How To Explore Kyushu, The Island Of Hot Springs

With a new travellers’ expressway pass, exploring Kyushu and its many resorts is a breeze

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

With plenty of hot springs (onsen), fresh seafood, produce and surreal landscapes, Kyushu is blessed with stunning natural sights and a warm climate. Gigantic volcanoes line up one after another on Japan’s third-largest island, making it the widely called “Land of Fire” — and an onsen haven.

 

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

Take a dip

Thanks to its geological location, Kyushu offers numerous unique onsen spots. In the northern part of the island, the Oita Prefecture — nicknamed “Onsen Oita” — is known for having the highest number of hot spring locations and for yielding the highest volume of spring water in Japan. 10 per cent of the country’s onsen spots are located here, totalling approximately 2,580.

A must-visit in the Oita Prefecture is the Beppu Hatto (or “the eight hot springs of Beppu”), which consists of Hamawaki, Beppu, Kamegawa, Kannawa, Kankaiji, Horita, Shibaseki and Myoban. Each of these onsen spots offers unique traits, from different mineral contents to varying sceneries. They range from large-scale spas perfect for families and groups, to secluded traditional ryokan (“inn”) in the mountains.

Want to experience even more of Oita’s hot springs? Take the Beppu Hatto Onsendo challenge and visit all 88 onsen spas in the Beppu, and collect stamps at each location. At the Hyotan Onsen Hot Springs — which has been awarded three Michelin stars — you can see photos of the “Onsen Masters” who have completed the Beppu Hatto Onsendo.

 

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(Photo: JAPANKURU)

Easy driving

A region that is opening up to foreign travellers, Kyushu is increasing the availability of signage, menus and information centres catering towards English-speaking visitors, and occasionally other languages as well.

Additionally, from September this year, the new Kyushu Expressway Pass (KEP) has been launched exclusively for international visitors who want to explore the island in a rental car. The KEP lets foreign drivers access most expressways in Kyushu for a flat rate, instead of incurring toll costs.

Used with the local ETC Card — Japan’s equivalent of Singapore’s CashCard —KEP plans range from 3,500 yen (about $47.30) for two days’ use to 11,500 yen for 10 days. The KEP can be purchased together with your vehicle rental at major car rental companies in Kyushu.

If you’re planning to take a drive across Kyushu, now’s your chance to book the KEP. It is having a special promotion where you will also receive a coupon booklet with special discounts and benefits at multiple facilities, a toll discount on certain return routes from Fukuoka Airport and a special Kyushu gift after completing a survey. This promotion is available until 25 Dec.

Do note that certain city expressways, toll roads, tunnels and more may be excluded from the KEP, so make sure that your ETC has been topped with enough money.

 

Tips for self-driving in Kyushu

If you’re considering going on a self-drive journey in Kyushu, here are some important points to note for a safe and enjoyable trip.

1. The speed limit on public roads is 60 km/h and 100 km/h on expressways.
2. Pay attention to no-overtaking zones.
3. Bring your car to a complete stop at stop signs and in front of train crossings.
4. For comfort, your total driving distance per day should not exceed 150km.
5. Do not enter farms and farmland (unless invited).
6. All children under six must be seated in child seats, which can be rented with the car.
7. Roads far from towns have few streetlights, and wild animals near the roads are more common at night. Special care is required for drivers.

Keen on visiting Kyushu? Grab a 3D2N Fly & Active Kyushu Drive land package from only $340/adult, or a 9D8N Kyushu Discovery Drive with flights (1-9 Dec) from $4,750/adult! For enquiries and bookings, call 6221 4250 or visit www.followmejapan.com.sg.

Brought to you by Kyushu District Transport Bureau and Follow Me Japan.