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Kyūshū (九州), Japan's southern- and westernmost main island, is arguably its warmest and most beautiful, with active volcanic peaks, rocky, lush and near-tropical coastlines, and great onsen (hot springs) virtually everywhere. History and legend were made here: Jōmon ruins, Shintō's sun goddess, wealthy trading ports, cloistered foreigners, samurai rebels and one of the earth's greatest wartime tragedies all loom large.

Today, burgeoning Fukuoka is a multicultural metropolis. In sweet, picturesque Nagasaki, tragedy contrasts with a colourful trading history. Kumamoto's castle is one of Japan's finest fortresses, and volcanic Aso is the world's largest caldera (both were heavily damaged in earthquakes in 2016). Saga Prefecture boasts three legendary pottery centres. Steam pours from the earth in Unzen and Beppu, Miyazaki's Nichinan coast boasts vistas, monkeys and Japan's best surfing, while Kagoshima, heart of the Meiji Restoration, smoulders with active volcanoes. Peppered throughout are hot-spring towns, trekking trails and family-friendly fun.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Kyūshū.