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Located southwest of the main island, Kyushu is the third largest island in Japan. The mountainous island has high geothermal activities, active volcanoes and an abundance of hot springs scattered throughout the island.
A visit to Kyushu island would have to include the three major cities: Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Kagoshima. Plus the perfect Kyushu itinerary would have to include hikes around volcanoes, hot spring experiences and sampling food that is unique to the region.
It might be easiest to see Kyushu with a car, but it is possible to see the majority of Kyushu on public transportation ie. on a budget. I’ll show you exactly how you can see the best of Kyushu in 10 days without a car and on a tight budget.
Before you go to Kyushu
Before you visit Kyushu Island, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of information including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Related Post – One month in Japan (from Tokyo to Hiroshima)
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Budget tips for travelling in Kyushu
Kyushu Island is rather big and it may be easiest to see the island with a car.
However, renting a car may not be ideal for some people especially if you are travelling solo. Plus, the total cost of the rental car, insurance, petrol and highway toll can be quite expensive if you decide to have a car for 10 days.
To save (a lot) of money, take advantage of the excellent public transportation in Kyushu. All the major cities are well-connected by trains and highway buses.
In each section below, I listed all the train and bus options so you can pick and choose.
If you want to try the shinkanesen (bullet train), get a 5-days JR Kyushu Rail Pass before you leave for Japan. Use the rail pass from day 4 to 8 which covers the 2 shinkansen trains and other train rides to neighbouring towns.
Other Kyushu travel tips:
- Buy a SUGOCA, a rechargeable smartcard in Kyushu where you can take public transportation including train, subway, bus and other transportation within Kyushu and the rest of Japan.
- Hyperdia is an excellent website for checking schedules and fares for any train travel in Japan
Kyushu itinerary: 10 days exploring Kyushu Island from north to south
The best way to spend 10 days in Kyushu Island is by flying into northern Kyushu and start your 10 day itinerary in Fukuoka.
Use Fukuoka as a base and visit several neighbouring cities before heading south to Kumamoto.
Then finally, end your 10 day trip in Kagoshima, the southernmost city on Kyushu Island.
Here is a summary of all the cities you will visit and the number of days you will spend in each city:
- Day 1 – 5: Fukuoka (including Dazaifu, Takeo and other day trips)
- Day 6 – 7: Kumamoto (including Mount Aso)
- Day 8 – 10: Kagoshima (including Ibusuki and Sakurajima)
Day 1 – 5: Fukuoka (5 days)
Fukuoka is your first stop on your 10 day itinerary in Kyushu. It is the 7th largest city in all of Japan. And with strong food culture and numerous things to do in Fukuoka, there is plenty to do to occupy a couple of days in the city.
Plus, the accommodation in Fukuoka is the cheapest and nicest compared to the rest of Kyushu. It makes the most sense to use Fukuoka as a base and leisurely tour the city and visit neighbouring towns.
Where to stay in Fukuoka
- Hostel Stand By Me
- A small boutique hostel with clean dorm rooms and a private bunk bed. There is a common area on the second floor and a restaurant on the ground floor.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Day 1 – 3: Arrive in Fukuoka and explore the city in 3 days
Things to do in Fukuoka
- Eat Hakata Ramen, udon, other local specialties at a yatai (outdoor food stall) along Nakasa River
- Check out the food market at Yanagibashi Rengo Market
- Temple hop in Hakata Old Town
- Indulge in art at Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (FAAM), Fukuoka Prefectural Art Museum
- People watch at Maizuru Park and Fukuoka Castle Ruins
- Get zen at Ohori Park Japanese Garden
- Learn about Hakata’s merchant history at Hakata Machiya Furusato-kan (Folk Museum)
- Visit Kyushu’s busiest train station at JR Hakata City
- Shop and pick up souvenirs at Kawabata Shopping Arcade, Canal City Hakata, and Tenjin Chikagai
- Take short excursions to Itoshima Peninsula, Yanagawa River, or Nokonoshima Island
For more information on Fukuoka, check out my post on things to do in Fukuoka
Day 4: Day trip to Dazaifu
Dazaifu is a popular day trip destination from Fukuoka. Located only 18km southeast of Fukuoka City, Dazaifu is your first glimpse of rural Kyushu.
