Blog and photos of tea and onsen destinations off the beaten path.
Kyushu has a rich artistic and cultural scene. Lively festivals, fascinating museums and galleries, imposing castles, traditional Japanese theatre and more. Have fun getting hands-on with arts and culture too. Wear a kimono, make some sushi, fold some paper, arrange some flowers. Let’s take a look at some of the arts, culture and rich history of Japan you can experience when you visit our amazing island of Kyushu
Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival
Visit Kyushu in July and experience one of Japan’s biggest and liveliest festivals. A million visitors can’t be wrong. Join the fun and cheer the huge floats as they hurtle past in a crazy (and sometimes drunken) frenzy. Get some great action shots. The floats are beautifully decorated by the master craftsmen of the Hakata Doll tradition. Gion Yamakasa festival is over 500 years old so you’ll see ancient samurai competing against thoroughly modern anime characters. Immerse yourself in the chanting crowds, the beating drums and the wild colours of Kyushu’s most famous and best-loved festival.
Kyushu National Museum
Opened less than 15 years ago, Kyushu National Museum is Japan’s first national museum in over 100 years. It stands as an equal to the national museums in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. It’s all here. Painting, calligraphy, sculpture, swords, ceramics, textiles, archeology and precious historical records. The exhibits are beautifully presented with English explanations and audio so you won’t miss out. Kyushu National Museum is located in Dazaifu, one of Kyushu’s most fascinating and well-preserved historical quarters. Your day will be a wonderful fusion of the treasures of the past with the living history of today.
Kyushu was home to feudal lords and warring factions for over a thousand years. The castles they built are a towering legacy of those cruel but fascinating times. Many of the imposing structures, built, ravaged and rebuilt still remain. Visit Shimbara Castle and relive the terrible siege that cost 40,000 men, women and children their lives. Gaze out from the keep of Kumamoto Castle as the clan Lord would have done all those centuries ago. It’s a magical way to relive the past. See not only how men fought and died but also how they lived their daily lives. For castles were at the very heart of Japanese feudal societies. Escape to the past and release the warrior within.
Sumo in Kyushu
I love watching, talking and writing about sumo. I don’t understand the rules of baseball (Japan’s other national sport) but I’m mad about sumo. We’re lucky in Kyushu to be one of only four Japanese cities to host the sumo championship. It’s my favourite event of the year. A trip to the sumo is a memorable experience and uniquely Japanese. You don’t have to be a sumo fan to enjoy the event. The fun lies in soaking up the atmosphere. You’ll find some great souvenirs to take home and you’ll love the traditional Japanese snacks. The eating and drinking (booze definitely allowed) is all part of the fun. The Kyushu basho (tournament) takes place in November and tickets sell out fast. Conact us a soon as you can if you want a trip to the sumo to be part of your Kyushu vacation. We’ll include some English sumo info with your ticket to help you understand what to watch out for and the local favourites to cheer for.
Kyushu is famous worldwide for its pottery and porcelain. The most well-known is Arita-ware but there are many others. Arita-ware simply means pottery produced in the village of Arita. A visit to Arita is recommended whether you want to buy, learn or simply look. There are shops and workshops (kilns) scattered all around the village. Many are 100’s of years old. The pottery they produce is exquisitely gorgeous. Don’t be surprised to see items on sale costing many thousands of dollars. You can also see objects originally exhibited in the renowned Paris 1900 Expo. Don’t miss a visit to the Kyushu Ceramic Museum. It’s free entry, attractively laid out and has (s0me) English information. The exhibits are wonderful. Amazingly your snack in the cafe may served on a 250 year-old plate. What a treat! Visit our Pottery in Kyushu page for more info.
Traditional Japanese theatre
Japanese theatre (both kabuki and noh) has a tradition dating back 100’s of years. Despite the onslaught of the modern world it is still going strong. Love, moral conflict, fun and slapstick. The themes are timeless. A visit to a traditional Japanese theatre-house will be a spectacle of colour, lights and music. It’s a deeply Japanese experience. Don’t worry that you won’t understand the words. Most Japanese don’t either. We’ll give you a print out with background info and a summary of the story so you can follow along. Performances are held irregularly and tickets are snapped up by legions of fanatical fans. Give us as much notice as you can if you want to visit a Japanese theatre performance while you are in Kyushu.
We can’t talk about Japanese arts and culture without mentioning the Zen-inspired Japanese tea ceremony. At its heart ‘the way of the tea’ is about calmness and order of mind. It’s about aesthetics and grace of movement, about ultimate courtesy to one’s guests. Practitioners spend many decades perfecting their art. Whether as participant or observer try to take the time to dip your toe into this ancient practice. See how it feels for you. We’ll be happy to help you arrange a Japanese tea ceremony experience while you are in Kyushu. It’s a unique ‘time-out’ from our hectic world.
Don’t just gaze at it, do it. Arts and culture should be living things not locked in a glass case. Stroll around town in a kimono (for the girls) or yukata (for the guys). You’ll get a selfie to remember. Try your hand at making sushi. It’s great fun for both adults or kids. Have a go at the ancient Japanese art of calligraphy and then print it on a t-shirt to show your friends. Be amazed at what you make with paper in a quick origami class. Practice the furoshiki technique and never be short of a bag again. Make or paint some pottery. Learn the beautiful art of Hakata Doll painting. Enjoy a cultural experience to remember.
Sprinkle some arts and culture into your stay. It’s fascinating, fun and something to remember. Whatever your interests we can work them into your Kyushu stay. Let us know what interests you. We’ll plan a unique journey around Kyushu to accomplish your artistic and cultural goals.