Delegates from Kyushu visit London to inspire UK travellers

Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four major islands, is perhaps a lesser-known destination for British tourists to the country. However, the UK has in fact had a long history with the island, beginning with English navigator William Adams, whose ship was brought to anchor off the island in 1600. He is believed to be the first Englishman ever to travel to Japan, and is also credited with later having become the first known ‘western’ samurai, taking the name Miura Anjin.

This year also marks the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the first British trading post in Japan in Kyushu’s Hirado (located in Nagasaki prefecture). The agreement to establish the trading post was made after a ship from England (The Clove), captained by British commander John Saris, reached Hirado in 1613, carrying official letters and presents from King James I intended for the Shogun. (You can find more information about Japan400 here.)

In more recent history, Scottish merchant Thomas Glover arrived in Nagasaki in 1859 and later founded his own firm, Glover and Co., which was based there. He became an important figure in the industrialisation of Japan, and the home which he constructed in Nagasaki is credited as the first Western-style building in Japan. The home and its garden is now a popular tourist destination. Although for most people Nagasaki is perhaps associated with the atomic bomb, one should not overlook its long and rich relationship with the UK and its long-standing reputation as the place where "the west meets Japan”.

Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu

Thomas Glover mansion at dusk


In addition to the many historical points of interest, Kyushu as a travel destination boasts a mild, subtropical climate, plenty of sunshine and natural beauty preserved in several national parks. Kyushu abounds in volcanoes, including the famous Mount Aso, and hot springs. Roughly the same size as Holland, Kyushu is also easy to navigate via its well-connected railway system, including the high-speed rail service, Kyushu Shinkansen, which was completed in 2011. This autumn also saw the introductions of Seven Stars, Japan’s first luxury sleeper train, which operates across Kyushu.

Last month, the Governor of Fukuoka Prefecture, Hiroshi Ogawa, led a delegation of 50 travel experts from Kyushu to the UK for a seminar and reception in London in an effort to inspire more UK travellers to visit this yet-to-be-discovered part of Japan. Each of Kyushu’s seven prefectures was represented – the first time all prefectures have come together to promote the island – bringing with them locally produced sake (rice wine) and shochu (a strong alcoholic drink typically distilled from sweet potatoes).

Seven Stars in Kyushu (copyright - Utsunomiya Terunobu)

Governor of Fukuoka Prefecture, Hiroshi Ogawa, introducing the region

Ambassador Hayashi addressed guests at the reception, where he described Kyushu as "an attractive destination where you can get a feel for history and enjoy a variety of beautiful scenery, including volcanoes, mountain streams and stunning coastline". For people travelling by train, he added, "the scenery changes completely every three minutes". He went on to say that Kyushu, "being blessed with a mild climate together with its geographical diversity, naturally produces a rich variety of tasty food and drinks". To be more specific, he referred to the range of delicious and distinctive local delicacies including superb beef, pork, sardines & mackerel as well as super-quality sake and shochu awaiting the visitors to Kyushu. In his closing remarks, he encouraged British travellers to explore the charms of the island, following in the footsteps of Anjin and John Saris.

Kyushu hosts eight international airports and Fukuoka airport is connected to 25 Japanese cities. For more information about travelling to Kyushu, please visit www.seejapan.co.uk.