A Tourist’s Itinerary For South Japan

Hiroshi is an exchange student from Japan.

One night in Morrell, we struck up conversation about differences between university in Japan and the UK. Hiro’s top three notes were how many potatoes we eat, how alcohol was allowed on campus, and that here, buses have second floors.

Ever since I watched my first Studio Ghibli movie, I’ve been a low-key Japanophile. I asked him where a good place to visit would be, off the beaten track. Instead, Hiro was generous enough to give me step-by-step guide for South Japan.

“My hometown and prefecture, Ōita (大分), is in the south. It has a beautiful countryside and it’s popular with Asian tourists, mainly for the dishes it serves. Toriten (とり天) and kara-age (唐揚げ) are both chicken tempura (pictured in the featured image); dango-jiru (だんご汁) is Ōita’s take on miso soup; and seki-saba and seki-aji(関さば(seki-saba)、関あじ(seki-aji)) are mackerel and horse mackerel, freshly caught and prepared like sashimi.

Toriten (とり天)

Once you’ve had your fill of Ōita, take the ten-minute train journey to Beppu (別府). Tickets are only £2 and, once there, you can enjoy the hot springs (Onsen 露天風呂) that Beppu is famous for.

The Prefecture of Ōita

About 10 km from Beppu is Yufuin (湯布院町), an incredibly beautiful and historic town. Located in the basin of Mount Yufu (由布岳), it is surrounded by dairy farms and rice paddies. Yufuin also has hot springs, but once there, you’ll probably prefer to just wonder around the boutique shops, cafes, and museums.

After you’ve travelled around Ōita, you should visit its adjacent prefecture: Fukuoka (福岡市). It takes about two hours to get to the capital, Fukuoka, by express train. It’s easy to use and roughly £40. It’s famous for inventing Tonkotsu-Ramen (豚骨ラーメン). Once there, you should visit the Dazaifu Tenmangū (太宰府天満宮): the shrine of the studying-god.”

On the road to Dazaifu Tenmangū

I told Hiro, “I think I’ve prayed to him one or two times…”

“For impressive buildings, shopping, and nightlife, you can head downtown to Tenjin (天神) and Nakasu-Kawabata (中洲川端) by tube. In Nakasu-Kawabata there’s a huge shopping center called Canal City. Also known as the ‘City Within the City’, a canal runs through the complex’s base, trailing past shops, cafes, restaurants, theater, cinemas, and two hotels.”

So, if you’re thinking of travelling east this summer, don’t get lost in translation. Follow the guide of a local!

Photos by Hiroshi Nakamura 中村裕