Dainty Saga Prefecture is a small prefecture on the beautiful island of Kyushu and is known for its capital city which is also called Saga. This part of Japan is famous for its ornate ceramic ware, particularly pottery pieces, so if you want to pick up some souvenirs then this is a great place to do it.
There are also a number of pretty sights scattered around the prefecture such as delightful onsen towns and other spots like folk villages, which mean that you can spend time here getting to know a more rural and less touristy part of Japan.
In Saga City proper you can also check out engaging shrines and temples, as well as eat some of the local delicacies for which Kyushu is famous like buttery Saga beef.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Saga…
1. Explore Yoshinogari Park
Yoshinogari Park is one of the main archeological wonders of Saga Prefecture and you will find settlements here which are said to date from the Yayoi Period which is thought to have run from 300 BC to 300 AD. There are a number of ancient pits here where you can see rooms and tombs that would have dated from the period and there are some 2,000 of these dwellings on show at Yoshinogari Park.
If you are a fan of archeology then this is said to be one of the best collections of Yayoi memorabilia in Japan so make sure you plan a visit here when you are in Saga.
2. Visit Saga Castle
Saga City is of course, like almost all cities in Japan, the home of a castle.
In this case it is called Saga Castle which you can visit as part of a tour of the city, and which is known for its killer whale gate.
The castle was restored in 2004 after it was destroyed during the World War II and it now has the claim to fame of being the largest wooden castle of its kind in all of Japan.
Another great thing to do when you are here is climb the inner towers which then afford you views all over the city and the park that is part of the castle grounds.
3. Sample the local delicacies
When you are in Saga make sure that you leave some time to sample the local food.
The city is covered in restaurants and cafes and this part of Japan is also known for its delicious Saga beef which is usually simply grilled to preserve the flavor and texture of the meat.
Other delicacies include a fish called mutsugoro and you can also try the ikizukuri which is a kind of sashimi or sliced raw fish.
4. Check out Yutoku Inari Shrine
Yutoku Inari Shrine sits is located in Kashima City which is in the south of the prefecture.
The shrine was built in honor of the deity known in Shinto Buddhism as Inari who is also known to guard foxes and rice, as well as promote prosperity.
The shrine was built on a hillside looking over the city and has stood here since 1687. When you visit make sure you check out the main hall which is known for its wooden beams which are 18 meters long and you can get to the shrine by walking along staircases set in the hillside that leads you through some pretty torii gates.
5. Go shopping at Arita and Imari
Saga Prefecture is mainly known for its ceramics in the form of gorgeous pottery pieces and if you want to check these out at the source then you need to head to Arita and Imari which are two villages in Saga Prefecture.
The pottery from Saga first rose to fame 400 years ago and you can now visit the towns and learn how the pieces are still made there to this day.
As you would expect, you can also buy some pieces which make excellent souvenirs or gifts and watch the craftsmen and women hard at work.
6. Visit Saga Castle History Museum
Saga Castle History Museum sits on the ground of Saga Castle and is the place to come to find out all about the history of this cultural site in Saga.
As you walk around the museum you can learn how the Tokugawa Shogunate would have operated here in the days of old before eventually being defeated and you can also see how people would have worked here in previous times.
You can also find out how the castle was reconstructed to become one of the largest wooden castles ever made in Japan.
7. Tour Takeo Onsen
Takeo Onsen is the name for a famous hot springs town which is part of Saga Prefecture and is known for having been here for more than 1,300 years.
The waters at Takeo Onsen are said to have healing properties which can cure a range of skin conditions and people have been coming here for years to bathe in the medicinal baths.
On a trip to Takeo Onsen you can choose from a range of bathhouses and relax in the warm waters for which this part of Saga is so famous.
8. Explore Dongurimura Village
Dongurimura Village translates as ‘Acorn Village’ in Japanese and is a great spot to visit if you are traveling to Saga with younger visitors.
Here you will find a range of attractions such as a petting zoo and there are also a number of music and dance shows held here at different times of the year depending on the season.
As if that wasn’t enough there is also a music festival held here annually and you can eat at the onsite restaurant in the village.
9. Walk around Kono Park
Kono Park is one of the main open spaces in Saga and you can visit a range of attractions when you come here.
If you are traveling with children then there is a small amusement park in the wider Kono Park, or you can also visit a petting zoo.
For adults you will find a serene teahouse in the park where you can watch a tea ceremony and also sample some of the famous brews.
As the park is quite large, you can spend the day walking around and even bring a picnic which you can eat as you take in all the serenity of the green space in the city.
10. Visit Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine is also sometimes called Gion Shrine and is a little special in Saga as it is known for being one of the few shrines that never closes.
This means that you can come here at night and actually this is the best time to visit as, when the sun goes down, the temple is illuminated with a number of beautiful Japanese lanterns.
You can also spend time here checking out the ornate inner sanctuary as well as a large central hall where offerings are made.
11. Relax at Sagajo Park
Sagajo Park is also the home of Saga Castle, so it is easy to combine a trip to both of these sights at the same time.
There are a number of jogging paths through the park, or you can simply wander around and take in the serene atmosphere for which this strip of greenery is famous.
If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city center then this is a great choice and if you are here from March to May then you can also check out the gorgeous cherry blossoms.
12. Walk around Ureshino Tea Village
Saga is often best known for its pottery and other ceramics, so many people may not know that this is also a great place to check out some of the most delicious tea in all of Japan.
With that in mind, one of the best places to do this is at Ureshino Tea Village where you can sign up for a tour of a lush tea plantation to see how the tea is grown and harvested in this part of Japan.
There is also the chance for you to try some of the teas that are grown here and you can also buy tea leave or tea bags to take home with you for a taste of Saga long after your holiday is over.
13. Admire Kodenji Temple
Kodenji Temple is a small temple that is said to date from the 17th century but which was heavily bombed during the Second World War and reconstructed, as many buildings have been in Japan.
The priests that work at the temple will often explain some of the history of the building to you and this actually used to be a family temple, so you can still see the tombs of some of the family members here.
It is also famous for its Hachitaro tree and if you come in the springtime then you will see the plum and cherry blossom trees in full bloom, making the temple grounds burst into a riot of color.
14. Tour the Saga City History and Folklore Museum
One of the best museums to visit in Saga is the Saga City History and Folklore Museum which is a great place to come if you want to know more about this part of Japan.
The museum will take you back in time and fill you in on how the city got its start, and then bring you back to the present day.
There are a number of galleries and exhibits here that tell you about handicrafts and folklore in the region and you can take a tour to get a taste of how Saga would have looked and felt in the days of old.
15. Saga Prefectural Government Observation Deck
If you want to get an overview of Saga City then one of the best ways to do so is from the air.
With that in mind, you need to head to the Saga Prefectural Government Observation Deck where you can step out and see the city from a height and check out all its famous landmarks.
This really is the best way to get your bearings when you are newly arrived in the city and the best time to visit is in the early morning or late afternoon when the light is at its best.