Your Dream Vacation is Here
Created by: Sonia McBride
Tourism Report Nakatsu
Introduction Location: Nakatsu
Nakatsu is a Japanese city located Northeast on the Southern island, Kyushu in the Oita prefecture. Rich with history, many tourists come to view the famous and iconic Nakatsu castle. I chose this location since that is the place that my family is residing in for the near future.
Because people lived in Nakatsu since prehistoric times, there isn’t a confirmation of who it was settled by, but it wasn’t until 1871 that it was officially confirmed by the Japanese government as a city. The majority of the citizens that live here are Japanese, but there is no shortage of Filipino, Vietnamese and Indonesian people living here. Although Nakatsu isn’t part of any major world events, its castle did have a part during the Sengoku Period, which involved a series of Civil Wars. The castle was in a constant tug of war between the Ogasawara Clan and the Okudaira Clan, with the Okudaira clan winning out. The castle was destroyed in a fire in 1877 in a rebellion during the Meiji Period before it was rebuilt by descendants of the Okudaira clan in 1964.
Nakatsu has very similar weather in comparison to the rest of Japan, but because it is a ground level city, wind tends to blow through the town, making the winters especially cold. Because of that, winter is generally the worst season to visit Nakatsu, with Haru being the best season with the cherry blossoms in bloom in April. Although Autumn is a close second with the wonderful sight of maple leaves turning orange and red, it is typhoon season, so many heavy rains and wind are expected to occur. Typhoons occur often than some other areas because of its location in the South. Although Summer is hot, there are many coasts nearby for people to cast their fishing lines, with the cool ocean breeze cooling off the hottest summer day.
Although people from many ages visit Nakatsu, women tend to visit more than men. In this small city, there are various tea and antique shops that open up chances for window shopping as well as cafes that draw in a female demographic. If they don’t come here for the shopping and cafes, many others also find appeal in the various historical spots of Japan, which is condensed in Jyoukamachi, which translates to “Historical Town”. For example, there is the Nakatsu Castle, which is one of the Castles on the Sea, the Red Stained Wall that was part of the aftermath of the Sengoku Period, and the childhood house of Fukuzawa Yukichi, who was a very influential member of the Okudaira Clan and a famous author with his face printed on the 10,000 yen bill. There are not many foreigners that come to Nakatsu, with most of the tourist demographic coming from different parts of Kyushu. People rarely stay overnight, opting to take day trips and going home by the conveniently placed train station in town. Although there are hotels within walking distance of the train station, there are generally business hotels, catered towards people who happen to have a business trip in Nakatsu.
The currency that’s used in Nakatsu is Yen. Although there are many places around town that take Visa credit cards, places opt for cash instead. There are banks that convert American dollars to Yen and vice versa, so not all hope is lost if one doesn’t have any yen on hand. The most common way people get to Nakatsu is by train, but taking a taxi and bus are always common ways for people to get there.
Getting To Your Location
Air: The closest airport to Nakatsu City is the Kitakyushu Airport, which is about 45 minutes away by car. Although there are not many international flights (Seoul, Korea seems to be the most common one), there’s plenty of domestic flights from places such as Tokyo, Nagoya, and Okinawa. For many people, the only way for people to get to Nakatsu is by connecting flights. Osaka should be the closest international airport, which is about an hour and 40 minutes if you’re going to the Kitakyushu airport. The airlines that come into Kitakyushu airport is StarFlyer, A&A, Japan Airlines (JAL), Korean Air, and JIN Air.
Ground: The most common way to travel is by the train station that connects into Nakatsu. The only company in the rail industry that leads to Nakatsu is JR Kyushu, which can be accessed from any train station in Kyushu. From Fukuoka, a town on the other side of the island takes about 2 hours to get to Nakatsu. At the Kitakyushu Airport, there’s a rental car service Times, Nippon, Toyota, Nissan, Budget, and Sky if you buy a JR Pass, which is a pass that allows you to ride any train except for the fastest for free and also allows you to rent out a car. This is highly recommended, despite the hefty estimated price of $691 USD for one standard adult JR Pass that lasts 14 days. As stated in the Air travel section, it takes about 45 minutes by car to get from Kitakyushu Airport to Nakatsu city.
It’s recommended to combine travel methods from both air and ground travel. (For example, you can take the bus from a far airport and get off at the train station and take the train to Nakatsu. You can also travel by plane and once you land, take a train to Nakatsu.)
