There have been so many terrible news out of Japan, people are starting to associate this beautiful place with nothing more than natural disasters, radiation, danger. I thought it would be essential to remind people that Japan is relatively vast, stretching for thousands of kilometers. Kyoto is over 500 km away from Fukushima. If you considering travel to Japan, but worried about going to Tokyo, here’s my advice: don’t go to Tokyo, but do go to the south of Japan where there is so much to explore.
Instead of flying to Narita, fly to Kansai airport (Osaka). Osaka can be your neon adventure, and Kyoto your sample of the best and finest in Japanese culture.
If Kansai (the south-central part of the Honshu island, including Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe) is still too close for comfort, here’s a great idea. Fly to Fukuoka instead for an amazing tour of Kyushu. Kyushu is not on many travellers’ itinerary, but this is the place where I am very keen to return. It is a land of ancient volcanos, hot springs, lush subtropical forests and a dose of cosmopolitanism not found elsewhere in Japan. Enjoy Korean barbeques in Fukuoka and Portuguese pastries and Chinese pork buns in Nagasaki, and then check out the active volcano Sakurajima and the lunar landscapes of Mount Aso.
Not to be missed, of course, is the Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki – pilgrimage to this sombre site is often a sole reason for the trip to Japan.
Kyushu is comfortably far, far away from the earthquake-stricken area, see?
A few people have been asking me if they should proceed with their plans of travel to Japan. Based on what my Japanese friends told me, Tokyo is best to be avoided. Aftershocks are still strong and everyone is trying to get out of there. But the south of Japan is so incredibly rich in experiences and so often overlooked, perhaps this is the only time when you can justify seeing that part of Japan instead of the North.