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Kyushu is the third-largest and southernmost of Japan's four main islands and a place of stunning volcanic beauty. As it was from here that the Yamato tribe spread north and conquered the country, it is considered the bithplace of Japanese civilisation. For centuries, it was Japan's gateway to Asia and the rest of the world. The port city of Nagasaki was the only place where contact with Dutch and Portuguese traders was allowed for some 200 years. The island can be roughly divided into three parts: northern, central and southern Kyushu. There are several active volcanoes on the island as well as many onsen (hot spring) resorts. The region is hit by typhoons and heavy rain every year.

Major festivals in Kyushu include: Hakata Dontaku (May 3-4) - citizens dressed as the Seven Deities of Good Fortune parade the streets; Hakata Gion Yamagasa (July 1-15) - colorful floats known as yamagasa are paraded to Kushida shrine in this 700-year old festival; Nagasaki Suwa (October 7-9) - also known as O-kunchi, this festival features dragon dances and umbrella-topped floats.

By air, it takes about 1 hour 40 minutes to the major cities in Kyushu from Tokyo and 1 hour from Osaka. The trip from Tokyo to Fukuoka by shinkansen takes about 6 hours. There is a tunnel and bridge connecting Kita-Kyushu with Shimonoseki on Honshu.


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