Kyushu Region

Climate of Kyushu

The Kyushu Region generally gets a lot of rainfall, mainly because of the southern seasonal wind that blows in summer, bringing a mass of humid air. In particular, the rainy season, beginning in June (in May in Okinawa), sometimes means a cloudburst, which, in the worst cases, can lead to serious disasters entailing floods, landslides, and mudslides.

Ukishima Waterfront Park in Kumamoto Prefecture under the rainy-season sky

When we speak of the winter climate on Kyushu’s main island (here, excluding Okinawa and its surrounding archipelagoes), we can say that it is relatively warm. This is mainly thanks to the two warm ocean currents that pass nearby: Kuroshio (Japan Current) to the south and the Tushima Current to the north. But if you visit here in winter for the first time from Tokyo, for example, you might be a little disappointed to find that it is not as warm as you expected it to be. At any rate, the winter temperatures of Kyushu’s main island are higher than those of Tokyo, but not that much higher.

geography of the Kyushu Region
Geography of the Kyushu Region

The winter climate is slightly different even within the main island of Kyushu. And this climatic difference is mainly caused by its two big mountain ranges: the Kyushu Mountains and the Tsukushi Mountains. Called the “Roofs of Kyushu,” the Kyushu Mountains are dominant at the center of the main island, running from the northeast to the southwest. Some of its peaks exceed 1,500m in height, and the tallest one is Mt. Sobo at 1,756m. The Tsukushi Mountains run east-west across the northern part of Kyushu’s main island. But these mountains are not as high and steep as the Kyushu Mountains.

The city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture
Overlooking the city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture

In winter, a humid seasonal wind blows from the northwest toward Kyushu. And, according to meteorologists, when it hits these central mountains, thick clouds form on the windward side. That is why the cities of Fukuoka and Kitakyushu in northern Kyushu (located on the northern side of these central mountains), for example, have a lot of cloudy days in winter, sometimes accompanied with the occasional snowfall. However, once the wind crosses these mountains, it brings dry air to the leeward side. So, the city of Miyazaki in southeast Kyushu, for example, enjoys a lot of dry and sunny days in winter.

Central area of Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture

On the other hand, if you visit Okinawa in winter from the other areas of Japan, perhaps you will notice that it really is “warm.” Average winter temperatures in Naha City, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, far exceed those in Tokyo.

Photographs: properties of Unfamiliar Japan