Beyond the notoriety of Kyoto and Tokyo, stretch as far as the eye can see the myriads of Japanese countryside, each richer than the last. Rich in traditions, know-how and unique reliefs. Among them, stands the island of Kyushu, in the extreme south of the country, where the East China Sea connects the three neighbors to the east: Japan, Korea and China. Because it brings together different forces of nature, between power and gentleness, the prefecture enjoys a unique atmosphere: volcanoes, mountains, forests, sandy shores, rivers, vast plains. The whole is inhabited by history and preserved cultures which contain all the singularity of the Japanese heritage. Head south, to discover this little-known land of the Archipelago.
Kyushu Island (literally meaning “the 9 provinces”), commonly known as ” Land of Fire “ because its horizon is pierced with three majestic volcanoes still active (Aso, Sakurajima and Unzen), has managed to conserve the beauty of its landscapes and the tangible and intangible heritage they shelter. Geographically far from the urban bustle and flows of the capital, this part of Japan has been able to evolve in all discretion and authenticity. But this decline, if it allows the island to safeguard its ancestral beauty, is also detrimental to it.
Long considered difficult to access, because too far from the nerve centers that attract native visitors and those from around the world, Kyushu has also been deprived of the benefits that accompany these tourist flows. The lack of passengers can be as beneficial for the preservation of places as it is problematic for the development of the territory. Local activities in the region thus sometimes struggle to renew their economies and therefore guarantee their viability. However, Japan is increasingly providing residents and international visitors with sophisticated transportation that allows quick access to all of the world. its hidden municipalities and yet so culturally rich. How not to be seduced by these kilometers of flora and fauna, crafts and memorial customs. Maybe it’s time to honor them? Immersion.
Between volcanoes and people: teamwork.
From the depth of its false abysses, deprived of light, to the radiance of its celestial and snow-capped mountains, the narrow territory of Japan is one of the biggest differences in altitude. This geography gives it great and sometimes devastating seismic activities. But the tremors are not the only natural force with which the land of the Rising Sun had to compose. In Kyushu, are still awake three impressive volcanoes. The most central, emerging from Kumamoto Prefecture, is Mount Aso. The southernmost, Sakurajima, is a mountain on the eponymous island off the city of Kagoshima. Finally, to the west, Mount Unzen rises in the middle of Nagasaki Prefecture.
Fortunately, the danger has long ceased to be fatal. From time to time, volcanoes simply release clumps of ash. This constant force, however, obliges the authorities to remain alert: it is anchored in the history of the territory, it is better to prevent than to cure in the face of unpredictable nature. The volcano trio is therefore under constant surveillance. Fear gone, nothing like enjoy the benefits offered by these magma mastodons. Villages and towns such as the “Naples of the Orient”, Kagoshima, have been built near these heat sources. What to benefit from a real Japanese treasure: the onsens, these baths thermal relaxing where nudity is privileged.
The benefits of Kyushu: live on love and hot water.
In the Prefecture of Kumamoto, in the heart of the onsen village of Kurokawa hides a magical place. Perched at an altitude of 700 meters, in the middle of the mountains, About thirty inns grouped together along the Tanoharu river are home to an endless number of fireflies and their own baths. The decor is protected from a variety of soothing oaks, but also from strict rules: ” Behavior in onsens is subject to relatively strict rules that must be observed to preserve the integrity of the premises and the quality of the water ” recall the different places. It is not for nothing that the village is crowned with two stars in the Michelin guide.
The city of Beppu, for its part, has the largest number of hot springs in the country. Seven in number, sacred because of their materialization of a certain idea of Japanese hells. But Beppu also knows how to reward its courageous visitors. The region has also developed his own kitchen using the steams of water to cook the vegetables. An onsen among the fruits? Fukuoka, thanks a subtropical climate very favorable to fruit arboriculture, is a favorite territory for a fruit cure. They can be picked near Chikugogawa Onsen in orchards visible from the outdoor baths. A program entirely designed to take advantage of the surroundings as well as the flavors of the country, respecting its rhythms and its gifts.
On the side of Nagasaki prefecture, the hot springs of Unzen also have something to arouse curiosities. Nestled in the heart of one of the oldest natural parks in Japan, the waters of Unzen contain a high level of sulfur. The place was declared an “onsen village” in 1653 and has since benefited from official protection which has made it possible to preserve its authenticity. Still elsewhere, a stone’s throw from the Mifuneyama garden which takes on thousands of colors each spring, springs a thousand year old onsen which allows you to bathe in more alkaline than average water, known to treat skin problems. A stone’s throw from the Inohae valley, the town of Kitago, 90% covered with forest, also hosts the magnificent onsen by Nemunohana. Here luxury is synonymous with immersion in the heart of nature. The baths overlook the forest or the stream running alongside the Onsen… A dream of Japanese spray.
But water can also be replaced by sand: Boasting the warmth of Sakurajima, the beaches of Ibusuki offer an incredible experience. Covered with sand
heavier than the sand we know in France, the bodies relax there during sessions of 10 to 15 minutes. Regular sand bathing sessions are said to improve oxygenation of the blood and body. They will allow, one thing is certain, to stop time.
In the heart of the forest, Japanese trees are our friends
Recognized for nearly forty years in Japan as a preventive medicine, the “forest bath” or sylvotherapy consists of walking in the forest for a few minutes or a few hours. This reconnection therapy would, thanks to molecules emanating from trees, phytoncides, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels and promote concentration and memory. Kyushu, and in particular Yabegawa Park, offers an ideal ground for practicing these returns to listening to living bodies and to what connects them. Perhaps, with a little imagination, we will have the chance to also meet some spirits of the forest and other youkai …
At an altitude of 400 meters, protected reserve of medicinal plants, the park is dotted with lakes and hinoki cypress trees rich in phytoncides. Further south of Kyushu, off Kagoshima, Yakushima Island also offers an ideal ground for recharging your batteries. Miyazaki’s place of inspiration, the Yakushima forest is an exceptional site covered with thousand-year-old cedars whose the famous Jômon-sugi which according to legend is 7000 years old.
Unusual in Europe, but very surprising if you are interested in mushrooms, strolling in the forests of Miyazaki prefecture allows you to discover the heart of the national production of the mushroom with multiple benefits: the Shiitake. It is grown on logs
one meter long, placed vertically at the feet of trees on hundreds of plots. A know-how among others cultivated by the region, with the same attention as for its vegetation.
Kyushu is an island, certainly, but vast and abundant. She concentrates a multitude of peculiarities while participating in the memory of properly Japanese habits. From its fusion between nature and culture born an impression of harmony that it is at the same time admirable to see spared tourist flows and at the same time worrying to see neglected by these same visitors. The period, in a global health crisis, necessarily restricts travel and access. Everything is not open. But knowing this forgotten dimension of Japan, in the very south of the country, can only encourage us to prepare, slowly but surely, our next excursions. And in the meantime? To learn more about this land which seems infinite and never stingy with surprising discoveries…
– Mr Japanization