Friday, November 14, 2014

Dreaming of Kyushu

This winter I'll be back in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands.

I will have visited Kyushu three years in a row: 2013, 2014, and 2015. I go back for the gentle subtropical climate while Minnesota's long winter refuses to budge.

Kyushu is a manageable size, about one-sixth the area of Minnesota or Britain. It feels laid-back compared to the megacities to the north. The 800 miles (about 1,300 km) from Tokyo by bullet train to southern Kyushu is too far for most foreign tourists.

I treasure the national parks, gorgeous hiking trails, smoking volcanoes, the early cherry blossoms, the ancient cedars.

I revel in the logistics of travel. The Boeing hydrofoil scudding across the Sea of Japan from Busan, South Korea, to Fukuoka in northwestern Kyushu. The 767-300 above the Pacific heading nonstop to Fukuoka from Honolulu. The bullet train (shinkansen) from Fukuoka/Hakata hurtling south to Kagoshima. The country bus taking me to a trailhead. The car ride offered by a kind local.

I enjoy the contrasts, the lush forests, the dry lava fields.

There's the politeness, cleanliness, attention to detail, positive attitudes, style, food, value for money. Nobody will harass me. I will catch each connecting train. There will be a clean room at the end of the day for a good price, usually around US$60.

The snow started to fall in Minnesota this week. It was time to create an interactive map of Kyushu hikes with trailheads that can be reached by public transport.

To view layers, click the list icon towards the top left then click markers for additional information. 
You can also view a larger version of this map.

I accept the culture will always be opaque to me. But then there's the joy of finding something in common we can all smile about. Hiking is one of those things.

Me in the middle, sharing a hotspring footbath at the end of a hike
Note: I'm building a list of links about Kyushu.

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