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This May Be Japan’s Most Overlooked Peninsula

Japan’s Kyushu doesn’t get enough love—I think we can all agree on that. Even when travelers do venture over the Kanmon Straits, however, they rarely stray off the island’s tourist trail: Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Kagoshima—oh my!

The good news is that if you’ve got some time and a sense of adventure, there’s plenty else to explore here. The better news? Much of off-the-beaten-path Kyushu is almost completely devoid of foreign tourists.

This is particularly the case if you drive northeastward about an hour from the onsen town of Beppu. Continue reading my Kunisaki Peninsula itinerary to learn more!

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How to Get to the Kunisaki Peninsula

I’m going to start with a reality that may disappoint some of you: The best way to take a Kunisaki Peninsula trip is to rent a car and self-drive. While you can technically use public transportation to reach some of Kunisaki’s top destinations, doing so requires a level of coordination (and, frankly, a quantity of time) that is out of reach for most visitors to Japan.

Renting a car will allow you to devote less time and energy to logistics, and more to actually enjoying your trip. For some travelers, this will be more time forest bathing at Futago-ji, while others will want to read more about Japanese sports betting sites and use lunchtime to focus on winning money to use on the rest of the trip. Most importantly, you’ll get back to Beppu early enough to enjoy dinner cooked using onsen steam!

What to Do on the Kunisaki Peninsula

Go back in time in Kitsuki


Japan (and even Kyushu specifically) are full of Samurai villages and streets, but Kitsuki is one of my favorites. Although it’s true that Kitsuki Castle is not one of the “original” 12 in Japan, the quiet and lack of people here really allows you to go back in time, both in terms of the ancient architecture, as well as in your own mind.

Take a timeless hike through Futago-ji


Futago-ji technically dates back to the 8th century, though the experience of traipsing through it is utterly timeless. This is because it’s probably the most heavily-wooded place on my Kunisaki Peninsula itinerary. “Forest bathing” connects you with something eternal—something infinite—even if you don’t spiritually connect to the temple.

Say a prayer at Usa Shrine


Speaking of spirituality, Usa Shrine is definitely the best-known Shinto shrine in Kunisaki; it also dates back to the 8th century. Like Futago-ji, it’s sprawling and architecturally impressive, so even if you have no prayers to say, you’ll still walk away feeling blessed in a certain sense.

(Or simply have a meal there)


Blessed and fed: The food stalls just in front of Usa Shrine are probably the best place to have lunch listed within this Kunisaki Peninsula guide. Options are pretty eclectic, from casual items like yakisoba and karaage, to more formal teishoku set menus with rice and miso soup.

Bonus: Get on awesome view of Beppu on your way back


As I’ll explain in just a few paragraphs, there are good reasons (one good reason in particular) to stay in Kunisaki until after the sun sets. If you do end up heading back to Beppu by then, however, I recommend that you stop at this viewpoint in order to take in an absolutely fabulous panorama of the city.

Is the Kunisaki Peninsula Worth Visiting?

Before I visited the Kunisaki Peninsula, I honestly wondered whether the effort I was about to put into going would be worth it. At that point in my Japan travels, it wasn’t common for me to rent vehicles. Moreover, given that I was trying to cram “all” of Kyushu into just a couple of weeks, I worried that the day I was devoting to Kunisaki might’ve been better spent elsewhere.

If you do follow my Kunisaki Peninsula itinerary, I’d say that in most cases these fears will prove unfortunate: The Kunisaki Peninsula, as I explored it, is completely worth visiting. The only modification I might make? Keep the car overnight. This way, you can watch sunset somewhere along the coast of the peninsula, be it in Kitsuki, or behind the torii gate of Hachiman-nada Shrine.

Other FAQ About Visiting the Kunisaki Peninsula

Where is the Kunisaki Peninsula?

The Kunisaki Peninsula is located in the northeastern part of Oita prefecture, along the east coast of Japan’s Kyushu island. It’s commonly seen as a day trip from the onsen town of Beppu, although it’s possible to spend a night or longer there as well.

How do you reach the Kunisaki Peninsula?

The easiest way to reach the Kunisaki Peninsula is to rent a car in Beppu or Oita and self-drive. While you can go via public transport to several spots on the peninsula, this is often too cumbersome to justify, particularly when you consider the relatively low cost of renting a car in Japan.

Why is the Kunisaki Peninsula famous?

Among travelers, the Kunisaki Peninsula is famous because it offers historical, architectural, cultural and natural experiences that are authentic and virtually devoid of foreign tourists. There’s also some important history that has taken place here, although it is not necessarily top-of-mind for sightseers.

The Bottom Line

I hope this Kunisaki Peninsula itinerary has inspired you. Some of you had been wanting to visit the peninsula anyway, and now have the details you needed to make the trip happen. For others, this will be the first time you’ve ever heard of Kunisaki—and you now have a completely new place on your bucket list. Whether you tag a day trip on from the onsen town of Beppu, or integrate it into your Kyushu trip some other way, the Kunisaki Peninsula will prove unforgettable. Want the rest of your Japan trip to be just as timeless? Consider hiring me to plan it!


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