KYUSHU (九州), meaning “nine provinces”, is Japan’s southernmost main island and its third largest.
It is celebrated as one of the most awe-inspiring areas to visit due to its unique geological topography and volcanic sites. It's home to Japan’s largest active volcano, Mount Aso (阿蘇山), which sits at 5,223 feet above sea level. Due to the island’s elevation, freshwater springs naturally occur in basins all along Kyushu’s mountainous regions. And because of the island’s constant tectonic changeability, the volcanic pressure and geothermal energy is able to seep through fissures deep underground and heat the basins which allows for year round natural hot springs called “onsens” (温泉). Bathing in onsens are integral to Japan’s history, and were most notably a luxury for notability and warriors due to their ancient healing and regenerative properties. Now centuries later everyday people can experience this refreshing experience.
Kyushu’s city of Beppu (別府) is known as the Mecca of onsens as it outputs more bathwater than anywhere else in the entire country. Beppu’s local economy thrives on its ability to hosts thousands of guests year round in bathhouses and Ryokans (旅館 or traditional Japanese inns). So much steam and heat radiates from the city that people can actually cook over the springs in an Edo-era tradition dubbed Jingoku Mushi (地獄蒸し) or “Hell steaming.” Seafood, vegetables, and eggs are heated to perfection using solely the Earth’s thermal power and presented to you in a woven basket as to let the food breathe after their exposure.
Just south west of Beppu is Kumamoto (熊本市), an urban sprawl of almost a million residents that surrounds an ancient Japanese castle. The castle and its gardens date back to 1467 and have stood the test of time against multiple sieges and fires throughout history. It was here that Basashi (馬刺し) originated. Basashi is the cultural practice of eating raw horse meat akin to sashimi and has since become a delicacy everywhere in Japan.
Even further south is Nagasaki (長崎) which might be Kyushu’s most prospering city as it was destroyed by an atomic blast at the end of World War II on August 9th 1945. Since then, it has become a safe haven for peace talks and denuclearization efforts. Now 75 years later, it has become an urban mega center for trading tobacco, citrus, steel, and tea. And the city still has a large sect of Christianity due to Portuguese settlers who landed more than 500 years ago.
There is no way to encapsulate the wonders of Kyushu within a block of text, it is truly a place to be experienced in person. From the rolling hills of native flowers to lava and ash covered mountains to mystic and fog covered towns it’s truly a world unique to its own.