A bucolic scene greets visitors to Hiraodai Limestone Plateau as countless sheep graze across rolling hills that stretch as far as the eye can see. Only these “sheep” are not woolly farm animals; they’re limestone formations jutting from the landscape.

Hiraodai, one of Japan’s three major karst areas, stretches 6 kilometers north to south and 2 kilometers east to west and is a National Natural Monument. Located in Fukuoka Prefecture, the gateway to Kyushu, it’s just a 40-minute drive from Kitakyushu city, which is home to Kokura Castle — a popular destination in its own right. The trip from Hiroshima to Kitakyushu’s Kokura Station only takes 50 minutes on the shinkansen, making Hiraodai an easy destination for day-trippers dropping in from the main island of Honshu. 

Once there, the fun begins: Hiraodai, unlike many other designated monuments, allows you to interact with the landscape in incredible ways. This is all possible thanks to Sola Land Hiraodai, a sprawling facility that aims to get you up close to the karst topography. 

Hands-on at Sola Land Hiraodai

Outdoor activities rule, with hiking trails winding around outcroppings and play areas scattered across the grounds. The most recent addition is an adventure course boasting 50 pieces of equipment that allows children to clamber over karst formations with the help of climbing holds. Other apparatus integrated into the unusual environment includes slides, climbing nets and balance beams.

Keen to spend a night in nature? Check out the glamping grounds for a chance to sleep surrounded by a natural monument.

Made-in-Japan Mementos

Children and adults alike can put their hands to work making crafts or tasty treats. Those interested in Japanese pottery can fashion tiles, cups or other items under the guidance of an instructor. Creations can be shipped c.o.d. once firing is completed. 

The more culinary-inclined can join a soba-making workshop, where you’ll knead and cut Japan’s traditional buckwheat noodles. Other options, including craft-making and guided hiking, are also available.

Regional Cuisine for Everyone

Kyushu’s specialties are the stars at the on-site Restaurant Mouton, where the menu features seasonal delicacies such as highly prized Ouma bamboo shoots. Champion-grade Miyazaki Beef can be served with advance notice.

Restaurant Mouton is happy to cater to a range of dietary requirements. The restaurant’s pasta can be adjusted for vegetarians and vegans, and allergy-friendly and gluten-free options, including Japanese-style bento lunches, can be arranged with prior notice.

A Journey to Remember

Spectacular scenery, firsthand experiences and delicious dining — Sola Land Hiraodai has it all. Whether you make the trip solo or with friends, family or a significant other, a visit is sure to leave you with unique and enduring memories. 

For more information, visit the official Hiraodai website.