Getting Around Your Location
The size of Nakatsu City is 491.09 km2, which is roughly converted to 189.61 mi2, making it a fairly large town. Despite this, landmarks, food and beverage, entertainment, etc, are very close together, making it easy for anyone to walk around to enjoy the sights of Nakatsu City. That being said, aside from walking, people also commonly commute by cars, typically rented out by guests. For those who don’t want to rent a car out but still want to commute by car, there are a plentiful amount of taxis waiting by the transportation. Buses are also an option for internal city travel as well.
A few rental car companies, some of which are stated earlier, are Times, Toyota, and Ekirentaka (which is near the train station). The rental prices for these cars range from around $150 USD per day for a Class Economy Car to around $290 per day for a Class Full-Size Van. A few taxis will be waiting outside of the train station, and the usual fare is 205.62 yen, or roughly 2 dollars for about 0.6 miles. Japan has a different system to calculate bus fares than America’s Bus System. Its way of calculating bus fare is much like a taxi; it calculates by how far the person is away from their destination from where they were picked up. For example, if there was a bus making a stop at Nakatsu Castle, a passenger who was picked up by the Nakatsu train station would have to pay more for their bus fare than someone who had a stop that was closer to the Nakatsu Castle. The base cost for the bus fare is 120 yen, which is roughly $1.15 USD, with the price racking up by 60 yen with every stop.
The hotels that are generally found in Nakatsu City are business hotels, due Nakatsu City being more common for day trips, aside from Japanese-style inns called ryokan, which can be treated as resorts. Generally, in these business hotels, it is designed only to fit two people in one room. However, the ryokans can accommodate an entire family.
HOTELS / RESORTS
$47.40 USD on weekdays per night, $48.63 USD on weekends per night
Provides toiletries, spa accessories (ie face masks) and a breakfast buffet, Hot spring
3 star hotel
Kogane Mountain Villa
$321.99 USD per night
Hot spring, quality cuisine, an art gallery, a relaxation spa
Foreign tourists coming for leisure
Doesn’t say what how many stars it has on the website but according to a booking website, it has 3.5 stars
$310 USD per night
Hot spring, daily breakfast buffet, Gift Shop
Foreign tourists coming for leisure
Trip advisor rates it as a 4.0/5.0
Although there aren’t any additional accommodations in Nakatsu due to the city being mostly popular as a day trip city, in the city near it, Usa, are wonderful accommodations for guests to stay at. Although there are some accommodations that are in the city, there are many lodgings that center in nature, allowing guests to enjoy the nature of Japan.
HOTELS / RESORTS
Naru Guest House
$75.97 per night
Dry cleaning, Luggage Storage, Free WiFi, Free Dinner, Good Service
Foreigners; the reviews have reported on good treatment towards tourists
4.6 Stars (based on Google Reviews)
AJIMU Green Tourism Inn
$59.83 per night
Free Breakfast, Dinner for $18.99 (on request), Heater, Water Stream
Visitors who want to experience Japanese nature
$56.98 per night
Private baths, WiFi, TV, Washer, Free parking, Microwave/Freezer
Visitors who want an authentic hot spring experience in private
4.75 (based on airbnb reviews)
MEETING AND CONVENTIONS
Possible venues for a 50+ Person Family Reunion:
Kiitaro: A restaurant that serves delectable food and houses enough space for large parties to comfortably gather around.
Grand Plaza Nakatsu Hotel: A 3 star hotel that has 3 meetings rooms that can host up to 64 people and a multilingual staff, which is helpful for my English speaking family.
Himitsu Kitchen: A cafe with multiple floors that serve food, drinks and alcohol, accompanied by a friendly staff.
Villa Luce: A wedding venue with beautiful landscapes for breathtaking photo ops and delicious food.
Shioyu: A ryokan with a beautiful view of the ocean and rooms wide enough to fit for any party.
Nakatsu Museum: A spacious building that is able to fit any number of people with multiple levels.
Stamina-taro: An all you can eat barbeque with all sorts of other food to cater to all ages.
Nakatsu Country Club: A golf course which is accompanied by an amazing few, fit for families who spend their time outdoors.
Aeon Mall Parking Lot: A spacious parking lot normally saved for flea markets and other festivals; tents, chairs and catering can be set up.
Kouryokan: A smaller venue near many historical sites and small shops, open to any reservations.
