“Move For It” Go to Japan for Rugby World Cup 2019 by Hot News Cowboys in Adventure:
Next? An oversized plate of salmon and prawn nigiri.
In a stroke of comic genius, the baggage carousel has been turned into a giant sushi bar with colourful, plastic offerings to whet your appetite for what’s on the menu here.
Kyushu might not shout the loudest of all the Japanese islands but it’s full of surprises.
“Kyushu might not shout the loudest of all the Japanese islands but it’s full of surprises”
On the doorstep of South Korea and with just 600 metres of sea separating it from Japan’s Honshu island, Kyushu is the country’s most southerly and easterly isle.
Its mountains are the backdrop for every picture you’ll take.
The volcanic landscape is breathtaking, with winding, peaked ridges covering Kyushu like sleeping dragons.
However, these dragons are known to wake up.
The Rugby World Cup is to be held in Asia for the first time in 2019.
A quarter of the venues are in Kyushu, and with Japan’s victory over South Africa in England fresh in the memory, it’s going to be a bucket-list event.
Oita is home to the biggest Kyushu sports stadium, a 40,000-seater. But after flying in, many visitors head to nearby Beppu, the volcanic hot spring capital.
Going commando in a kimono with a yellow brolly to protect your bonce, you get buried in hot, mineral-rich black sand and are left to soak for 10 minutes in the thermal waters below.
It’s like getting the most comforting bear hug or having a duvet so heavy it’s off the tog scale.
The gentle weight eases out the aches and pains.
Bindon Bottom B&B – West Lulworth, United Kingdom
Feeling baby-soft and reinvigorated, we depart for Kumamoto, the second rugby city, home to a 32,000-seater.
The drive through the mountains to get there is spectacular and around every corner is a stunning volcanic vista.
Always in the distance is Aso, an active volcano that emits clouds of smoke which are visible for miles.
Visiting the 400-year-old teahouse gardens of Suizenji, drinking sake in one of the nine breweries and eating buckwheat noodles with duck in broth is fun.
But the highlight is Kumamoto Castle.
Dating back to the 1400s, it’s a former Samurai hilltop fortress and, with its imposing ramparts, has repelled many a ninja attack.
It’s got the lot: beaches, shopping, museums, ornamental gardens, sake-fuelled karaoke bars, Shinto shrines and ramen that’ll have you slurping like a local in no time.
The tonkotsu is a rich broth soaking noodles, pork, chilli and spring onions.
Whether it’s £4 at a street stall or £6 at a chain, it’s all good. We’d already enjoyed some of the best wagyu beef with charcoal crisped ridges during our drive through Aso (at Sakura, a converted stable) so it’s fitting our final stop would be for world-class sushi.
Thibaut Courtois has good hands and is tall. That’s a good start, right?
Next, the rice is joined by squid, a shaving of the citrus yuzu and a sprinkle of Andes salt.
Yellowtail is lightly grilled and laid to rest on a plate.
If Oita made a big statement with its sushi baggage carousel at the beginning of our trip, then Yamanaka has delivered a closing speech that should have food-loving rugby fans booking tickets for Kyushu now.
To book, contact JTB Europe through japanspecialist.co.uk or call 0208 237 1605.
Where to stay: B&B at Hotel Shiragiku in the hot spring city of Beppu costs £210, or £266 with a hot spring bath.
Double rooms at JR Kyushu Blossom Hakata Chuo cost from £98.
See jrk-hotels.co.jp/en/Hakatachuo. Volcanic sand bath experience in Beppu costs £7 for a 15-minute session.
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