyazaki. If you like hiking, you will love exploring its mountains, highlands, volcanic lakes, and hot springs.

Now let’s hop on a ferry and explore the islands south of the mainland. The first island that should be on your must-see list is Yakushima. A mystical island famous for its wildlife, including turtle nesting grounds and ancient cedar forests. In these forests, you can see the legendary Jōmon Sugi tree that is several thousands of years old. It is said that the ancient, mossy forests of Yakushima were the inspiration for many anime, including Princess Mononoke.

Right next to this wonderful island, you will find Tanegashima island. You will recognize the name if you are a space nerd like myself. It is the site of the Tanegashima Space Center, from which JAXA, Japan’s space agency, launches its rockets.

There are many more Kagoshima prefecture points of interest, so you can rest assured there will be many things to see if you decide to include it in your trip.

Yakushima Island Ancient Forests

Oita Prefecture - Sightseeing & Hot Springs

Oita Prefecture is another part of Japan you have probably heard of at least once. Maybe mentioned as a location of an Instagram post or a YouTube video. But you probably never looked much into it. Luckily, I am here to help you learn about it.

Oita prefecture is located in the north-eastern part of Kyushu, opposite the island of Shikoku. It is a prefecture defined by a complex and varied landscape, from the rocky coastline to great fields, deep forests, and tall mountains.

According to historical sources, when Emperor Keikō visited this area, he gave it the name ‘Okita-Kuni’ meaning the “Land of the Great Fields” or the “Land of Many Fields“. Later it came to be known as “Ōita“.

Today it is most famous among tourists for its many healthy hot springs. Fun fact, Ōita has the highest hot-spring output and geothermal power output in Japan. Worldwide, it is second only to the famed Yellowstone National Park in the USA.

Hot Springs In Oita Prefecture

Apart from soaking in the many hot springs, you can also enjoy many festivals throughout the year that happen all over the prefecture.

When it comes to Oita Prefecture sightseeing spots, there are plenty. In addition to the already mentioned hot springs in areas like Beppu, there are many points of interest.

You can enjoy the Usuki Stone Buddhas, the 60 cliff carvings of Buddha that are almost 1000 years old. Or you can visit the Oita Marine Palace Aquarium “Umitamago” to enjoy amazing marine life shows. A place like Kinrin Lake and Takasakiyama with its monkey park are all good options.

If you want hiking, the Kuju mountains are here, the tallest mountains on Kyushu.

So, will you include Oita in your itinerary?

Misty lake Kinrin in Oita Prefecture

Saga Prefecture - Tourism Destination Most Never Consider

Nestled between the Nagasaki and Fukuoka prefectures on the northwestern part of Kyushu, Saga prefecture is a place that often goes under the radar for most foreign tourists. Yet it features plenty of things to see and experience.

In Japan, Saga prefecture is famous for its pottery scene. If you are interested in seeing it yourself, check out the small city of Arita and enjoy its world-famous porcelain.

There are plenty of historical sights there, such as the Yoshinogari Ruins, Karatsu Castle, and the large Yutoku Inari Shrine.

If you want to participate in an interesting event, a huge balloon festival is also held in the prefecture.

If you want to experience the feel of a rural town, Ogi is the place for you. In addition to its amazing park famous for cherry blossoms, the beautiful Kiyomizu Falls are located outside of town and the famed sea torii gates at Ōuo Shrine.

Sunset Over Rice Paddies On A Coast In Saga prefecture Japan


I hope you are now more aware of what beauty and experiences Kyushu has in store for you when you visit. While some people may not know about these prefectures, you should certainly consider visiting them when you visit Japan next time.

Where is Kyushu?

Underrated Prefectures on Kyushu​ - Key Points

  • There are many underrated prefectures in Japan, and some are located on the island of Kyushu
  • Fukuoka Prefecture has the large cities of Fukuoka and Kitakyushu, and Yanagawa, Venice of Japan
  • Kagoshima Prefecture has many breathtaking places like the Sakurajima volcano and the Yakushima island
  • Oita Prefecture has some of the best hot springs in Japan
  • Saga prefecture has many famous natural and cultural sights like the Kiyomizu falls and Ouo Shrine
Mate Mikulandra
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