This Place Might Be One of Japan's Best-Kept Secrets
FYI, two Pinoy films were shot here!
When most people think of Japan, images of Tokyo and Kyoto usually come to mind. However, Japan has so much more to offer than sprawling urban centers and cities that hark back to its Edo-period glory. Take, for example, Saga Prefecture. Located in the country's southern region (Kyushu), Saga has literally everything: mountains that are great for hiking, beaches that are perfect for chilling, temples, shrines, and hot springs that give tourists a taste of well-known Japanese traditions.
On February 9, 2019, we were able to get a glimpse of what Saga has to offer through the Saga Japan Festival held at the Glorietta 2 Activity Center. The event was a great crash course to Saga, Japan: there were fun activity booths that allowed participants to take photos decked in kimonos and in ski gear (as Saga is quite known for its ski resorts), throw shuriken just like a ninja would (a taste of what Saga's Ninja Village has to offer), and taste the famous Saga-gyu (one of Japan's most sought-after beef, which could easily rival even of those from Kobe).
"We [Saga Prefecture] don't have skyscrapers or the Tokyo Tower, but everything else that Tokyo has, we [Saga] have," Mr. Atsushi Matsuura, President of SMaC and Philippines consultant of Saga Prefecture Film Commission shares.
"We have Japanese temples, beautiful temples. If you like onsen, or if you want to try onsen, Ureshino City itself is an entire place dedicated to onsen--like Pansol--the entire place is like that. The quality of the water there is considered very good for the skin. It's called one of the three most beautiful hot springs for beautifying the skin." Matsuura-san adds that the onsen in Ureshino City is really popular among Japanese women because of its skin-clearing properties.
Getting a natural beauty treatment while basking in nature sounds like a dream come true. If you're planning to go to Saga to de-stress with your girlfriends, better include a trip to Ureshino City as part of your itinerary. Make it a point to drop by as well--during spring, the entire railway is decked out in a canopy of cherry blossoms that will surely make for perfect Instagram backdrops. Top off your trip by paying a visit to the famous Yutoku Inari Shrine at Kashima City.
For those who are craving more action, you can try your hand at meeting and greeting ninja--and becoming one as well! Also located at Ureshino City, the Ninja Village features ninja shows, trainings, and other attractions that will surely make any Naruto fan's heart skip a beat.
Drop by around fall and take in Saga's sights and sounds up in the air at the Saga International Balloon Fiesta.
Make sure you don't leave without tasting the high-end saga beef, which is prized for its impressive quality.
What's even better is that you can bask in nature and enjoy lots of activities for a steal. With direct flights from the Philippines that directly go to Kyushu, you can easily travel to Saga. "The gateway of Kyushu Island is Fukuouka. Once you arrive in Fukuoka, you take the bus or train going to Saga, which goes all the way to Nagasaki," Matsuura-san shares. For those who are planning to go to Tokyo first, a plane ride going to Fukuoka takes roughly two hours--just like from Manila to Davao. Or, for those who are planning to solely explore Kyushu instead, you can go to Fukuoka for ramen and shopping, tour Saga, and even drop by Nagasaki and Oita Prefectures, which are also nearby.
So, make like JaDine in This Time or Xian Lim and Louise Delos Reyes in Hanggang Kailan and live out your best (tourist) life in Saga, Japan!
Photo courtesy of iStock.