KaratsuKaratsu () is a city in Saga Prefecture, Japan.
In addition to Standard Japanese, the local dialect (Karatsu-ben) is also understood by most. It is actually a bit closer to the Hakata dialect than that of the rest of Saga prefecture, but Saga-ben is also understood.
Korean language signage exists, but sparsely.
From Fukuoka International Airport, take the Fukuoka City Subway Airport Line to its terminus, Meinohama, and transfer to the JR Chikuhi Line. Travel time from Hataka is ~84 minutes (~68 minutes if you catch a Rapid Chikuhi Line train (not labelled as such; departs Meinohama at 09:47, 10:47, 17:51, and 18:50)). Some trains will run all the way from the airport to Nishi-Karatsu station without requiring transfers.
The Oteguchi Bus Terminal is the main bus hub in Karatsu. It's less than a ten minute walk from Karatsu Station (take the north exit and walk straight, turn right at the T-intersection in front of city hall.
Karatsu is also serviced by a ferry, which links it to Iki island in Nagasaki prefecture. From there, it's possible to catch another ferry onward to Busan, Korea by way of Tsushima, also part of Nagasaki. The ferry terminal is in Oshima, roughly a 20-minute walk from Nishi Karatsu Station . Busses also run to the ferry terminal.
For car rentals, the tourist information center at Karatsu station seems to have better rates than the Toyota place down the street; a yellow-plate car (seats 4) rents for about ¥6800/day, with an additional ¥1050 for insurance. At least one of the employees speaks pretty good English.
Karatsu CastleA 1966 reconstruction of the former castle.
Niji no MatsubaraThis pine forest was planted by the feudal lord Terasawa as a counter-measure against the strong winds and tides in Karatsu Bay. It stretches for 4 km along the coast and is one of Karatsu's most well-known tourist attractions. It's possible to access by bicycle from central Karatsu, but take care when riding on the road, especially at night.
Nanatsu-GamaAlso in Minato is this group of seven caves, formed by the tumultuous Genkai Sea. Accessible by bus, with a bit of a walk from the main road.
Tategami-IwaLocated in the town of Minato, a scenic group of standing rocks along the coast. Can be accessed by bus.
Nagoya Castle RuinsNot to be confused with Nagoya Castle in Nagoya, this castle was the launching point for invasions of Korea during the Sengoku Period. Today the castle walls are all that remain. It's still pretty nice, and there's a modern museum on-site.
TakashimaNot to be confused with the nearby Takashima (鷹島) in Nagasaki prefecture, this island in Karatsu Bay is dominated by a large hill, and is accessible by a ferry that leaves from the jetty near Karatsu Castle. There's a small village on the island with some picturesque little garden plots, as well as a shrine thought to bring luck in winning the lottery. It's possible to climb the hill to its summit via a well-marked and not terribly strenuous path, which offers nice views of Karatsu and its surroundings on a clear day. It's no longer possible to walk or bike all the way around the island, as a significant section of the road was blocked off due to a landslide. Interestingly, most villagers on the island have the surname of "Nozaki". Bicycles can be brought along on the ferry for an additional charge, but the island is walkable without one.
Udono Sekibutsu StatuesA cave of stone Buddha carvings. It is said that the famous priest Kukai stopped here after returning from China.
Hikiyama Exhibition HallThe floats of the famous Karatsu Kunchi Festival are all on display here everday except during the festival. They have informative English descriptions about each float, what it is, when it was made, and sometimes why it was chosen to be a float.
- Karatsu Kunchi Held during November 2-4 each year, this three-day festival is Karatsu's most famous. 14 floats (known as hikiyama in Japanese) are drawn through the city by people from the various neighborhoods.
- Hamasaki Gion Festival In mid-July the city lights up with many floats to celebrate what citizens hope to be a good harvest.
- Karatsu Pottery - Karatsu-yaki is one of the most prized among collectors of Japanese ceramics. The most convenient store selling them is Arupino (building with a dolphin on it), located adjacent to Karatsu Station. The pottery is on the second floor.
