Day 1. Fukuoka City
Spent the night at JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Chuo which is right across major shopping malls JR Hakata City and 2-minute walk from Hakata Station. Although the room is a tad small, it has cosy, modern feeling to it.
If you’re staying here, you can be sure that you don’t have to travel far for food. Trust me, JR Hakata City has an amazing food hall in the basement. It has everything from bento to confectionery to healthy food. And most importantly, Ichiran Ramen is just next door (yay!).
Day 2. Beppu
Beppu is a city and spa resort on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. Situated between volcanic mountains and the sea, it’s home to more than 2,000 onsen (hot springs). Before visiting the famous hot spring complex at Ōita Prefecture, we stopped at the town. Stumbled upon my favorite soft-serve brand, Cremia.
Our first stop, was the “hells” (地獄, jigoku) of Beppu. The hells of Beppu are seven spectacular hot springs which are only viewing and not bathing (the temperature can reach 200 deg C). My favorite was Umi Jigoku, featuring cobalt blue hot spring as a result of high levels of iron sulfate in the water. There are also 4 smaller hot springs located in the same park (within walking distance). So, if you only have time to visit one location, I strongly recommend that you go for this one. You may find out more information on this here.
We then continued our journey to another hot spring called Chinoike Jigoku or blood pond hell. It’s Japan’s oldest hot spring with striking red mud. There is only one spring in this park and a large souvenir shop. It wasn’t as beautiful as Umi Jigoku. Skip it. It’s not worth traveling for.
I was so excited upon checking in to our ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) at Hana Beppu. It was my first time staying in a tatami-matted room. The room looks like a living room when we first checked in. The staff laid down the mattresses and converted it into a bed room when we had our dinner downstairs. Interesting! This ryokan also features communal bath and other public areas where guests may wear yukata provided.
Day 3. Mount Aso
Located at Kumamoto Prefecture, it is the largest active volcano in Japan and is among the largest in the world. When it was summer and the temperature was constantly at 35 deg C or more, it was refreshing to visit a cooler area. The view here is breath-taking and you can see the mighty Mount Aso and the surrounding cities from top. The bus journey to and fro this place was scenic with some exhilarating panoramic views along the route.
Around 45-minute drive from Mount Aso, we visited Shirakawa Fountainhead. Also known as the Shirakawa Suigen, this is the most well-known mineral water springs in Japan. A short walk from the gate will take you to the stream where you can directly drink the water from the source. Wasn’t a fan of this place because all you can see was water springing from the ground. A small creek and a couple of torii gates weren’t that inspiring either. Perhaps, this place looks better in autumn.
Day 4. Asahi Brewery
A visit to Japan isn’t complete without visiting Asahi Beer, one of the largest beer breweries in Japan. The Asahi Factory Tour is around 1 hour guided tour where you can learn about their history, ingredients and the entire brewing process. The tour was concluded with a beer tasting where you can enjoy freshly brewed beer of your choice.
Day 5. Fukuoka City
Fukuoka has a lot to offer, especially when you like to shop and to eat. There are endless rows of shops and shopping malls along the main roads. We stayed at Hotel New Otani Hakata which is just a stone away from Hakata Station. We almost didn’t encounter food that not up to par with standard. The food here is so much cheaper (around 20-30%) than in Singapore too.
As compared to Tokyo, I’d prefer Fukuoka. It has almost the same things to offer (or more) without the hustle bustle of the city. The city itself is more laid back and commuting here is so much easier than in Tokyo. We didn’t have to walk so far just to get to a station. Everything is within reach.