Kyushu, Japan: The Story of a Tree & a Typhoon

There are those times when life gives you a big ol’ bag of lemons and you’re forced to make lemonade.  This past weekend was one of those times.  John and I have been running through our Japan bucket list, trying to check everything off before our impending return and one of the big-ticket items was a trip to Yakushima, a small island off the southern coast of Kyushu.   Yakushima is supposedly one of the greenest places on earth, remote, difficult to get to, and home to the true reason for the visit, Jomonsugi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 2200-7000 year old tree.  John fondly calls it the “tree of life”.  I mean the thing does have its own eco-system.  So obviously this merited a visit.  We booked a trip to Yakushima for this past weekend, but of course the universe had other plans for us that involved plane delays and a typhoon.

Literally, there have been two major typhoons two weekends in a row and it’s not really even typhoon season anymore.  Honestly, the earth is dying, I’m certain of it.  Also, outside of the typhoon for us not making it to Yakushima I blame Jetstar, the Spirit Airlines of Asia.  I had rebooked our flights from Saturday to Friday late afternoon in hopes of getting to the island before the typhoon hit…of course the best laid plans always go awry and our flight to Kyushu was delayed due to plane issues, thus we missed our flight to the island.

In all hopes that weather gods would hold out we rebooked for the first flight out in the morning from Kagoshima to Yakushima, but since the universe quite literally wanted to rain on my parade our flight ended up canceled due to the typhoon.  On a little side note, Japan Airlines pretty much rocks as they will completely refund your money if your flight is canceled due to weather.  So silver lining? We also did have some pretty fabulous ramen that Friday night.  Kyushu’s ramen game is pretty solid.  美味しいい!


So trying to avoid a total loss, we decided to make the best of our four-day weekend in Kyushu by renting a car and taking a road trip.  It wasn’t the our best planned trip but it ended up working out ok in the end.

Kyushu is one of Japan’s five main Islands and is home to major cities like Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Kagoshima.  Since we had flown into Kagoshima we were pretty far south on the island and decided to venture north into the mountains and onsen towns on the island.

Our first stop was Kurakawa Onsen, which is a cozy onsen town nestled in the middle of the island.  I love me a good Ryokan and of course a beautiful little town.  Due to the typhoon the weather was rainy and cold so this was the perfect way to take advantage of it.  Also, the drive through Kyushu was unreal, it really reminded me of the North Island in NZ.  Take a look at a few pics.


Because we decided to splurge on a nicer Ryokan we were able to relax in the rainy weather, enjoy the onsens, and of course one of my favorite things Kaiseki dinning, in-room.  Kaiseki is the best because of the beautiful presentation of the food and all the flavors in just a small little dish.  Apparently this area of Japan is also known for Basashi, or horse sashimi.  Since this was a last-minute trip we booked the day of, we could request this…not really sure I wanted to though.

To continue with the relaxing “spa” like weekend we decided to part take in the infamous sand baths in a nearby town of Beppu.  Sand bathing apparently is a thing in Kyushu and is pretty famous.  Obviously, getting buried in hot sand seemed like a good idea, so we just went with it.  The sand baths are made up of warm volcanic sand and you’re buried in it for 15 minutes.  It’s supposed to be therapeutic and good for health and stuff.  Not sure what to make of it, neither did I, but I did leave feeling pretty good afterwards.

Found this famous little onsen in the red light district of Beppu…it was an “authentic” experience to say the least 


In nice weather this is often done outside on a beach, but you know the typhoon and all.

After our little side venture, we decided to head back down to Kagoshima and explore the city.  I also discovered that Aira, a city in Kagoshima Prefecture is home to the largest tree in Japan.  Since we weren’t going to get to see Jomonsugi, we were going to see a tree, any tree!  The Camphur Tree of Kamou is apparently 1500 years old and is the largest in all of Japan…so you know it wasn’t a total wash in the tree department.


I did say this blog post was the story of a tree…well here’s the tree! 

Annnnd in true weather god fashion the sun was shining and the weather was absolutely perfect…two days after we were supposed to travel to Yakushima.  The irony is just so sad.  To make the best of it we decided to explore a little of the Kagoshima Port and attempt to get a view of the active volcano near the city, Sakurajima.  I won’t lie that the disappoint of not making it to Yakushima set in as we sat outside enjoying the beautiful weather…lemons to lemonade, lemons to lemonade…


Our final stop on this tour of randomness was to Kagomma Furusato Yatai-mura, aka “food stall village”.  This was a great way for us to try a some of the local fair, enjoy some namas, and cheers to a vacation that wasn’t planned but ended up working out alright.


Started eating this one before I took a pic…


And on the way out of town we finally got to see the tree we came all the way down here to see, Jomonsugi.


Albeit it’s an englarged airport photo, but you know I’ll take what I can get.

Until next time! Ja Mata じゃまた!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good for you guys
    I was worried with the weather
    But you certainly ended up making lemonade!!


  2. erinnkrampe says:

    Great post, Nicole! I thought you had written a blog on Kyushu! Yeah! Now I want to go see the tree too, hehe!


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