Japan's Regions: Kyushu & Okinawa 九州・沖縄
Kyushu is the most southerly of Japan's four main islands and the third biggest in terms of size.
Kyushu includes the seven prefectures of Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Oita.
Kyushu's early history saw the Yamato clan extend its influence north onto Honshu. Many Buddhist stone carvings on the Kunisaki Peninsula around Usuki bear witness to the spread of the religion from China through nearby Korea.
Nagasaki grew up as a major port for foreign trade with the west and China during the Edo Period (1603-1868). Dutch traders were based on a small, artificial island Dejima - just off Nagasaki.
Kyushu's main towns and places of interest are:
Fukuoka, Kyushu's major city and transport hub - terminus of the Sanyo Shinkansen connecting Fukuoka and Kitakyushu with Osaka and Tokyo. Many international and domestic flights fly in to Fukuoka airport.
Dazaifu, historic town now most famous for its Tenmangu shrine.
Yanagawa, peaceful canal town 70km south west of Fukuoka.
Nagasaki, Japan's ancient gateway to the world and site of the world's second atomic attack.
Kumamoto, location of one of Japan's most beautiful castles.
Mount Aso, National Park and site of one of the world's largest caldera.
Beppu & Oita, onsen paradise on Kyushu's west coast Riviera.
Kirishima, near Kagoshima is known for its crater lakes, hot springs and forested hiking trails.
Sakurajima, is one of the world's most active volcanoes.
Okinawa is part of the chain of sub-tropical islands (Nansei Shoto) stretching 1000km from the tip of southern Kyushu to Taiwan. The northern part of the chain is part of Kagoshima prefecture and includes the UNESCO World Heritage listed island of Yakushima, while the southern half is part of Okinawa prefecture.
The islands of Okinawa were part of the Chinese-influenced Ryukyu Kingdom until absorbed by Japan at the end of the nineteenth century and the islands retain vestiges of their traditional culture.
Okinawa, still the poorest of Japan's prefectures and with a heavy US military presence, is now considered a tropical holiday destination with excellent beaches, snorkelling, windsurfing and scuba-diving.
There are airports in Fukuoka, which has many international connections to destinations around the world including Beijing and Seoul in East Asia and direct flights to many cities throughout Japan. There are other regional airports in Oita, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Miyazaki.
The main airport in Okinawa is on the main island in the capital, Naha, which has direct flights to many destinations throughout Japan and to Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei.
There are also regional airports in Amami Oshima, Ishigaki (for ferries to Taketomi) and an airport on Miyako Island. Yakushima has an airport with flights to Kagoshima. Kagoshima also has flights to Amami Oshima, Tokunoshima, Tanegashima, Yoron-to and Okinoerabujima all islands in Kagoshima prefecture.
There are a number of ferry services operating to and from various ports in Kyushu and Okinawa.
Beppu in Kyushu direct to Osaka or via Kobe and Matsuyama in Shikoku
Miyazaki to Osaka
Kitakyushu to Osaka
Kumamoto to Shimabara
Naha to Osaka, Nagoya, Hakata, Tokyo, Kobe and Kagoshima.
Naha is the hub for boat services to the other islands in Okinawa.
Oita to Kobe to (via Imabari & Matsuyama)
Kitakyushu (Kyushu) to Kobe
Shibushi in Miyazaki prefecture (Kyushu) to Kobe
There are ferries (jetfoils) to Yakushima from Kagoshima and Miyazaki. Fukuoka has a daily hydrofoil service to Busan in Korea.
Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Hiroshima, Nagoya and Tokyo are all connected to Fukuoka via the Sanyo shinkansen. All the major cities in Kyushu connect with each other by train: the JR Nagasaki Line from Fukuoka to Nagasaki (2 hours, 10 mins), the JR Nippo Line runs from Fukuoka to Beppu (2 hours) and Miyazaki (6 hours), the JR Kagoshima Line serves Kumamoto (1 hours, 20 mins) and Kagoshima (3 hours, 50 mins). The Kyushu Shinkansen now links Hakata Station with Kagoshima.
Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe all have regular highway bus services to Fukuoka and other cities in Kyushu.