Kyushu is the third-largest of the islands that make up mainland Japan. As it lies the furthest south of the main islands, it enjoys a warm and mild climate that makes it ideal for travel. The best time to visit Kyushu depends on what you would like to see and do while there. From the hydrangea blooms at Hakozakigu Shrine to the beautiful winter Lantern Festival in Nagasaki, here are the top seasonal festivals and activities in Kyushu.
Best Time to Visit Kyushu | Spring
Millions of travelers agree that spring is the best time to visit Kyushu, as days are sunny and temperatures are comfortable. You can pack relatively light, just be prepared for the possibility of tropical rainfall later in the season. Like the rest of the country, Kyushu comes alive in the spring with gorgeous blooms, making flower-viewing a popular activity.
Fukuoka Prefecture spring blooms
The best place to experience the spring in Kyushu is the northern Fukuoka Prefecture. Blooming flowers paint the prefecture, turning its landscapes into watercolor paintings. There are numerous ways to view Japan’s famous cherry blossoms and other spring blooms in Fukuoka Prefecture. Here are three of the most popular options:
- Fukuoka Castle Sakura Festival: The grounds of ancient Fukuoka Castle are among the best places to see cherry blossoms in all of Japan. There are over 1,000 cherry trees planted here, and all of them are illuminated for nighttime viewing during the annual Sakura Festival. There are also food stalls and street performances to enjoy. The Sakura Festival takes place around the end of March and early April, with exact dates depending on the blooming status of the cherry blossoms.
- Wisteria Tunnels at Kawachi Wisteria Garden: Located in the wooded hills southwest of Kitakyushu, Kawachi Wisteria Garden is often regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit from late April to early May. This is due to the garden’s two large wisteria tunnels, where guests can walk underneath the purple, blue, white, pink, and violet flowers that hang gracefully above. There are more than 150 wisteria plants from over 20 different species at Kawachi Wisteria Garden.
- Ajisai Festival at Hakozakigu Shrine: Though the month of June in Kyushu can see heavy showers, it is also the month when the hydrangeas are in full bloom. The best place to see hydrangeas is at the Ajisai Festival at Hakozakigu Shrine. Located in Fukuoka, the shrine is home to a large garden with over 3,500 hydrangeas from over 100 different species. Come enjoy the rich fragrance and color of the garden while you sit back and listen to live classical music.
Check In to GUESTHOUSE HAKOZAKI GARDEN, Step Out to Hakozakigu Shrine
Best Time to Visit Kyushu | Summer
Summer in Kyushu brings hot temperatures perfect for enjoying days at the beach in Kagoshima Prefecture. It is also a popular time of year to visit Kumamoto Prefecture for its unique summer fire festivals.
Kagoshima Prefecture beaches
Located on the southern end of Kyushu, Kagoshima Prefecture enjoys a subtropical climate and miles and miles of coastline. It is one of the top tourist destinations in Japan, largely due to its beautiful beaches. Here is a look at some of the best beaches in the prefecture.
Iso Beach, Kagoshima
Located right in Kagoshima city, Iso Beach is a great swimming spot that is also popular for marine sports activities like board surfing, boating, and windsurfing. Covered in soft white sand, Iso Beach is also famous for its stunning view of Mount Sakurajima across Kinko Bay.
Yurigahama Beach, Yoron Island
Yoron Island is a tropical paradise located between mainland Japan and the Okinawa Islands. It is home to many balmy beaches, but Yurigahama Beach is perhaps the most magical. Yurigahama Beach is actually a sand bar that changes location and shape with the tides. The stunning blue waters surrounding it are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Yoron Island can be reached via plane or ferry from Kagoshima.
Even closer to Kagoshima Prefecture than Yoron Island, Amami Oshima is the largest island of the Amami archipelago. The island’s numerous beaches offer a wide range of beach and water activities, including swimming, snorkeling, diving, paddleboarding, and, of course, sunbathing. The most popular beaches on Amami Oshima are Tomori Beach, Yoan Beach, Kurasaki Beach, Kuninao Beach, and Akaogi Beach.
Kumamoto Prefecture fire festivals
Just north of Kagoshima Prefecture, on the west coast of Kyushu, Kumamoto Prefecture celebrates the summer season with three unique fire festivals in three different cities across the region. Each festival takes place in August and provides a wonderful opportunity to become acquainted with some of the culture and history of Kyushu.
Hinokuni Matsuri, Kumamoto
The most well-known fire festival in Kumamoto Prefecture, Hinokuni Matsuri takes place during the first weekend of August in the prefecture’s capital city, Kumamoto. The festival is all about dancing, with locals and visitors alike gathering in the streets to learn the choreography to a well-loved folk song. Hinokuni Matsuri was first held in 1978 and has grown over the years to become a summer highlight in the area.
Kofun Festival, Nagomi
The Kofun Festival in the town of Nagomi is also held on the first weekend of August. It began in 1971 as a way to honor the ancestors at Eta Funayama Ancient Tomb, an important historical and cultural site and a designated Cultural Property. The main draw of the Kofun Festival is the torch parade, a procession of about 700 people holding lit torches and dressed in traditional costumes. There is also a concert and a fireworks display.
Yamaga Toro Festival, Yamaga
Held in mid-August, the Yamaga Toro Festival takes place in the center of Yamaga city at the Omiya Shrine. The main event of the festival is a nighttime dance where hundreds of men and women dress in traditional costume. The women dance through the night with gold and silver lanterns while the men hold a torch procession. Over 4,000 fireworks are set off over the Kikuchigawa River during the Yamaga Toro Festival.
