Our last prefecture in Kyushu region is rich in history, scenic and a hub for delicious local cuisine!
Kagoshima City 鹿児島市
Each summer, the skies above Kinko Bay sparkle with lively fireworks as part of the Kagoshima Kinko Bay Summer Night Fireworks (かごしま錦江湾サマーナイト大花火大会). As one of the largest firework festival in Kyushu, over 14,000 fireworks explode one after another, illuminating the majestic Sakurajima.
While the most popular viewing point is Honko Port area (本港区), here are a couple more spots that provide equally fantastic view of the fireworks, such as Shiroyama Observatory (城山展望台) and Sengan-en (仙巌園). The former offers a great view of the Bay any time of the year, while the latter is a beautiful garden belonging to the powerful Shimazu family. Located within Sengan-en are signs of Japan’s path towards industrialization, where modern infrastructure stand in contrast with the aged buildings of old.
(Left) Shiroyama Observatory: From Kagoshima Chuo Station (鹿児島中央駅), take the Cityview Bus Shiroyama-Iso line. (Right) Sengan-en: From Kagoshima Chuo Station, take either the Cityview Bus or Machi Meguri Bus to Sengan-en mae (仙巌園前).
Craving for some Kagoshima specialties? Then you must go to Kagomma Furusato Yataimura (かごっまふるさと屋台村), a “food village” that has local cuisine ranging from the famous Kurobuta pork (黒豚ポーク), to fried fish cake (satsuma age; 薩摩揚げ). Take a look at this great review of the various stalls and food items for you to ponder!
*All photos from 愛 LOVE New York.
Access: Located before Tokyu Inn, on the right. 5 min walk from the Kagoshima Chuo Station, east exit.
One of Japan’s most active famous volcanoes, Mount Sakurajima can be see with constant billow of smoke and minor eruptions from the Showa Crater. Although residents still sweep away the ash accumulated overnight, be rest assured that it is generally safe to wander around the island.
A ferry will bring you to the island and around it, or you can climb up to various observation points such as:
- Yunohira Observation Point (湯之平展望所) – Challenge yourself to spot all seven hearts hidden among the tiled stone wall, which is said to bring you happiness!
- Karasujima Observation Point (烏島展望所) – Connected to the 3 km Nagisa Lava Trail (溶岩なぎさ遊歩道), soak your feet before and after the hike at the free hot spring foot bath.
- Kurokami View Spot (黒神ビュースポット) – Most notable for the buried torii gate that serves as a reminder of major eruptions.
Access: Take the shuttle bus from Kagoshima Chuo Station to Kagoshima Port and transfer to Sakurajima Ferry.
Ibusuki City 指宿市
Located near a volcanic hotspot, Ibusuki is famous for hot springs and the rare natural steam sand baths known as sunamushi (砂むし). Four times more effective than regular onsen, this is a favourite among ladies who wish to boost their healthy and beauty regime.
The most popular sand bathing spot is Sand Bath Hall SARAKU (砂むし会館砂楽), which is conveniently located near the train station. Alternatively, opt for Yamagawa Natural Sunamushi Onsen SAYURI (山川砂むし温泉砂湯里), which offers a gorgeous of Mount Kaimon to heighten your onsen experience.
SARAKU: 15 walk from Ibusuki Station (指宿駅). SAYURI: 10 mins drive from Yamagawa Station (山川駅).
For a dose of nature, get up close to Mount Kaimon (開聞岳), also known as Satsuma Fuji due to its near-perfect cone shape. The entire hike takes around 6 hours, but what is so unique about this hike is that the trail brings you around the circumference of the mountain (the only one of its kind in Japan)! Be careful as the woods get pitch dark after sunset, so don’t overstay on the mountain!
Nearby sights include Lake Ikeda (池田湖), the largest caldera lake in the region. Living in the waters of this mysterious lake is Japan’s Loch Ness equivalent, “Isshi”. These are actually Giant Mottled Eels (オオウナギ/大鰻) which can grow up to 2 m in length! Surrounding the lake are fields of beautiful flowers that make for great photographs!
Access: From Yamakawa Station (山川駅), transfer to the Ibusuki Makurazaki Line (指宿枕崎線) to Kaimon Station (開門駅). Trains are very infrequent!
Chiran Town 知覧町
With its rustic charm and historical vibe, Chiran Town more than deserves its nickname of “Little Kyoto”. The main attraction here is Bukeyashiki (武家屋敷), a stretch of street dotted with seven well-preserved samurai residences, each with its own Japanese garden. Due to it’s semi-isolated location, this samurai district retained much of its original atmosphere. Enjoy a “zen” meal at Taki-an (高城庵), a traditional restaurant serving Kagoshima cuisine.
A grim reminder of Chiran’s past is evident at the Chiran Peace Museum (知覧特攻平和会館), which serves to commemorate and highlight the sad plight of young men who sacrificed themselves for their country – the Kamikaze pilots. Old photographs give insight to the happy times before they depart for missions, as well as heart-wrenching letters from the young men to their loved ones, biding farewell as they fly to their graves.
Notably, the small eatery of Tomiya Shokudo (富屋食堂) may have served many pilots their last meals, as depicted in the sensational 2001 movie – Hotaru ホタル (The Firefly). The restaurant is now a museum and showcases the life of Tome Torihama, who ran the restaurant and was a maternal figure to the many young kamikaze pilots.
Access: From Kagoshima Chuo Station, take a train to Hirakawa Station (平川駅) and transfer by bus to Chiran.
Despite it’s lack of popularity among tourists, this island played a huge role in shaping Japan’s history. Tanegashima was thought to be the place where firearms were first introduced into Japan by the Portuguese, when the ship they were on grounded on the beach of Tanegashima.
Showcased within Tanegashima Kaihatsu Sogo Center (種子島開発総合センター) in Nishinoomote City (西之表市) is the first “made in Japan” gun – the Tanegashima teppo gun. If you’re here in summer, don’t miss the Tanegashima Teppo Festival (種子島鉄砲まつり), where participants dress up in traditional garbs and fire shots into the sky.
Home to the “most beautiful rocket-launch complex in the world”, Tanegashima Space Center (種子島宇宙センター) is crucial to Japan’s efforts in space exploration. It is a must to check out the Space Museum, loaded with information on satellite launch, the International Space Station project, earth observation etc. The Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” allows you to experience being in orbit, while the Rocket Launch Theatre lets you “take off” from a rocket!
Access: Fly to Tanegashima Airport from Kagoshima Airport, or take a ferry from Kagoshima Port's South Pier (鹿児島港南埠頭).
*Header image by MIYAMOTO Y via Flickr