Arita & Imari
Arita (有田) and Imari (伊万里) are two towns in western Saga Prefecture that are known for pottery. They were the first place in Japan where porcelain was produced about 400 years ago after kaolin – the mineral essential to making porcelain – had been found at a local mountain and craftsmen with the necessary skills had been brought from Korea into the country.
The new technology was an extremely valuable resource for the local ruler because porcelain was better and stronger than contemporary pottery and sold very well inside and outside of Japan. The town of Arita and the isolated mountain village of Okachiyama served as the two main sites of production, while Imari served as the port from where the finished products were shipped out.
Today, tourists and locals are enjoying Takeo Onsen’s waters at several public bathhouses found around the town’s iconic Sakura-mon, a two-storied, red-lacquered gate. The main public bath, Motoyu (400 yen), has two simple pools (a hot one and very hot one) for each gender, while the Horaiyu (400 yen) provides each gender with one, even simpler pool. The third bath, the Saginoyu (600 yen) has more facilities, including a sauna and outdoor baths. Furthermore, there are a few private baths available that require reservations (1900-3800 yen per hour).
Fukuoka (福岡) is Kyushu’s largest and one of Japan’s ten most populated cities. Because of its closeness to the Asian mainland (closer to Seoul than to Tokyo), Fukuoka has been an important harbor city for many centuries and was chosen by the Mongol invasion forces as their landing point in the 13th century.
Today’s Fukuoka is the product of the fusion of two cities in the year 1889, when the port city of Hakata and the former castle town of Fukuoka were united into one city called Fukuoka. Hakata remains the name of one of Fukuoka’s central districts and of the main railway station.
Dazaifu is a small, quiet city on the outskirts of the large city of Fukuoka, from which it is perfect for a day trip. There are a number of temples and shrines, the most famous of which is the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, as well as sites related to Dazaifu’s role as the region’s administrative center, such as the Government Office Ruins. In 2005 the massive Kyushu national museum was opened to the public, making a great new addition to the city’s attractions.
Nagasaki (長崎) is an attractively situated port city on the island of Kyushu and the capital of Nagasaki Prefecture.
As one of Japan’s closest port cities to the Asian mainland, Nagasaki has played a prominent role in foreign trade relations for many centuries and was the most important of only a very few ports open to restricted numbers of foreign traders during Japan’s Period od isolation. In more recent history, Nagasaki became the second city after Hiroshima to be destroyed by an atomic bomb towards the end of World War 2.