Karatsu () is a coastal city in Saga Prefecture on Kyushu, about 50 kilometers west of Fukuoka. In the past, Karatsu was a major stop for ships making the journey towards Korea and China because it is one of the closest Japanese cities to the Korean Peninsula.

Today the city is known for its castle, the annual Karatsu Kunchi festival (November 2-4) and its local pottery. Several more attractions are found on the nearby rural Higashi Matsuura Peninsula, including beautiful coastal scenery and the ruins of a huge castle that Toyotomi Hideyoshi used in his invasion attempt of Korea in the late 1500s.

Attractions around central Karatsu

Karatsu Castle

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:40)
Closed: December 29 to 31
Admission: 500 yen (plus optional 100 yen for an elevator up the castle hill)

Karatsu Hikiyama Exhibition Hall

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Closed: December 29-31
Admission: 310 yen

Karatsu-yaki Pottery Gallery

Hours: 9:00 to 18:00
Closed: Thursdays, New Year holidays
Admission: Free

Niji no Matsubara Pine Grove

Mount Kagamiyama

Attractions on the Higashi Matsuura Peninsula

Nagoya Castle Ruins

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Closed: Mondays (or following day if Monday is a holiday), December 29 to 31
Admission: 100 yen

Nagoya Castle Museum

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Closed: Mondays (or following day if Monday is a holiday), December 29 to 31
Admission: Free

Yobuko Morning Market

Hours: 7:30 to 12:00
Closed: January 1

Nanatsugama Sightseeing Cruise

Hours: Hourly departures from 9:30 to 16:30
Closed: During bad weather and high waves
Fee: 1800 yen

Getting there and around

How to get to Karatsu

Fukuoka and Karatsu are connected with each other by direct trains along the JR Chikuhi Line from Meinohama Station. Some trains along the Fukuoka subway line run directly all the way from Fukuoka Airport via Hakata Station, Tenjin Station and Meinohama to Karatsu. The one way ride from Hakata Station to Karatsu Station takes about 90 minutes and costs 1160 yen. The Japan Rail Pass is valid between Meinohama Station and Karatsu, but not on the subway line section east of Meinohama. Rail pass holders will have to pay an additional 300 yen from Hakata Station.

How to get around central Karatsu

Central Karatsu has two railway stations: Karatsu Station and Nishi-Karatsu Station. Karatsu Station is the larger and more central among the two. The city's bus network hub is Karatsu Bus Center, also known as Oteguchi () bus stop, which is a five minute walk north of Karatsu Station. Many of the bus lines also stop at Nishi-Karatsu Station.

While the Karatsu-yaki Gallery and Karatsu Hikiyama Exhibition Hall are within walking distance of Karatsu Station, buses provide access to the more distant sights except for Mount Kagamiyama which can only be accessed by taxi or rental car.

How to get to and around the Higashi Matsuura Peninsula

One or two buses per hour connect the Karatsu Bus Center with Yobuko (30 minutes, 760 yen one way, 1-2 buses/hour), the site of the morning market and departure point of the Nanatsugama cruises. From Yobuko, buses run to the Nagoya Castle Ruins (about 10 minutes, 200 yen one way, one bus every 1-2 hours, get off at Nagoyajō Hakubutsukan Iriguchi, 쉮锎ٓ). There are also a few direct buses between the Karatsu Bus Center and the Nagoya Castle Ruins, but they are very infrequent. All buses between Karatsu and the peninsula also stop at Nishi-Karatsu Station.

A rental car is a good, alternative choice for exploring the Higashi Matsuura Peninsula. Several rental outlets are located around Karatsu Station and central Karatsu.