Kyushu, the southernmost large island of Japan, is chockfull of incredible interests of so many kinds. I have visited Kyushu in past years on business. During such trips I didn’t experience what visitors do in Kyushu, so I had no idea of the huge variety of amazing sights and experiences Kyushu can offer to us. Last year I decided to make Kyushu is the next destination for my annual tour to Japan. Thus was born the initial idea for Kyushu with Hiroko 2018. I have deeply studied the history, 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. This past December, 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: Kyushu with Hiroko 2018. Join me on this fascinating, educational, fun and delicious tour to Kyushu this November!
Find the Trip Overview and some of the photos at the end of this note.
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 that extend back nearly 1500 years. This unique history of foreign influence 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 and Kyoto.
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.
Kyushu is well known as hot spring heaven in Japan due to its unique geography 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 the 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.
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 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 man-made island, Dejima (‘separated island”), just off of 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.
I look forward to experience all of the sights and experience described above along with delightful walks and hikes with you this November in Kyushu!
Photos and videos:
January 24, 2018
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