Island Hopper Tour 2018
Our fifth small group tour of 2018 was our Island Hopper Tour 2018. This tour was a 12 day tour which ran from October 22nd to November 2nd, 2018. This relaxing, slow-paced tour of the southern islands of Japan began and ended in Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu. A small group of three people from Australia joined the tour, and we had a wonderful time traveling to four of the most beautiful islands in Japan - Kyushu, Yakushima Island, Okinawa Main Island, and Tokashiki Island.
We began the tour by visiting Mt. Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan. We traveled to Mt. Aso from Kumamoto by private vehicle because the train lines that run from Kumamoto to Mt. Aso are still not completely rebuilt after being severely damaged by an earthquake in 2016. The entire island of Kyushu has a lot of volcanic activity, with several active volcanoes and many natural hot springs dotting the island. The conditions on the day we visited Mt. Aso were good, meaning we were able to get right to the rim of its huge caldera. At first the volcanic lake inside was not visible because of the huge amount of billowing steam, but just before we were about to leave there was a short opening and we were able to catch a glimpse of the emerald green lake at the bottom of the caldera.
Day three of the tour took us off the island of Kyushu and to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Yakushima Island. We traveled from Kumamoto to Kagoshima by shinkansen and then from Kagoshima to Yakushima Island by a high speed hydrofoil boat. We had a lovely, smooth 2 and a half hour ride and took in some amazing scenery on the way, including several volcanic islands in the middle of an eruption.
We stayed two nights on the amazing Yakushima Island and spent the one full day we were there traveling around the entire island by private vehicle stopping by places of interest on the way. We first visited Yakusugi Land where we enjoyed a leisurely 30 minute walk through an ancient rain forest where we saw huge cedar trees that were well over 1000 years old. Some other places we visited on our way around the island included a seaside natural hot spring, Okawa Waterfall, Yakushima Lighthouse, and the beautiful Nagata-Inakahama Beach where we enjoyed a walk and a swim.
After spending two amazing nights on Yakushima Island we traveled to the tropical paradise of Okinawa after having a one night stop over back in Fukuoka. Our first 3 nights in Okinawa were spent in the quaint little village of Onna at Moon Beach Resort. On the first night we were there we were able to enjoy a traditional Okinawan concert and spectacular fireworks over the beautiful tropical ocean. During the days we visited Ryukyu Mura, a traditional Okinawan village, where we saw traditional dancing and singing. We also visited the amazing Churaumi Aquarium, one of only a few aquariums in the world to keep whale sharks in captivity.
From Onna Village we then traveled to the remote Tokashiki Island by a high speed water ferry. It only takes about 45 minutes to reach Tokashiki Island from Okinawa Main Island, but it felt like a completely different world. Tokashiki Island is a popular place for day trips from Naha, but we were lucky enough to stay a night and experience all the peace and quite of a small tropical island once all the tourists have left. We had plenty of free time to enjoy walks along the beach and a short hike up to an observation deck that overlooked the beautiful tropical ocean and surrounding islands.
Our last stop in Okinawa was its capital city, Naha. Different from the other places we visited on this tour Naha is quite a big city with a busy entertainment district called Kokusai Street. Kokusai Street is lined with many different kinds of stores, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. After taking a walk through this exciting district we then visited one of Naha's most famous destinations, the magnificent Shuri Castle.
This brought us to our last stop of the tour, the historic city of Fukuoka. We enjoyed a nice walk through Ohori Park, visited the beautiful Ohori Park Japanese Gardens, and explored the majestic Gokoku Shrine. At night we enjoyed a lovely farewell dinner together at a traditional Kyushu-style izakaya located right in front of our hotel.
This tour is scheduled at this time of the year to miss the extreme heat and humidity of summer and also because it is at the very end of the typhoon season. We had nice warm weather for most of the tour with only a small amount of rain when we were high up in the mountains on Yakushima Island.
We look forward to seeing you on one of our fully escorted private or small group tours of Japan sometime soon!
A&C Tours Japan