The locations that I underlined are what I consider to be the best venues in Nakatsu City; these locations are Grand Plaza Nakatsu Hotel, Villa Luce, and Kouryokan. Grand Plaza Nakatsu Hotel is a business hotel made to cater to large meetings, complimented with catering; which makes it a great place to hold a family reunion. Villa Luce is a wedding venue but with how spacious the room is, the first floor is enough to host a 50 person family reunion. Kouryokan is a smaller venue that is a tighter fit for a family reunion, but the place is outfitted with a wheelchair lift for those who need it, and the location is the closest to our house, where my family and I can make preparations easily.
Food & Beverage
In Nakatsu, there are many types of cuisine to experience. From your typical fast-food burgers with a twist to fine dining with the highest class of fish, there’s always something in there for everybody. For this list, I tried to avoid adding repeats of the same cuisine (for example, I tried my best to not include two French places), but Kiitaro and Murakami Shoukudo are the most similar for that list. The reason why is because in Japan, every prefecture has its specialty food (ie: Oita City’s is Toriten, which is tempura battered chicken), and Nakatsu’s is Japanese Fried Chicken, the best found in these two sections. Other than that, I tried to add in the most variety as I could.
Fast Food, Hamburgers
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Fast food, American
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Takeout, Located in the Mall
Fast Food, Japanese, Katsu Bowls
Cook your own food
Japanese Fried Chicken
Traditional Japanese Set
Curbside, In an accessible part of town
Fish, Sashimi Restaurant
RECREATION AND ENTERTAIMENT
With Nakatsu being a historical city, many visitors would come to see the historical locations such as the many shrines scattered along Teramachi and the Nakatsu Castle, which serves as a museum. For those who are more adventurous, they may be attracted to hiking Mt. Rakan, which also serves as a historical site, as well as the many water sports in the area. The Blue Cave and Nakatsu Gourge are also quite beautiful as well, and visitors who don’t have as much as endurance in outdoor sports are able to enjoy these sites as well. There are also a few spa options with onsens, which are a traditional outdoor Japanese bath, which has healing and relaxing properties.
Sports & Recreation Spas:
Arts, Culture, Entertainment:
The audience are travelers coming to Japan for the first time.
Day 1 :
Enjoy your first experience of Japan in the Great Outdoors of the countryside of Yabakei; take in the breathtaking architecture and nature in the morning and relax your weary bones in the afternoon.
Morning: Cycling in Yabakei
Start your morning by taking a bike ride through the small Nakatsu town of Yabakei. Bikes can be rented at the Yabakei Biking Terminal and from there, you can take a guided bike road, so you can enjoy the beautiful Japanese scenery without the worry of losing your way.
Afternoon:Kanairo Hot Spring
An essential in experiencing Japanese culture at its finest; this hot spring is the perfect antidote to a long bike ride, relaxing your weary bones. It’s also connected to a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. A night at this luxurious ryokan will further immerse you into Japan’s lifestyle.
Day 2 :
Feel the cool mountain breeze and feel your spirit be lightened as you visit the peaceful mountain of Rakan. After your hike or ride up there, come back to the ground level to enjoy the Blue Cave, where the koi fish swim in bliss.
Morning: Mount Rakan
Mount Rakan is home to a temple near the top of the mountain; inviting peace and zen to those who visit. Although it is a long hike to get there, there is a lift offered to those who prefer to enjoy the mountain breeze. Once you’re near the top, you’re free to either take in the scenery from the deck or to pay a small fee to enter the temple, where you can pay your respects to those who have died there.
Afternoon: Blue Cave/Aoi Doumo
The Blue Cave offers shelter from both the sweltering sun and the heavy rain as the lakes and foliage rejuvenate you from the mountain climbing from Mt. Rakan. Take your time as you enjoy nature and feed the nearby koi fish.
Day 3 :
In the morning, enjoy the small town of Mt. Hachimen, visiting the small tea shops that are offered there. Then, as we return to the city, stop by the Nakatsu Roadside Station for a taste of local Japanese cuisine.
Morning: Mt. Hachimen
Enjoy touring the top of the mountain, not only filled with various parks and gardens but also with small rustic shopping streets. Enjoy some tea and snacks while taking in the fresh mountain air.
As we travel back towards the city in the afternoon, we’ll stop by the Nakatsu Roadside Station, home to many Japanese and Nakatsu delicacies. Enjoy the various restaurants and farmers market, selling native Japanese agriculture for you to enjoy while you’re in Japan.
