Home JapanTravel A few things to do in Saga, Japan

A few things to do in Saga, Japan


It was Gerald Anderson and Julia Barretto who introduced me to Saga, the unassuming, little-known prefecture that serves as the backdrop for an unlikely romance in the film Between Maybes. While Saga’s rustic charm does give it a cinematic feel, there is definitely more to this unpretentious destination than the camera can capture.
Saga is one of the seven prefectures that make up the island of Kyushu. Located in the northwestern part of the island, it is adjacent to Fukuoka and is easily accessible. However, most visitors from Fukuoka (considered the main gateway to Kyushu) breeze past this often overlooked destination and head to Nagasaki instead. But there are many reasons to stop and take your time exploring Saga. Here are some of them.

Ofunzan Paradise
This was one of our most memorable stops in Saga. We visited in late November, so the entire site was enveloped in the fiery colors of autumn.

Gifunzan Paradise is a picturesque garden located at the foot of Mt. Gifunzan, a postcard-like hull of a ship. Built in 1845, it was originally constructed as a vacation home for feudal lord Shigeyoshi Nabeshima. This sprawling park spans 50 hectares and boasts of its walking trails that take you around the site, including a still pond that perfectly reflects its breathtaking setting

The best time to visit is in spring, when the cherry trees – all 5,000 of them – are at their peak of bloom. In addition to cherry blossom season, autumn is also a wonderful time, as the trees color the place red and orange.

Entrance fee: 600
Yen Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (subject to change on some days)
Nearest station: Takeo Onsen Station

Yutoku Inari Shrine

Yutoku Inari Shrine receives over 3 million visitors each year and is undoubtedly one of the three most popular Inari shrines; the other two are Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto and Toyokawa Inari Shrine in Aichi Prefecture. Most visitors flock to the shrine to pray for family wealth, business prosperity, traffic safety and a good harvest. The entire complex is breathtaking. It has gates, bridges, gardens, small ponds, the main building, museums, numerous dark orange (or red) pagodas and other beautiful buildings.

Admission: Free; Yutoku Museum: ¥300 (adults)/¥200 (students)/¥100 (ages 7-15); Garden: 200 yen
Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: 1855 Furuta, Kashima City, Saga Prefecture
Nearest station: JR Hizen Kashima Station. Travel time from JR Hakata Station to JR Hizen Kashima Station is approximately 1 hour, approximately 3,200 yen by limited express train Kamome. From the station, take a bus to Yutoku Inari Shrine. The bus fare is ¥320.

Saga Prefectural Office

What are you doing at the government office, you may ask? The observation deck at the Saga Prefectural Office (called Saga 360) offers a 360-degree unobstructed view. To manage your expectations, it’s not that high. It’s only 50 meters tall, but it’s the tallest building in the city. If the weather is good, you can even see Mount Unzen, an active volcano in Nagasaki Prefecture.

If you can, visit around sunset when the city is bathed in golden sunlight. After enjoying the view, head to Shino, a restaurant on the same floor, for a taste of Saga’s rich and delicious cuisine. You can enjoy tender and juicy Saga beef and delicious sashimi.

If you come at night, you can also enjoy the light sculpture show! More details will be provided in the next section.

Observatory hours: Weekdays 8:30am to 10pm; Saturdays 10am to 10pm; Sundays 10am to 9pm

Nearest train station: JR Saga Station. From here, you can take a bus from the nearby bus center to the Kencho-mae bus station. It is a short walk from there. You can also walk directly from Saga Station, but it takes at least 20 minutes.

Legend of Zombieland

One of the anime titles that has made the biggest waves in Japan in recent years is Zombie Land Saga, the story of high school student Sagura Minamoto who dies tragically on her way to an audition. Years later, she is resurrected along with other zombies to form a 7-person singing group called Franchouchou to promote Saga Prefecture.

It’s a very strange story concept – outrageous, even – but I have to admit it’s very interesting. Obviously, it’s fictional (duh), but the best part is that Saga Prefecture embraced it!

In fact, you can enjoy Zombie Land Saga’s projection mapping show from the observation deck of the Saga Prefectural Government Building. It culminates in an exclusive animated concert. But that’s not all.

Since many of the settings in the series are based on actual locations in Saga, they immediately became tourist attractions as more anime fans flocked to the area. One of these is the former Karatsu City Historical Folk Museum, known in the show as Franchouchou’s home base. Other attractions include Karatsu Castle and Free Drop Tori.

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