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.