Feel the serenity of the shrines flow through you as you walk through Teramachi, home to many shrines and historical sites. Then round off your tour with the Nakatsu Castle and Nakatsu Culture Center, the former being the most popular tourist site in Nakatsu City.
Morning: Touring Teramachi
Enjoy touring Termachi, which is filled with various shrines and historical sites, such as the Blood Red Wall. Fill yourself with serenity as you tour around these places and learn about the rich history of Nakatsu.
Afternoon: Nakatsu Castle/Culture Center
At the end of Teramachi lies the Nakatsu Castle and right near it, the Nakatsu Culture Center. Enjoy the reconstruction of the Nakatsu Castle, one of the three Castles on the Sea, where it talks about the achievements of the Okudaira Family and the war that it was involved in. At the Nakatsu Center, immerse yourself with the various activities that make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time such as learning about the rock wall that surrounds Nakatsu Castle and making a homemade magatama, an old Japanese accessory. You can also enjoy the various drinks and meals served at the in house cafe.
On the final day, pay a visit to the Yukichi Residence to learn more about one of the most influential men in Japan. Then, as you prepare to leave Nakatsu, visit the souvenir shop for all sorts of treats and wares for your friends and family at home.
Morning: Yukichi Residence
As a final touring spot, visit the childhood residence of the famous philosopher, Yukichi Fukuzawa, whom you may know from the 10,000 yen bill. Learn more about this influential man through touring the museum of his famous works and viewing the carefully preserved site of Yukichi’s childhood home.
Afternoon: Souvenir Shopping at Nakatsu Train Station
As the final thing to explore in Nakatsu, we come back to the very place that you most likely came from; the Nakatsu Train Station. Not only is there an udon shop, there is also an expansive souvenir shop, including wares and snacks native to the Oita prefecture and the wonderful town of Nakatsu. There’s a large variety of snacks, all wrapped up for you to take back home to your friends and family. From there, you’re able to take the train to your next destination. Whether you’re returning home to your home country or visiting another part of Japan, we hope you were able to immerse yourself in the nature and history of Nakatsu city as your first experience of Japan!
SWOT Analysis of Tourism in Nakatsu
With Nakatsu being a more niche city, it’s hard to know what the good and bad points of the city are. Never fear; I’m here to help you out! Here are the advantages, disadvantages and both the good and bad of Nakatsu city!
- There are many opportunities for both adventure and leisure in the town, such as hiking a large mountain to walking around and touring shrines.
- With the town’s smaller size and noticeable landmarks, it makes it easier to find your way around the main part of town.
- The town itself has so much history in its buildings that it makes the effort of trying to visit every landmark rewarding.
- Because many people come here for day trips, there aren’t many chances for other hotels besides business hotels, and they usually have trouble fitting three people.
- The main attractions of the town are 30 minutes from each other; for example, it’s hard to visit Mt. Rakan and Nakatsu City since they’re so far from each other.
- There aren’t many festivals aside from the usual summer festivals and the Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken festival).
- I think Nakatsu Castle being known as one of the three Castles on the Sea would be a really good travel point for people those history buffs.
- Nakatsu is known for its karaage and with the karaage festival, it could definitely attract people who like that certain type of food or who want to experience a food-centric festival.
- Aside from the history part of Nakatsu, there’s something for everyone; from those who like to explore and be outside to those who just want to relax and look at landmarks.
- As I said in weaknesses, I think Nakatsu’s big tourism points being far away would hurt it since it could be treated as two separate places.
- The lack of accommodations could also be a problem for tourists who want to stay in Nakatsu for longer than a day.
- Nakatsu is away from any internationally popular cities (such as Tokyo and Kyoto) so people are less likely to go out of their way to visit.
So, despite the transportation and accommodation issues, Nakatsu is still a hidden gem with its own rustic charms and something for everyone to enjoy. Although Nakatsu Castle and other historic sites are the most well known in the area, there are other parts of the city that’s there for anyone to enjoy. Even if the long distance from each end of town is far from each other, you can think of it as a way to separate the adventurous and the relaxing side of Nakatsu city. If you want to visit both sides of the city for the full experience, then there’s a way to do it too! I suggest that you spend your day in one area and use another day to explore the other area. Even if it is halfway across the country from well-known cities, I can guarantee that it’s a city worth coming to, if you ever decide to come to Japan.