Saga is a hidden gem in Japan, offering travelers a unique combination of rich history, beautiful scenery, delicious cuisine, and exciting cultural events. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie, there’s something for everyone in Saga. Here are 25 exciting things to do in Saga that you won’t want to miss.
Discover Saga’s Rich History
Saga is a city steeped in history, with a rich cultural heritage that is just waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply interested in learning more about the area, there are plenty of attractions in Saga that are sure to captivate and inspire you.
Visit Saga Castle
One of the most impressive historical sites in Saga is Saga Castle. This castle dates back to the 1590s and served as the residence of the Nabeshima clan, one of the largest feudal lords in Kyushu. Although most of the castle was destroyed in the Meiji era, you can still see the impressive watchtowers, the surviving retaining walls, and the reconstructed main gate. From the top of the hill, you’ll also enjoy stunning views of Saga city.
When you visit Saga Castle, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. The castle is a testament to the area’s rich history and the architectural and engineering skills of the people who built it. Take a stroll through the castle grounds and imagine what life was like for the Nabeshima clan all those centuries ago.
Explore Yoshinogari Historical Park
Another fascinating historical site in Saga is Yoshinogari Historical Park. This archaeological site has yielded some of the most significant discoveries of Yayoi period (300 BC-300 AD) artifacts in Japan. Walk through the reconstructed dwellings, granaries, and palisades of the ancient settlement, and learn about the unique culture that developed in the area. The park also hosts a museum and offers hands-on activities, such as making pottery and weaving.
Yoshinogari Historical Park is a great place to gain a deeper understanding of Saga’s past. As you explore the park, you’ll be transported back in time to a world that existed long before modern technology and conveniences. It’s a chance to see how people lived, worked, and played in ancient Japan.
Step Back in Time at the Saga Prefectural Museum
If you want to delve deeper into Saga’s history, the Saga Prefectural Museum is a great place to start. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts related to the area’s past, such as swords, armor, ceramics, and lacquerware. Don’t miss the special exhibitions, which showcase different aspects of Saga’s cultural heritage.
At the Saga Prefectural Museum, you’ll have the opportunity to see some of the most important historical artifacts in the region. From ancient pottery to samurai swords, the museum’s collection is both impressive and educational. You’ll gain a greater appreciation for Saga’s past and the people who have lived here throughout the centuries.
Overall, Saga is a city that is full of history and culture. Whether you’re interested in ancient Japan or simply want to learn more about the area, there are plenty of attractions in Saga that are sure to capture your imagination and leave you with a greater appreciation for this fascinating city.
Experience Nature and Outdoor Activities
Saga prefecture is a nature lover’s paradise, offering a wide range of outdoor activities that are perfect for all ages and skill levels. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll through a beautiful garden or a challenging hike through rugged terrain, Saga has something to offer.
Stroll Through Mifuneyama Rakuen Garden
Mifuneyama Rakuen Garden is a stunning landscape garden that features 250,000 azalea bushes, a pond with carp and turtles, a bamboo grove, and a hill with a view of the Ariake Sea. The garden is especially popular in the spring when the azaleas are in bloom, but it’s worth a visit any time of the year. Take a leisurely walk around the garden, relax by the pond, and snap some photos of the picturesque scenery.
As you stroll through the garden, you’ll notice the meticulous attention to detail that has gone into creating this beautiful space. The azalea bushes are arranged in a variety of colors and patterns, creating a stunning display of natural beauty. The pond is home to a variety of fish and turtles, and you might even spot a heron or egret wading in the water.
Be sure to take a moment to appreciate the bamboo grove, which is a peaceful and serene spot in the garden. The rustling sound of the bamboo leaves in the breeze is a soothing accompaniment to your walk.
Hike the Tenzan Ski Resort Trails
If you’re up for a challenge, the Tenzan Ski Resort Trails are a great way to experience Saga’s rugged terrain. The trails, which were used for Nordic skiing events during the 1995 Winter Universiade, offer a variety of difficulties and distances, from beginner to expert. You’ll pass through scenic forests and fields, and you might even spot some local wildlife, such as deer and foxes.
The trails are well-maintained and clearly marked, making it easy to navigate your way through the wilderness. As you hike, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of Mt. Fugen, one of Saga’s most iconic peaks.
Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, as the trails can be quite challenging and you’ll need to stay hydrated and energized. And don’t forget your camera, as there will be plenty of photo opportunities along the way!