Things to do in Dazaifu
- Pray and get a blessing at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
- Learn Japanese history at Kyushu National Museum
- Stroll through the main shopping street, Tenjinsama-dori
- Try an umegae mochi rice cake (red bean rice cake), a local specialty
- Visit the ultra-modern Starbucks
- Enjoy the zen gardens of Komyozen-ji Temple
- Indulge in a Japanese kaiseki tofu lunch at Ume no Hana
- Hike up Mount Shioji and see a panoramic view of Dazaifu from Iwaya Castle Ruins
Check out my detailed post on spending an entire day in Daizaifu
How to travel from Fukuoka to Dazaifu
- Nishitetsu Railway: from Tenjin Station to Dazaifu Station
- Time: 30 minutes
- Cost: ¥410 (IC card is accepted)
Day 5: Day trip to Takeo
Takeo is a small onsen (hot spring) town in Saga Prefecture. The perfect day trip to Takeo includes strolling through the town, soaking in hot springs and seeing modern art installation at an onsen hotel and park.
Things to do in Takeo
- Soak in the ancient hot springs at Takeo for ¥400 at Takeo-Onsen Tower
- Visit the scared 3,000-year-old camphor tree at Takeo Shrine
- Roam through the aisles of the contemporary library, Takeo City Library
- See cherry and plum blossoms at Mifuneyama Rakuen Park during spring
- See the permanent art and light exhibition by teamLab at Mifuneyama Rakuen Hotel where interactive installation with Murano glass and LED lights are displayed
- TeamLab also had another light installation in the Mifuneyama Rakuen Park called “A Forest Where Gods Live” during the summer and fall of 2018 and 2019. There were light installations on trees, ponds, rocks and the entire park lights up as the sun goes down. Perhaps they will have future exhibitions in the park. Check the teamLab website and see if they have a similar light installation in the future.
How to travel from Fukuoka to Takeo
- JR Train: from Hakata Station to Takeo-Onsen Station on Midori-Huis Ten Bosch Line
- Time: 1 hour 20 minutes (+ 12-minute walk to onsen)
- Cost: ¥3,100 each way (covered by Kyushu Pass)
Day 6 – 7: Kumamoto (2 days)
The next destination on your 10 day Kyushu journey is Kumamoto, the capital city of Kumamoto Prefecture. The city has one of Japan’s top 3 castles, Kumamoto Castle, and many other historic temples and shrines. And it is also the gateway for visiting Mount Aso.
How to travel from Fukuoka to Kumamoto
There are trains and buses from Fukuoka to Kumamoto. It all depends on your schedule and budget. The fastest way is via Kyushu shinkansen and the most affordable ways are Japan Rail and Kyushu Bus.
- Kyushu Shinkansen: from JR Hakata Station to Kumamoto Station
- Time: 40 minutes
- Cost: ¥5,230 (covered by JR Pass except for Nozomi and Mizuho trains)
- JR Train: from JR Hakata Station to Kumamoto Station
- Time: 2 hours
- Cost: ¥2,170
- Kyushu Bus: from Hakata Bus Terminal to Kumamoto Station
- Time: 2 hours
- Cost: ¥2,280
- Check Kyushu Bus Booking for schedules and exact fares
Where to stay in Kumamoto
Hotel The Gate Kumamoto
- Hotel The Gate Kumamoto
- Stay in a single room with either an upper bunk or lower bunk and your own private area for an affordable price
- The hotel is tailored for Japanese business people but also great for tourists
- Walking distance to Kumamoto Station and Kumamoto Bus Terminal
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Day 6: Arrive in Kumamoto and explore the city
- See one of the top 3 castles in Japan, Kumamoto Castle
- See a panoramic view of Kumamoto from Honmyo-ji Temple
- Tour the Sakuranobaba Johasaien Castle Town
- Try local Kumamoto cuisine including Kumamoto Ramen at Kokutei
- Get zen at Suizen-ji Jojuen Garden
- See Yahoo Kusama’s artwork at Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto (CAMK)
- Shop at Shimotori Shopping Arcade
- Buy a Kumamon souvenir (many items have the famous Kumamon bear)
Learn how you can efficiently see Kumamoto in one day
Day 7: Day trip to Mount Aso
Mount Aso can be visited as a day trip from Kumamoto even if you don’t have a car. Spend the day hiking the active volcano and see rural Kumamoto Prefecture.
