105 Kms from Kitakyushu
Volcano scares: Aso (2 days) Leave the main island of Honshū for a few days and visit its volcanic neighbour, Kyūshū. Head to the centre of the island to explore the area around Aso-san: it is the biggest active caldera (more or less rounded area left by a volcano crumbling) in the world.
159 Kms from Kitakyushu
Intense history: Hiroshima (1 day) This city’s name is forever linked to the atomic bomb that hit it on August 6th, 1945. This is not bound to be an easy experience, but definitely visit the Peace Memorial Museum and walk out of there forever convinced of the necessity to eradicate nuclear weapons on a global scale. Hiroshima is anything but a trapped in its tragic past though: it’s actually a city with a pretty chill vibe. Head to Okonomimura — 3 levels of small stalls serving the exact same thing — to taste the region’s signature dish, the okonomiyaki (sort of shredded cabbage pancake), then collapse in a food coma. Cover yourself in as many layers as you can (the wind is freezing), and get up close with an active volcano! The fumes rising up from the pale green lake at the bottom of the Naka-dake volcano are toxic, which is why access to the park can be closed some days. If you brought your hiking boots, cross the black sand desert and climb through the cold lava stones, marble-like rocks and bright orange summits to reach the top of Taka-dake — a hike you’ll never forget.
299 Kms from Kitakyushu
Art island: Naoshima (2 days) Explore the open-air gallery that is Naoshima, a tiny fishing island of the inland sea, and try to spot all the sculptures scattered along the seashore — there are works by Yayoi Kusama, Niki de Saint Phalle and many others. Experience more art by James Turell, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and even works by Claude Monet inside the multiple museums of the island, which buildings have been designed to completely blend in with the natural landscape. Enjoy being on this rural and peaceful island to wind down: go for long walks across the countryside, try to spot random tiny Shinto sanctuaries, explore the cute little streets — and maybe relax at a cat cafe for an hour or two.