- Squid buns (ika manjū), which come in white and black varieties, or the unusual-looking squid dumplings (ika shūmai)
Seajackaddress: 佐賀県唐津市町田3-1-25Located a few minutes walk from JR Karatsu Station, this conveyor belt sushi restaurant can get busy during dinner hours. Not as good as the identically-priced Sushiro in Saga City, but still relatively cheap and filling.
Riki Housephone: +81 955-73-7142address: 佐賀県唐津市二タ子２－１－１５Next to JR Nishi Karatsu Station, this neighborhood establishment offers pasta and pizza, as well as Japanese fare. In the evenings, it's a bar that frequently hosts local music acts or open mic nights, ranging from electronic to jazz to rock 'n roll. The friendly owner can speak a bit of English.
Karatsu Burgerphone: +81 955 70-6446A food truck found along Route 202 in Niji no Matsubara, this local favorite serves up burgers, drinks, and nothing else. There's another one along Route 23 in Iwano on the way to Genkai.
MaHaLo Burger Kitchenaddress: 佐賀県唐津市高砂町1696-6 千歳ビルLess than a five-minute walk from JR Karatsu Station (go out the north entrance, head right, and cross the street and go left down the street with the two sea urchin statues), this burger shop offers Imari beef hamburgers, sides, and drinks. Only seats 4 people; if it's full, the benches in front of Karatsu station are a good bet.
Funnyphone: +81 955-58-2747address: 佐賀県東松浦郡七山村大字滝川540-2Located in Nanayama, this gem offers Bass ale on tap, and a number of delicious, pita-based dishes (among other things). The friendly owner speaks a bit of English, and has an impressive record and CD collection on display. Highly recommended (if you can make it up to Nanayama, that is).
Satobu CafeA Peruvian restaurant with good food and very friendly owners.
Masala MasterA quality Indian restaurant just 2 minutes from Watada Station.
The town of Yobuko is famous for live squid (活イカ katsu-ika or 生イカ nama-ika), which can be eaten as sashimi, or pulled right off the not-entirely-dead body.
phone: +81 955-82-5333address: 1944-1 Tono-no-ura Yobuko-choJapan's first restaurant that floats in the sea. A standard course of squid runs ¥2625, or splurge and get the three flavor course (squid, tai, and hamachi) for ¥3900 (but with half as much squid).
- Look on Asaichi-dōri (朝市通り) for any number of restaurants, including a Manbō branch. (From Karatsu Station or Nishi-Karatsu Station, take a bus to Yobuko Asaichi-dōri.)
Lagoonaddress: 〒847-0052 佐賀県唐津市呉服町1819−1A good place to begin a night out in Karatsu, Lagoon offers billiards, darts, bottles of Corona and Guinness (ice cold...) in a pretty spacious area, including kotatsu (low tables with a quilt and heater built in) that are nice in the winter. The ¥1500 pizzas from Costco can feed 3-4 hungry people, and are a bargain by Japanese standards. If you want to get the all you can drink (飲み放題, nomihoudai), everyone at the table has to get it.
Montanaphone: +81 955-75-0157address: 1838-1 Nakamachi, Karatsu, Saga Prefecture 847-0051, JapanNot far from Karatsu Station, this small place can sometimes get too crowded to admit additional patrons. Generally pretty empty before 10PM.
Castle Mountainphone: +81 955-73-6074address: 〒847-0047 佐賀県唐津市本町1740-3-1FIf you've run out of regular bar options, you can always try a hostess/"snack" bar. This one tends to be the most interesting; the employees don't seem to bat an eye when the drunk salarymen start whipping their shirts off and dancing on tables.
phone: +81 955-74-1000address: 〒847-0815 佐賀県唐津市西寺町488-1A centrally-located business hotel, gets fairly positive reviews. Single ¥5500, Double ¥6900, Twin ¥8200