Southern Japan by rail
The rail journey begins in Fukuoka -- a city with a metro population of 2.5 million -- and ends at the southern tip of the island, in the city of Ibusuki. As the train rolls along, it travels through time -- and reveals the amazing diversity and contrasts of the most southerly of Japan's four main islands. The trip provides spectacular landscape views, as well as deep insight into a foreign culture, and its ancient traditions and modern lifestyles. In the West, Kyushu is one of the lesser-known regions in the "Land of the Rising Sun." Even for the Japanese, the green, mountainous island is seen mostly as a holiday spot. Europeans rarely visit this part of the country -- but there are plenty of restaurants and cafes that have names like "Wolfgang," "Bavaria," or "Côte d'Azur." Travel guides say that these words sound "European" to Japanese. The family of the emperor, or Tenno, comes from Kyushu as well. This is also where the dynasties of the proud warrior class, the samurai, have their roots. And there are a number of active volcanoes on Kyushu. One of the most famous is Mount Aso. Its caldera -- the cauldron-like hollow at the top -- has a circumference of about 120 kilometers.