As I (Merge) continued my travels around Japan on the MS Westerdam, we stopped for a day at the port of Sasebo, our first stop on the island of Kyushu. Japan has four main islands – Honshu, the biggest and most populated; Hokkaido, the northernmost; Kyushu, the southernmost; and Shikoku, which lies between Honshu and Kyushu. This was not only my first stop on this island, but also my first visit to Kyushu.
Sasebo is known for being the gateway to Kujyukushima in Saikai National Park. Kujyukushima translates to ninety-nine islands. But there are actually 208 islands here within Saikai National Park (and only four are inhabited). Kujyukushima is located at the westernmost point of mainland Japan, and in April 2018, the bay was designated one of “The Most Beautiful Bays in the World, by an NGO of the same name based in Vanne, France. With praise like that, it was on my must-see list. Since our stop here was only for a half-day, my plans were not overly ambitious. I wanted to drive up to the Tenkaiho Observatory to get a panoramic view of the bay, and time permitting, maybe wander around in the downtown.
I found a couple of other people who wanted to share a cab, and we were off! Tenkaiho isn’t really an observatory, it’s a lookout from a terrace, but the view was everything that had been promised. Atop Nokubi Hill at an elevation of 402 m, the panoramic views are spectacular.
As an unexpected added bonus, I was also able to view the cosmos flower maze. Every year, from early to late October, a blanket of garden cosmos (also known as Mexican asters) bloom at the foot of the Tenhaiko observatory. I just happened to be there at the right time!