Fukue Island (福江島, Fukue-jima) is the largest and most populated of the Goto Islands and is home to the islands' largest town around the Port of Fukue in the east of the island. The entire island falls under the municipality of Goto City, which also covers the islands of Hisaka and Naru.
The island's hilly terrain plays host to various churches and temples including the Goto Islands' oldest of both, as well as other historical sites, many of which are just a stone's throw from unspoiled nature spots. The natural beauty on the island includes but is not limited to beaches, craggy coastlines and mountains from where great views can be had of some of the neighboring islands.
The town around the Port of Fukue with its selection of hotels, restaurants and shops serves as a convenient base from which to explore the islands. Here also stands a ruined castle that served as the seat of power from which the entire Goto fief was ruled during the Edo Period. Today little of the castle remains save for a section of the old moat and an old residence, with much of the grounds now covered by a school. Despite this, parts of the old castle and the adjacent samurai district, which has also been mostly superseded by modern construction, make for a pleasant place to stroll.
Some of Fukue's top attractions are listed below:
Fukue boasts multiple sites related to the feudal lords who ruled over the islands during the Edo Period, especially around the centrally located, former castle:
Lord Goto Residence
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:30 December, February and March) Closed: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, August 9, New Year holidays Admission: 800 yen Typical visit duration: 40 minutes
This beautiful old residence is the highlight of the old castle grounds, and contains a scenic Japanese garden in addition to the house; which has been brilliantly restored to its former grandeur from centuries ago. The house, which is of a style typical to that of a contemporary aristocrat, was resided in by the local lord during the Edo Period, and today is open for the public to explore.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 18:00 from Jun to Sep) Closed: New Year holidays Admission: 300 yen English: Minimal Typical visit duration: 20 minutes
Aside from the castle moat which survives from old times, there are two mock buildings on the old castle grounds that resemble keeps. One of these buildings contains a museum in which there are various exhibitions relating to the history of the castle, as well as an exhibition pertaining to local history in general. The other building serves as the local library.
Bukeyashiki Samurai Street
Hours: Always open Closed: No closing days Admission: Free Typical visit duration: 20 minutes
The area of the town where the samurai class lived during the Edo Period, today the area's main street has been nicely paved to compliment the surviving stone walls and odd surviving front gate that line the road. The street makes for a nice view, but behind the walls and gates, barely anything historical survives, having been supplanted by modern buildings.
Around twenty churches have been built across the island of Fukue since the end of the feudal era. Two of the most notable ones are listed below:
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from November to March) Closed: New Year holidays Admission: 300 yen Typical visit duration: 20-30 minutes
After the ban on Christianity was lifted in 1873, two French priests built this church as the first Western-style church on the Goto Islands. Today's incarnation was completed in 1908 and was dedicated to the 26 Martyrs who were executed in Nagasaki. Unlike most other churches on the island which primarily serve as working churches, Dozaki Church features a museum inside with exhibits about local Christian history.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 Closed: No closing days Admission: Free Typical visit duration: 15 minutes
Located in the far south of Fukue Island, Imochiura Church is housed in a beautiful brick building. Like many churches in the region, it features a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes together with a spring in its garden. However, the statue at Imochiura Church is considered the first of its kind in Japan.
Kukai, posthumously known as Kobo Daishi, is one of the most revered figures in Japanese history. He introduced the Shingon sect of Buddhism to Japan after studying in China in the early 9th century. On his way to and from China, Kukai spent some time on the Goto Islands which served as the last port of call on the journey to the continental mainland:
Hours: Vary Closed: No closing days Admission: Free Typical visit duration: 30 minutes
Kukai is believed to have visited this temple on his way back from studying in China in the early 9th century. Bringing Shingon Buddhism with him, he converted the priest to the religion and resultantly the temple came to be referred to as the Koyasan of the West, after what Kukai later founded as the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism. The temple is atypical in style and layout. Its architecture gives the temple a slightly Chinese aesthetic.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (closed between 12:00 and 13:00) Closed: Mondays, 1st and 28th of each month, Obon, New Year holidays Admission: Free Typical visit duration: 20 minutes
Myojoin Temple is the oldest temple on the Goto Islands. It is believed that Kukai stopped here on his way back from studying in China. Today visitors can look around the temple grounds and view 121 paintings of flowers and birds that adorn the ceiling of the main hall.
Hours: Always open Closed: No closing days Admission: Free Typical visit duration: 10 minutes
Kukai and the Japanese envoys to Tang China made their last stop at a port around this cape before crossing the sea to the Asian mainland. Later, the area became an important center of whaling for the Goto fief. Today, however, only a remote village, nice views of the coast and a monument commemorating Kukai remain here.
Hours: Always open Closed: No closing days Admission: Free
Arguably the most beautiful beach on Fukue, if not all the Goto Islands, Takahama Beach provides blue waters and white sand for an idyllic backdrop for swimming and sunbathing. The beach is designated among Japan's 100 best and offers changing facilities and toilets.
Hours: Always open Closed: No closing days Admission: Free
A 315-meter-tall, dormant volcano that last erupted around 20,000 years ago, Onidake has become a symbol of the Goto Islands and is a popular place for hiking. From its summit, which can be reached in around a 30 minute hike, great views can be enjoyed of the surrounding hills and coast and the nearby town center.
Osezaki is a cape with tall, craggy cliffs that offer visitors some spectacular views. At the end of the cape stands Osezaki Lighthouse that originally dates back to the Meiji Period.
Information center hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August) Closed: New Year holidays Admission: Free Typical visit duration: 20 minutes
Abunze Coast is made of lava rock just south of Onidake. It is believed that the lava arrived here following the eruption of Onidake around 20,000 years ago. Today, good views can be had of the rugged section of coastline, especially from an observation deck, down a short coastal trail. Next to the coast stands a small information center.
How to get to Fukue Island
By air from Nagasaki or Fukuoka
Fukue Airport is served by multiple flights per day from Nagasaki and Fukuoka. The flight takes around 40 minutes and cost around 15,000 yen one way. Buses connect the airport with the city center and Fukue Port (15 minutes, 300 yen one way) and are timed to flights.
By ferry from Nagasaki
Both high-speed boats and car ferries operate multiple times per day between Nagasaki and Fukue Port. By high speed boat, the one way journey takes 90 minutes and costs about 5500 yen, while by car ferry it takes around three hours and costs about 2500 yen. Some of the ferries stop on Nakadori Island along the way which increases travel time considerably. The cost to transport a car is around 30,000 yen one way.
From other islands
A dense ferry network connects Fukue to the other islands in the Goto Island chain. The most important route connects Fukue Port with Narao Port on Nakadori Island and is served by high-speed boats and car ferries multiple times per day. By high-speed boat, the one way journey takes 30 minutes and costs around 2200 yen, while by car ferry it takes 60-90 minutes and costs around 750 yen. The cost to transport a car between the two islands is around 6000-8000 yen.
How to get around Fukue Island
Fukue Island is covered by a network of bus routes; however, these are predominantly for locals and generally don't serve the tourist sites. One exception are the buses that connect central Fukue with Daihoji Temple and Imochiura Church, but even these services are infrequent.
It is for this reason that by far the most convenient way to get around Fukue Island is by rental car. A few car rental outlets can be found around central Fukue which is close to both the port and airport. The island is relatively small and can be driven around in about half a day, with a few main roads connecting the different parts of the island and narrower, windy coastal roads.