Posted on Jan 24, 2020 in Hiroko's Blog, Recipes


November 3 – 15, 2020


Kyushu, the southernmost large island of Japan, is chock-full of incredible interests of so many kinds. I had visited Kyushu in past years on business. During such trips I didn’t experience what inquisitive and interested visitors can do in Kyushu, so I had little idea of the huge variety of amazing sights and experiences Kyushu can offer to us. In 2017 I decided to make Kyushu the next destination for my annual tour to Japan.  Thus, was born the initial idea for KYUSHU PREMIUM 2018. Since making that decision I have deeply studied the history, culture, natural environment, onsen hot springs, geology, food, art and people of Kyushu. Then, I carefully picked the places, each of which highlights the unique characteristics of Kyushu. In December 2017 I made this circuit on my own to absolutely confirm my expectations for the tour. This tour plan is the result of my study and exploration.

Some of you may have heard these Japanese culinary words: kabocha (squash), kara-age (a deep-frying method without batter), tempura (deep-frying method with batter), chawan’mushi (savory egg custard), kasutera (pound cake) just to name a few. These words describe foods and cooking techniques brought from abroad to Kyushu, reflecting the rich history of foreign influence in just the one area of culinary arts that extends back nearly 1500 years. This unique history of foreign influences and interactions is a major part of the fascination of Kyushu. It is very different from that experienced in the usual more familiar tourist precincts of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kanazawa and Takayama.

Kyushu sits close to China and Southeast Asia. It was, therefore, the window for the introduction to Japan of Asian culture and religion in the earliest years of the first millennium. Kyushu is also the closest sea access to Europe, and it became the window to European civilization, including Christianity, beginning in the early 16th century. The strong influences of these early international contacts remain present everywhere in the island and its culture to this day. We will see and experience them on this tour.

Kyushu is well known as hot spring heaven in Japan due to its unique geology at the intersection of two tectonic plates. Active volcanoes, Mt. Aso and Mt. Sakurajima, tell the history of the changing natural and geographic environment of Kyushu. Both beneficial and the causes of disaster, these volcanoes determine much of Kyushu’s human and natural history. A particular consequence of their presence is natural glory found throughout the island.

Kyushu’s Christian history is a story of introduction, prosperity, suppression, persecution and rebirth. We will see this miracle first-hand and explore this complex story at many locations and from many perspectives. What happened in Kyushu is unique in world history.

At this particular time when we live with growing international tensions visiting the Nagasaki Atomic Peace Park and Museum will remind us of the horror of atomic weapons and the need for maintaining world peace to preclude their use.

You may know that for 250 years beginning in the 17th century Japan was closed to the outside world with only the Dutch occupying a tiny island, Dejima (“separated island”), just off Nagasaki. That island compound has been faithfully recreated. It is not Disneyland, but is a living, fascinating and accessible historical site replete with Japanese and Dutch history.

A foundation of Japanese cuisine is dashi stock which is made by infusing kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (skipjack tuna) flakes. Katsuobushi comes from the town of Makurazaki in Kyushu. A visit to a factory that produces this indispensable material will reveal the fascinating traditional, artisanal production of katsuobushi. Without seeing this, you cannot say that you know Japanese cuisine.

An equally fascinating and delicious product of Kyushu is shochu, the distilled liquor made variously from rice, barley, sweet potato, potato, brown sugar and more. During the tour we will taste different varieties of shochu as we move from one area to another; the tour will make you a shochu expert.

Please enjoy the itinerary described in this package and join me on KYUSHU PREMIUM 2020; fascinating, educational, fun, active and delicious tour to Kyushu!  I look forward to experiencing all of the sights and activities described in this document with you in Kyushu.

For those who are interested in receiving further information such as tariff, application form and payment terms, contact Hiroko.

January 21, 2020



25 West 15th Street

New York, NY 10011


646-346-3991 (mobile)

@hirokoshimbo (Instagram)



November 3, Tuesday

Check in yourself at the Haneda Excel Hotel, Tokyo. The room is booked for you.  Join Hiroko at 8:30PM for an after-dinner coffee/tea orientation at HOSHI room at FLYER’S TABLE restaurant in the hotel.

November 4, Wednesday

We take an early morning flight to Oita Airport. We visit Kunisaki Peninsula, located in the northeast area of Kyushu, which is known for ancient, unique Buddhist culture. We participate in-a-once-in-a-life time Buddhist ritual service at Monju-Senji Temple, which was founded in 648 AD. The priest, tending a large ritual fire, prays for our health, family happiness and good weather & safe journey through out our tour. We stop at the Tennenji Temple, hike and admire Magaibutsu, Buddha sculptures carved into the rock cliff. We head to Beppu, one of the most famous hot spring towns in Japan for one-night stay.

November 5, Thursday

Today we head to 290 years old Kurokawa Onsen, a hot spring town that has 30 traditional Japanese inns, equipped with rotenburo (outdoor hot spring), scattered deeply in natural beauty alongside the Tanohata River.   We stop at Kokonoe Yume Otsurihashi, the highest suspention bridge only for walkway built in in  2006.  The beautiful nature is 360 degree view.  After arriving we experience Outdoor Onsen-Hopping.  We also enjoy local specialty Sake/Shochu-Hopping. The charming inn which we stay is closed to our group.

November 6, Friday

Today we fully enjoy the beauty of the nature in this region; walking, (bicycling), picnicking; we continue to enjoy Outdoor Onsen-Hopping & Sake/Shochu-Hopping if you haven’t completed it the day before.

