Kurume and Yanagawa are southern Fukuoka Prefecture's two largest cities. The area they occupy is home to a number of great attractions that make a visit well-worth your while.
The southern part of Fukuoka is accessible by train and bus.
Both Kurume and Yanagawa lie on the Nishitetsu train line, and the area is crisscrossed by several JR lines. For more local travel, Nishitetsu runs comprehensive bus services across Fukuoka Prefecture.
Kurume is a city in the southwest of Fukuoka Prefecture, built on the banks of the Chikugo River. It is a former castle town surrounded by the Minou Mountain Range. There are many notable temples and shrines in Kurume including Suiten-gu Shrine, Bairin-ji Temple, and the Daihonzan Naritasan Kurume Temple.
Several Japanese crafts are also local to the area, including Kurume Kasuri and Rantai lacquerware. In late April to early May, the city explodes with color as the city's favorite flower, the azalea, blooms across Kurume.
Yanagawa is commonly referred to as the water city because of to its 470 km of canals, which visitors to the city can explore on punt-like boats known as donkobune. The city is located close to the mouth of the Chikugo River, which supplies the water for the canals.
Yanagawa's historic canals have been transformed from the defensive features of a castle town into relaxing waterways that can be explored by a cruise. An oarsman with a long pole pushes the narrow boats through the canals, offering commentary on the city's long and impressive history and singing nursery rhymes penned by the local poet Hakushu Kitahara. Many of Yanagawa's festivals, including the Hakushu Festival and the Ohina-sama Water Parade, center around the canals and the boats atop them.
Akizuki was the historic home of the Akizuki family, the leaders of a once mighty clan that ruled over much of Fukuoka Prefecture. The small castle town is packed with history and is compact enough to walk around.
Much of the city is organized around the castle and the main boulevard leading to it, Sugi-no-Baba. On this street, you'll find the Akizuki Museum, several tea houses including the excellent Kuromonchaya, the ruins of the Akizuki Castle and one of the most marvelous displays of cherry blossoms in Fukuoka Prefecture. The entire street is lined with cherry trees which, come the beginning of spring, bloom in unison.
Where there is water in Japan, there are frequently hot springs. Chikugogawa Onsen is located in the Chikugo River Prefectural Nature Park in southwest Fukuoka Prefecture, about 45 minutes from Kurume City.
The bathhouse has several different types of baths, including several which have views out across the river. It has a restaurant and several rooms so that visitors from the city can spend the night relaxing in comfort.