Kyushu

Steeped in tradition and covered with rugged mountains, the island of Kyushu-Japan"s third largest and most southerly island-mixes ancient history and quaint rural towns, with ultra modern wonders like the world"s largest indoor water Park, Ocean Dome, and the meticulously recreated Dutch village of Huis Ten Bosch.

The Kyushu region is composed of seven prefectures, including the outlying island of Okinawa. In addition to Ocean Dome and Huis Ten Bosch, travelers visit Kyushu to see Japan"s largest active volcano, the 5,223 foot Mt. Aso, or relax in the soothing waters of the Beppu hot springs. Another important stop on a tour of Kyushu is the Peace Memorial in remembrance of those who died after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Ocean Dome

Are you tired of sand fleas, sharks, slimy seaweed and sudden rainstorms? Have you traveled the globe in search of the most perfect beach with nothing to show for your labors but a sunburn? If so, head to the seaside city of Miyazaki on Japan"s Kyushu Island and the world"s largest indoor water park, Ocean Dome.

White sand beaches, climate controlled air and water, and a flame-throwing volcano all await under the world"s largest retractable roof. The whole complex is a testament to modern technology, engineering, and the Japanese penchant for imitation. And for you old fashion types, there is an actual ocean (the Pacific) 300 yards away. The sand isn"t as silky, the water tends to be frigid during the winter months, but, then again, it isn"t $50 dollars a day like Ocean Dome.

Miyazaki is a one and half hour flight from Tokyo. One of the best places to stay is the Sheraton Seagaia Resort. (The name is a combination of the words "sea" and "gaia" which is Greek for earth.)

Huis Ten Bosch

If Ocean Dome is an imitation of nature, the recreated village of Huis Ten Bosch is an attempt to replicate an entire seventeenth-century Dutch seaport, complete with a Royal Palace, customs house, town halls, churches, self-cleaning canals, and, yes, actual Dutch people. An hour north of Nagasaki near the Korean ferry port of Hakata, Huis Ten Bosch is meant to celebrate the long trading and seafaring connection Nagasaki has shared with the Dutch. The recreated village is a combination of Dutch city planning and Japanese technology. For two billion dollars what you get is part twilight zone, part time travel, with that added bonus that, unlike Amsterdam, the canals don"t smell like open sewers.

As you would expect there are a number of seaside themed Dutch hotels located in Huis Ten Bosch. The most exclusive is the Royal Guest House, which has only nine suites. Other options include the Hotel Amsterdam and the Hotel Europe. Don"t expect to pay less than 31,000 Yen for the cheapest double room at any of these hotels.

Fukuoka

Another stop on your tour of Kyushu is the city of Fukuoka. An important harbor city facing the Korean peninsula, and one of Japan"s ten biggest cities, Fukuoka is best known for its open-air food stands, known as yatai. There are over 150 yatai across the city, with most of these located in the Tenjin and Nakagawa districts. Typical yatai fare is grilled chicken kebabs and a local noodle dish known as Hakata Ramen. In Fukuoka yatai are a prefect place to interact with locals, enjoy local cuisine and maybe even a shot or two of Sake.

Aso and Beppu

Finally, for those who"s idea of nature isn"t a climate controlled water park or reconstructed city, Kyushu offers the wonderful Mt. Aso. When Aso erupted sometime between 300,000 to 90,000 years ago, the blast left a 120 km caldera. Today, approximately 100,000 people in dozens of villages live within the caldera. There are still active volcanoes and vents within the center of the caldera, and guided tours through Mt. Aso are available for the adventure seeker. As you would expect with so much tectonic activity Kyushu is a great place to enjoy traditional Japanese hot springs, known as onsen. Beppu is one such onsen located in the Oita prefecture. There are roughly 3,000 hot springs at Beppu, which attract 12 million tourists annually. There are numerous guesthouses, ranging from cheap backpacker"s delights, to modern accommodations.

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