November 7, Saturday

Today we visit Aso caldera. Aso volcano is a cluster of volcanoes situated within a huge caldera that is 25km (15miles) north-to-south and 18km (11miles) east-to-west. Its history extends back nearly 300,000 years consisting of complex volcanic activities and mountain growth. The area is part of the Aso National Park known for its beauty and grandeur. We visit the Aso Museum and watch a video to learn how the Aso caldera was created. This is followed by a climb up Kijima-dake providing awesome views across the entire Aso caldera. After lunch our coach takes us south to historical town of Hitoyoshi where we stay one night.

November 8, Sunday

This morning at the historic town of Hitoyoshi we take a man-poled boat ride down the Kuma River, which boasts of having the 2nd most rapid current in Japan. The same ride in the same kind of craft the local Daimyo, Aira, took in feudal days to go down-river in order to begin his biannual trip to Edo (present Tokyo) to pay his respects and tribute to the Shogun. After lunch our coach takes us to Onami-Ike, a beautiful crater lake which stands at 1,411 meters (4,500 feet) above sea level. Onami-Ike Crater Lake was the product of a volcano eruption about 40,000 years ago. The water is cobalt blue. We enjoy walking on a trail through the woods to the top of the Onami-Ike to admire the beautiful lake. After the walk we head to two nights stay at a venerable Japanese Inn, a Relais & Chateaux property.

November 9, Monday

Today we head down to the prefecture where the most indispensable Japanese food product is produced. It is katsuobushi (stone-hard, dried, smoked skipjack tuna). The infusion of katsuobushi and kombu (kelp) makes dashi stock, the foundation of Japanese cuisine. We visit the Matoba katsuobushi plant and learn and see the fascinating traditional, artisanal production of katsuobushi.  We then visit award winning, family owned, small shochu brewery, Yoshinaga Shuzo, established in 1905. Even the bottling and labeling are done manually at this artisanal shochu producer. And, of course, we taste varieties of their products and you can purchase a bottle or two to take home.

November 10, Tuesday

Today we make an exciting transition from the mainland Kyushu to Amakusa island. Amakusa, which is located at southwestern part of Kumamoto Prefecture, is an island group consisting of two major islands and 100 other islands varying in size. Amakusa is remote. This isolation allowed missionaries in the 16th century to convert a considerable percentage of inhabitants and even the local lord to Christianity before the religion was forbidden in the early Edo period during the 17th century. Today there are museums and churches spread across the islands which reflect this religious heritage.

November 11, Wednesday

Today we visit a salt farm. We then have a pleasure easy-short walking up to the top of Tenjiku Mountain, and enjoy a picnic. We head to Takahama Porcelain Company and each of us makes our own glazing design on a bare previously baked mug. The mug will be fired and become a souvenir of your Kyushu adventure. Amakusa jiki, the raw material for Takahama porcelain, was discovered in this area in the 17th century. It is known for its pure whiteness and solid nature. The quality of the clay has been highly praised as the best porcelain clay in the world. It has been used for years to make the highest quality Japanese porcelain goods such as Arita-yaki (Arita ware) and Seto-yaki (Seto ware).

November 12, Thursday

Today we say goodbye to Amakusa and head to Nagasaki by boat. We visit Kofukuji Temple, Obaku Zen temple.  Kofukuji Temple dates to around 1620 when the merchants from China’s Ming Dynasty began to arrive in Nagasaki. A Chinese priest founded the temple to pray for safety in the perilous sea journey from China to Japan. We then head to Dejima Museum on foot. Dejima (“separated island”), the tiny man-made island just off the shore and connected by a foot bridge to Nagasaki, was constructed in 1636 and was used to house Dutch traders for 250 years during the Edo period (1600 – 1868) when Japan was closed to the outside world. The island itself disappeared with more reclamation of the land from Nagasaki Bay, but now island compound has been faithfully recreated as the Dejima Museum on its original, now a land-locked site. It is not Disneyland, but is a living, fascinating and accessible historical sites replete with Japanese and Dutch history.

November 13, Friday

Today our guide, a native of Nagasaki, takes the group to the must-see places in this historic city. These include Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Peace Park at “ground zero” and Uragami Church. She takes us to a tonkatsu lunch. After lunch the coach drives us to the Nagasaki station. You have free afternoon to discover the city own your own.

November 14, Saturday

Today we leave for our final destination, Fukuoka, on the northwestern coast of Kyushu by train.  Fukuoka is Kyushu’s largest and Japan’s 5th most populated city.  Because of its closeness to the Asian mainland, Fukuoka has been an important harbor city for many centuries.  We visit a Ohori park and enjoy a beautifully landscaped Japanese tea garden or visit Fukuoka Art Museum in the park.  Fukuoka is a gourmet paradise…providing you are not a strict vegetarian.  Motsu nabe (intestine and tripe hot pot), tori-suki (chicken hot pot) and very fresh seafood from the Genkai Sea are abuntant.  Fukuoka-style tonkotsu (pork bone-based broth) ramen is also unique & famous, and now popular in US ramen restaurants.  There are yatai (outdoor food stalls) offering delicious, home-style comfort foods that are unusual elsewhere in Japan.

November 15, Sunday

Our tour dissolves after breakfast.  Those who continue to post-tour locations or those who depart for home, have a safe and pleasant trip. Whatever your destinations the mug you created in Amakusa will meet you at the arranged place. Please cherish your Kyushu memories for the rest of your life!