It's an Archipelago of about one hundred islands, nestled in the gulf of Kyushu, the largest of which are Ueshima and Shimoshima, these are connected by bridges, so it's possible to ride them from Kumamoto to Akune (Kagoshima prefecture), or the other way around, with only one fery ride, from Nagashima to Shimoshima (around 750Yen, 30 minutes).
The whole Island ride, on the route we did, is around 140km, mostly flat with just a few small hills.
Coming from Kumamoto we finally hit the coast around Uto, the vegetation is tropical, the sea not much yet. It's a peninsular area with shallow muddy water and many fishing boats.
As we pass the first bridge to the island of Amakusa suddenly we're in paradise. Like switching from Riccione to Pantelleria in a few kilometers. We immediately dive into the cristal clear water! The first real great beach in this one-year-so-far bicycle trip!
Forhints and trip about traveling in Japan on a very tight budget (less than 10USD per day) read our guide here.
To have a panoramic of our Japanese bicycle touring project, check our itinerary on this other article.
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Here's the map of our ride from Fukuoka to Kagoshima, click on the track to see the elevation profile
Nagaura and Ueshima
On the islands there is a signed bike route, making Amakusa archipelago a great alternative to the more famouse and touristic Shimanami Kaido (read our article), sometimes the path is along the secondary road, sometimes on very quiet coastal grounds. Many islands shaped like mushrooms dot the horizon in the distance. The landscape is constantly changing, hills covered in lush green forests, cliff and then white sea stacks, beaches of all kinds, sleepy villages small fishing ports and Shinto shrines. Many birds of pray, buzzards, eagle and falcons, circle above our heads. We take another swim, naked in a pebble beach. Then there is a climb in the forest, full of streams and rivers. Going down again towards the sea we are greeted by rice paddies and fields.
an unexpected invitation
When we get home we understand they do not live together, we're guests in the man's house, who lives there with his disabled daughter, Miyuki. They fill the bathtub like in a cartoon. They make us laundry and prepare dinner, the table is full of dishes: tender beef in mushroom sauce, cabbage rolls with meat, steamed eggplant, various algae, onigiri, red bean salad with onion and peppers, dried shrimps, garlic dips, pickles, pickled ginger, seaweed soup, umeboshi and more stuff I don't remember...
We wake up early, at 6:30. They are all awake, they prepare breakfast, omelette, a soup with in the boiled eggs, pork and various left over from last night's dinner. The man (whom we call Otosan, dad in Japanese) also prepares us a bento, Onigiri with umeboshi for me onighiri and with Salmon for Daniel, plus all the leftovers. Super-pampered. We try to write a thank you note in Japanese. We do not know how to thank for all this pampering!
The road along the sea becomes more and more beautiful. We eat the lunch they prepared for us in the courtyard of an old temple under a big tree. Take a bath in a verdant fresh water lagoon, the beaches are deserted. Towards the southern end of the island there are some more stacks. Superb.
From the port we take the ferry at 17:20, it costs 750 yen per 30 minutes. The view from the ship is very impressive, there are many islands and one looks like a volcano.
We arrive at dusk, through the Tori gate we see the sun falling into the sea. The perfect Japan postcard. There is a huge tree, certainly very old, and then there is the statue of a god with mushroom cap on whose shoulder is sleeping a little frog (the frog is real, and maybe even the mushroom god). Near the tent there is a huge mushroom, in the night Daniele dreams of a giant triceratops and wakes up startled, the mushroom is exploded and nearby many more small mushrooms have born.
Seems that this island is populated by the wierdest Gods (Kami in Japanese), along the way we encounter: a giant penis, a family with a gorilla made of mussle's shells, a lady with a beak and a baby with his beak too. Let's take another wonderful bath in the deserted beach nearby a village just as desert, water is transparent, sand is gold.
Rolling up and down we cross this beautiful little island that seems to be famous for mandarins, views are stunning.
A bridge takes us back to the mainland, and we take another bath in a huge beach where sea turtles spawn, a sign says so. We're heading south, along the coast to Satsumasendai and than inland to Kagoshima, again they appear, cliffs, stacks, golden beaches and public showers. Left the sea behind we sleep on the shore of a huge river where a guy with does wheelies with his boat.