How to travel from Kumamoto to Mount Aso
- Kyushu Odan Bus #1, #3, #7: from Kumamoto Bus Terminal to Aso Station
- Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Cost: ¥1,500
- Check Kyushu Odan Bus for daily schedule
- Mount Aso Bus: from Aso Station to Aso Nishi-eki (Mount Aso)
- Time: 30 – 40 minutes (one bus every 1 – 2 hour)
- Cost: ¥1,200 (return ticket)
- Check Mount Aso Bus for daily schedule
Things to do in Mount Aso
- See the highest peak, Mount Nakadake, one of the world’s largest volcanic crater (check to see if the latest condition allows you to see the crater)
- Hike the trails from Kusasenri to Eboshidake and to Kishimadake
- Ride horses at Kusasenro-ga-hama
- Learn more about the volcano at Aso Volcano Museum
- See Mount Komezuka on the way back down to Aso Station
For more detailed information about visiting Mount Aso, check out my post on what to do in Mount Aso and how to get there
Day 8 – 10: Kagoshima (3 days)
Kagoshima is the southernmost city on Kyushu Island. As the capital of Kagoshima Prefecture, the city is known for Sakurajima, an active volcano and the gateway to many islands in Southern Japan.
How to travel from Kumamoto to Kagoshima
There are many trains and buses from Kumamoto to Kagoshima. The fastest way is to take the shinkansen but the cheapest way is to take the highway bus.
- Shinkansen: from Kumamoto Station to Kagoshima Chuo Station
- Time: 47 minutes +
- Cost: ¥6,940 (covered by Kyushu Pass)
- JR Train: from Kumamoto Station to Kagoshima Chuo Station
- Time: 4 hours 30 minutes +
- Cost: ¥4,300 (covered by Kyushu Pass)
- Kirishima-go Bus: from Kumamoto Station to Kagoshima Station
- Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Cost: ¥3,770
- Check Kyushu Bus Booking website for schedules and fares
Where to stay in Kagoshima
- Hotel Mystays Kagoshima Tenmonkan
- Renovated in 2018, the 3-star hotel has affordable single rooms in Kagoshima City
- Right in the heart of Tenmonkan, a shopping district with many restaurants and shops
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Day 8: Arrive in Kagoshima and visit Ibusuki
Try to get into Kagoshima as early as you can. Then after you drop off your luggage at the hotel, hop back on the train and head to Ibusuki for a unique natural sand hot spring experience.
How to travel from Kagoshima to Ibusuki
- JR Train: from Kagoshima Chuo Station to Ibusuki Station (JR Ibusuki Makurazaki Line)
- Time: 70 minutes + walk 10 minutes
- Cost: ¥1,020 (covered by Kyushu Pass)
Things to do in Ibusuki
- Visit Saraku Sand Bath Hall, a large hot spring facility
- At the bath hall, enjoy the natural sand spa (buried in the sand), indoor baths and steam room
Things to do in Kagoshima
- Visit the zen Sengan-en Garden
- Walk around the grounds of Tsurumaru Castle Ruins
- Hike up Mount Shiroyama and see an unobstructed view of Kagoshima from Shiroyama Observatory
- See artwork by local artists at Kagoshima City Museum of Art
- Take a tour around Kagoshima Fish Market
- Try unique Kagoshima cuisine like Kagoshima Ramen and Kagoshima Kurobuta Pork
- Eat at Kagoshima Furusato Food Village or Tenmonkan
Day 9: Explore Sakurajima
Sakurajima is the symbol of Kagoshima. It used to be an island until the active volcano erupted in 1914 and connected the island to the Osumi Peninsula. You can easily spend the entire day hiking the trails and soaking in hot springs. Some highlights include:
- Hike Nagisa Lava Trail from the ferry terminal
- Soak your feet in Nagisa Park Foot Bath for free
- Get the Sakurajima Island View Bus one day pass and see attractions like Karasujima Observatory, Akamizu Observatory and Yunohira Observatory
Learn more about all the attractions in Kagoshima in my detailed post
Day 10: Explore Kagoshima and fly home
It is the last day on your 10 day itinerary in Kyushu. Depending on the time of your flight leaving Kagoshima Airport, you may have a bit more time to roam around the city.
How to travel from Kagoshima to Kagoshima Airport
- Airport Limousine Bus: from Kagoshima Chuo Terminal Building to Kagoshima Airport
- Time: 40 minutes (about 4 buses per hour)
- Cost: ¥1,300
- Check Nangoku Kotsu Bus website for schedule and fares
Are you ready to spend 10 days in Kyushu?
Kyushu Island may not be as well known as the rest of Japan but the island is excellent for anyone who wants to get off the beaten path and explore something different.
I hope you like my 10 day Kyushu travel itinerary! I planned it exclusively for any solo travellers who want to see Kyushu Island on a budget. Let me know in the comments if you like the itinerary or any suggestions on improving it.