Kyūshū National Museum

Top choice

Built into the tranquil eastern hills of Dazaifu and reached through more escalators than can be found at the average airport, this striking structure (built 2005) resembles a massive space station and chronicles the cultural flow between Asia and Kyūshū (and, by extension, the rest of Japan). The permanent, 1500-sq-metre 'Cultural Exchange Exhibition' on the 4th floor includes priceless pieces from across the continent; English signage and an audioguide help illuminate it all. A must-visit for architecture and history buffs.

There are often high-profile special exhibitions of Japanese and Western art. There's also a wonderful, family-friendly 'please touch' section called Ajippa, and a cool shop with items from across Asia.

The building's architect was Kiyonori Kikutake (1928–2011), a native of Fukuoka Prefecture whose many other notable buildings include the Osaka Expo Tower and the Edo-Tokyo Museum.