Check In to Hotel Sunflex Kagoshima, Step Out to Iso Beach
Best Time to Visit Kyushu | Autumn
Autumn is typically a dry and comfortable time in Kyushu, with clear skies and mild temperatures perfect for sightseeing. The island’s natural beauty shines this time of year, particularly in Miyazaki Prefecture, while exciting cultural festivals are held in Saga Prefecture.
Saga Prefecture autumn festivals
Directly to the west of Fukuoka Prefecture, Saga Prefecture welcomes and celebrates autumn with a series of festivals spanning the season. The most famous and widely celebrated of these festivals take place in the Nanaura district of Kashima, the city of Imari, and the city of Karatsu.
Nanaura Autumn Festival
At the beginning of September, the southern Nanaura district of Kashima holds the Nanaura Autumn Festival to pray for a bountiful harvest. The main event of the festival is a procession of locals along the district’s farm roads. The procession begins in the morning at Toguchi Shrine, from where it makes its way to Chinju Shrine followed by a final march to Tenshi Shrine. Traditional Japanese drums and flutes are played along the way.
Imari Ton-Ten-Ton Festival
Held for three days over the third weekend in October since 1829, the Imari Ton-Ten-Ton Festival is known as one of the great “fighting festivals” of Japan. During the festival, two large portable shrines, Danjiri and Aramikoshi, are carried into the center of Imari and crashed against one another to the sound of beating drums until one is declared the winner. It is quite a spectacle to watch!
Karatsu Kunchi Festival
The Karatsu Kunchi Festival is a 400-year-old festival held every year from November 2nd to 4th at Karatsu Shrine in Karatsu, a city in the northern region of Saga Prefecture. Designated an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property, the festival features a daily parade of large floats called Hikiyamas accompanied by the playing of flutes and drums. Crowds of well over 100,000 people regularly come to watch the parades.
Miyazaki Prefecture autumn leaf-viewing
Just like flower-viewing in the fall, autumn leaf-viewing is a highly popular activity in Japan. For some of the best leaf-viewing opportunities in Kyushu, visit Miyazaki Prefecture. Located on the east coast of Kyushu, this mountainous prefecture is full of stunning natural vistas that become painted in the beautiful, bright colors of autumn once Kyushu‘s long summer draws to a close. Here are some of the best leaf-viewing spots in Miyazaki Prefecture.
At the northern tip of Miyazaki Prefecture, the Mitate Valley offers fantastic fall leaf-viewing opportunities from the end of October all the way until the end of November. Enjoy a relaxing walk along the Hinokage River and the clear streams that flow into it while you take in the vibrant fall foliage. The valley is also known for its oddly-shaped boulders, which make for fun photo spots.
The highest peak in the Kirishima mountain range of southern Miyazaki Prefecture, Mount Karakuni offers wonderful walking and hiking opportunities to see the autumn leaves. One of the best parts of leaf-viewing at Mount Karakuni is the sheer array of autumn colors represented here. You’ll see a wonderful mix of yellows, oranges, reds, and greens, as well as leaves in shades you’ve likely never seen before. Early November is the best time to experience all of the colors to their fullest.
Takachiho Gorge is a number-one, year-round attraction in the picturesque town of Takachiho in northern Miyazaki Prefecture. From mid- to late-November, the gorge is ablaze in the colors of autumn, in particular the golden gingko leaves and crimson maple leaves. Renting a boat and paddling down Takachiho Gorge is highly recommended as one of the best ways to see the leaves and take in the magnificent scenery.
Check In to Karatsu Daiichi Hotel, Step Out to Karatsu Shrine
Best Time to Visit Kyushu | Winter
Winter can be the best time to visit Kyushu because while the region can get quite chilly, it generally remains warmer than the rest of mainland Japan. Temperatures rarely dip below freezing, making for pleasant travels as long as you are well dressed. This is a fantastic time to visit Oita Prefecture and Nagasaki Prefecture , as both have unique events designed to keep the dark and the cold of winter at bay.
Twinkle of the Millennium in Tashibu-no-sho, Oita Prefecture
Sennen no Kirameki, which translates to “Twinkle of the Millennium,” is an annual winter illumination that takes place in the historic Tashibu no Sho area over the winter, from early November to mid-February. Tashibu no Sho is an agricultural region in the Oita Prefecture countryside where the valleys between the rugged cliffs are covered in paddy fields. These rural landscapes are considered to be one of Japan’s 50 most important cultural landscapes.
During the winter, the paddy fields are lined with more than 10,000 LED lights – a massive volunteer effort. After the sun sets, the lights come on one by one as if they are fireflies. Slowly, the dots of light join up to become outlines of the paddy fields. They then change color every 30 minutes, treating spectators to a beautiful light show. The charming display brings a warm atmosphere to the area over the colder winter months.
Lantern Festival in Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture
Taking place over the first 15 days of the Chinese lunar New Year, the Lantern Festival is a showcase of Nagasaki‘s historic and current diversity. Nagasaki is unique in that it was one of the few ports during Japan’s period of isolation that was open to trade with the west, resulting in many Chinese cultural influences. The Nagasaki Lantern Festival originally began as a celebration of the Chinese New Year but grew into a major seasonal tradition celebrated by the entire city in 1994. During the festival, Nagasaki (Shinchi) Chinatown is decorated with over 15,000 beautiful Chinese lanterns. There are also numerous processions, parades, and Chinese dances and performances held at venues throughout Nagasaki.