There are few secluded areas remaining in modern-day Japan, so locals treasure this one, writes Shelley Hadfield
SURROUNDED by unspoilt forest, we traverse the footbridge over a steep ravine to the crystal-clear Umenoki Todoro Falls. There is hardly a person in sight – it feels a world away from the bright lights and crowded city streets of Osaka and Tokyo.
This is Gokanosho on the island of Kyushu. Accessible via a windy, onelane road that climbs into the mountains, it is considered one of the last secluded areas on Kyushu.
The district is famous for being a hidden refuge for a samurai clan in the 12th century. Luckily, we have a local guide who can easily navigate the area.
I ampregnant and feeling a little apprehensive about crossings on the wobbly Momigi Suspension Bridge, which hangs over a pristine river.
Locals regard the region as the land of fire and water. The historic area has long been a favourite for Japanese holidaymakers and is emerging as a destination for foreigners. Few people speak English so it is really a place to leave Western life behind and become immersed in a different culture.
The food is unique, with an unusual-tasting stuffed lotus root a specialty. Raw horse meat, in particular, is a local delicacy.
I amextremely grateful to be pregnant and unable to indulge.
The city of Kumamoto is the capital. From Osaka it is about a 31/ hour trip by bullet train.
One of the biggest surprises of Kumamoto is its Suizenji Jojuen Garden. The stunning, manicured gardens emerge out of the end of a mall lined with stores. There is a shrine and a pond teeming with carp, along with a miniature Mt Fuji.
The city’s key drawcard is Kumamoto Castle, regarded as one of