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Japan's southernmost island is different - not as different as Hokkaido to the north, but a definite change from Honshu or even Shikoku. For one thing, the ups-and-downs are definitely more pronounced; even the most experienced riders counsel caution when it comes to some of the roads in the interior. For another thing, Kyushu offers an incredible variety of scenery: wonderful wide-open-spaces like the one shown above, near the world's largest caldera at Aso, the lovely and exotic Chinese-influenced port city of Nagasaki; the almost-tropical beaches of Miyazaki and the Nichinan Kaigan (which we'll explore in an upcoming route), wild horses on the Toi Peninsula (ditto); other-worldly fauna and flora at Ebino Kogen (plateau); and the smoking volcano at Sakurajima in the south.

This route travels north to south along virtually the entire length of the island, starting from the hot springs town of Beppu (a major ferry terminus). From there, we head up into the interior along the picturesque Yamanami Highway to the active volcano of Mt. Aso, then to Takachiho, site of Japan's creation myth, and from there back along the coast southward to Miyazaki, the beginning of Kyushu's famed white sand beaches, and finally inland again to Ebino and Kirishima, site of some of the most unusual natural scenery in Japan and a major Shinto shrine, respectively... to finally end up at Kagoshima, Japan's southernmost major city dominated by the active volcano of Sakurajima located right across the harbor. It's quite a journey; prepare to both exhaust and enjoy yourself.