It is a little over an hour from Osaka to Fukuoka.
Actually we wanted to use mileage for our trip but the darn airlines changed their policy on how many miles we needed (we used to be able to go round trip for 15,000 miles, but now they changed it to 20,000).
Since we didn't have enough for a round trip on one carrier, we used 10,000 miles for one-way tickets to Kyushu and back on two different carriers.
After arriving in Fukuoka, we caught the subway and transferred to a local train to get to Karatsu in Saga prefecture.
We were very lucky because the weather was sunny and the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
Our first place to check out was Takashima. A tiny island that is 10 minutes from Karatsu by ferry. It is known to be a lucky place for takarakuji (lottery) tickets.
Satoshi bought some and said his prayers...hopefully he'll win something.
One thing I noticed on this island was there were lots of cats. Some were just hanging out, some were scrounging for food.
There was even a cat that did "tricks", for a treat, he would stand on his hind legs and look like he was praying for good luck...when we saw him though he was snoozing.
Lunch was at a little shop called Houtou Oyasumidokoro. (Houtou means to "win the treasure")
Satoshi chose the Houtou teishoku...1500 yen. His meal had some grilled fish, sashimi, grilled sazae (horned turban) and a little more seafood which I didn't see.
I chose the Houtou kaiun donburi...1200 yen. Tons of fresh seafood, so worth it.
After praying and eating, there wasn't very much more to do on this island, well, you can check out their "fishwall", which was pretty impressive and ran almost the length of the island.
After looking at the wall, we caught the next ferry back and checked out Karatsu castle.
The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and there were people out picnic-ing.
Not as crazy as the amount of people in Osaka during cherry blossom season, but it was nice seeing people out and about.
We then went to check out the Hikiyama Tenjijo, an exhibition area for the elaborate floats that are used in their Kunchi festival. (Apparently "kunchi" is the word used in Kyushu when they talk about their autumn festivals)
This festival in Karatsu is held November 2-4.
These floats are 5 to 6 meters tall (16 to 19 feet), weigh 2 to 5 tons and pulled by many men from the various neighborhoods around Karatsu. The festival itself is several hundreds of years old and the floats are apparently from the 1800s.
To give you an idea of how big these floats are, look at the door that they come out from for the festival.
We tried some sweets as well, Ohara Roho's Shoromanju, a tiny orb filled with lots of sweet bean paste. This sweets maker has been in business since 1850!
And Ikinari Dango by Yoshidaya. Ikinari literally means suddenly, dango means dumpling. These dumplings are steamed mochi, filled with sweet bean paste and a large piece of sweet potato.
The piece of sweet potato will certainly surprise you.
Karatsu also have their own pottery style which is noted by their dark-ish brown glaze. I was impressed with how they used the pottery to decorate their doors at the train station.
Oh and if you still want to pray to win the lottery, check out Kanemochi Jinja (wealthy shrine) which is inside of the wickets at the JR Karatsu station.
Put your hand silently into the mold and make your wish.
And then we were on our way to Imari...
Closed Sundays & Holidays, Hours: 9:00-17:00
JR Karatsu Station
Admission 300 yen
*closed during parts of the year, call before going
p.s. if you are interested please check out more photos in our Flickr Kyushu Set.