Relax at Ureshino Onsen
After a day of exploring or hiking, there’s nothing better than soaking in a hot spring. Ureshino Onsen is one of Saga’s best-known hot spring resorts, famous for its high-quality waters and healing properties. The town has several ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) that offer various types of baths, including outdoor ones with views of the surrounding mountains.
The hot springs at Ureshino Onsen are said to have a variety of health benefits, including improving circulation, relieving muscle pain, and reducing stress. The waters are rich in minerals such as sodium, calcium, and magnesium, which are believed to have therapeutic properties.
While you’re at Ureshino Onsen, be sure to try some of the local cuisine, which is known for its fresh seafood and seasonal vegetables. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to try a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which is a serene and meditative experience that will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Dive into Saga’s Unique Culture
Are you ready to explore Saga’s rich cultural heritage? From hot air balloons to porcelain and festivals, Saga has something for everyone. Here are some additional activities to add to your itinerary:
Attend the Saga International Balloon Fiesta
The Saga International Balloon Fiesta is a must-see event for anyone visiting Saga in November. The festival is a visual feast, with dozens of hot air balloons from around the world taking to the skies. The balloons come in all shapes and sizes, from traditional round balloons to whimsical characters and animals. The festival also features balloon races, night illuminations, and concerts, making it a truly unforgettable experience.
But did you know that hot air ballooning has a long history in Saga? The first hot air balloon flight in Japan took place in Saga in 1876, and the prefecture has been a hub for ballooning ever since. Today, Saga is home to several ballooning companies and hosts a number of events throughout the year, including the Saga Balloon Festival and the Japan International Balloon Fiesta.
Learn about Arita Porcelain
Arita porcelain is renowned for its beauty and craftsmanship, and Saga is the birthplace of this art form. Arita has been producing porcelain for over 400 years, and the town’s porcelain industry is still going strong today. To learn more about this fascinating craft, head to the Arita Porcelain Park.
The park offers a range of activities for visitors, including tours of the porcelain production process, hands-on workshops where you can paint your own porcelain piece, and a museum showcasing some of the finest examples of Arita porcelain. You can also browse the shops for unique souvenirs and gifts, from delicate tea sets to ornate vases.
But Arita porcelain is more than just a beautiful art form – it’s also an important part of Saga’s history and culture. The town of Arita has a number of historic sites related to porcelain production, including old kilns, warehouses, and residences. Take a stroll through the town to get a sense of its rich history and heritage.
Immerse Yourself in Karatsu Kunchi Festival
The Karatsu Kunchi Festival is one of Saga’s most vibrant and exciting events, held every November in the city of Karatsu. The festival has a history dating back over 400 years and is a celebration of the city’s prosperity and good fortune.
The highlight of the festival is the hikiyama parade, where massive floats adorned with intricate carvings, fabrics, and lanterns are pulled through the streets by hundreds of men. Each float represents a different neighborhood or community in Karatsu, and the competition to create the most elaborate and beautiful float is fierce.
But the festival is more than just a parade – it’s a time for the community to come together and celebrate. The streets are filled with food vendors selling local specialties, and there are traditional dances and performances throughout the city. Don’t miss the chance to experience this colorful and lively event.
Savor the Flavors of Saga Cuisine
Taste Saga Beef
Saga beef is a brand of wagyu (Japanese beef) that is prized for its marbling, tenderness, and flavor. The cattle are raised in Saga’s lush countryside and fed with local grains and mineral water. You can try Saga beef at various restaurants in the prefecture, such as steak houses, yakiniku (grilled meat) joints, and shabu-shabu (hot pot) places. Don’t miss the chance to savor this exquisite delicacy.
Indulge in Local Sweets and Snacks
Saga has a sweet tooth, and you’ll find plenty of treats to satisfy your cravings. Try the karukan, a soft and chewy cake made of sweet potato flour and black sugar. Or sample the yokan, a jelly-like confection made of red beans or chestnuts. For savory snacks, go for the imo-jochu, a type of potato liquor that is a specialty of Saga, or the nabemono, a hot pot dish that is popular in the winter.
Sample Traditional Sake at a Brewery
Sake is an integral part of Japanese culture, and Saga has a long and proud tradition of brewing it. Visit one of the local sake breweries, such as Nabeshima Shuzo or Fukuchiyo Shuzo, to learn about the process of making sake and taste different varieties. You can also join a guided tour or participate in a sake-pairing dinner to fully appreciate the nuances of this beloved beverage.
In conclusion, Saga offers a wealth of experiences that are sure to delight and surprise you. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, culture, or food, you’ll find plenty of things to do and see in this charming prefecture. So pack your bags, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to discover the wonders of Saga!