Kagoshima (southern Kyushu, 2½ hours from Miyazaki) is known to Japanese as the Naples of Japan, a reference to the city's nearness to smoking Sakurajima volcano, which is comparable to Naples's nearness the active volcano of Vesuvius. With that said, Kagoshima is a wonderful town with hot springs, gardens, a lively nightlife, pleasant climate, friendly atmosphere and 660,000 people.

Kagoshima doesn’t have that much in the way of tourists other than Sakurajima volcano but it is nice place to stay for two days (one day at Sakurajima and one day checking out Kagoshima). The streets and the sidewalks are wide; the city is easy to get around in; and restaurants and bars offers things like black pork and soju liquor. There are some beaches and good fishing spots in the heart the city. By one count there are 569 cape and bottlenose dolphins living in Kinko Bay off Kagoshima.

Kagoshima also has a long history of looking outward and defying the Japanese establishment. It is where St. Francis Xavier came ashore in 1549 and near where the first Europeans (shipwrecked the Portuguese) arrived in Japan in 1543. The Kagoshima-based Shimazu clan played a major part in bringing down the last shogun and setting in motion the events that led to the modernization of Japan. The city was bombarded by British warships in 1863, destroyed by fire in 1877, damaged by a volcano eruption in 1914, and severely bombed by Allied forces during World War II from June through August 1945.

Kagoshima is a seaport city situated in a well-protected harbor on the southern coast of Kyushu. It is the site of a naval base where submarines are based and city is center of a green-growing region and is famous for its soju. Among the industries it was traditionally known for are Satsuma porcelain, silk and cotton clothing, wood products, and tinware. There are two universities in Kagoshima;

Kagoshima Prefecture covers 9,187 square kilometers (3,547 square miles), is home to about 1.65 million people and has a population density of 179 people per square kilometer. Kagoshima is the capital and largest city, with about 600,000 people. It is on Kyushu island and has eight districts and 43 municipalities.

Visiting Kagoshima

Kagoshima spreads on the west side of Kinko-wan Bay. Sakurajima lies on a peninsula on the other side of the bay. The main places of interest to visitors are: 1) the Kagoshima station area, with a fair number of hotels; 2) the Tenmonkan entertainment district; and 3) the water front area with ferry port, gardens, parks and hotels and the Kagoshima Aquarium.

There are tourist offices at Nishi-Kagoshima station (Tel: 099-253-2500) and JR Kagoshima station (Tel: 099-223-5771). Kagoshima has an extensive streetcar system, For destinations that can’t be reached by street car there are buses and taxis. Ferries run regularly to Sakurajima. Kagoshima Tram Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net

Websites: Kagoshima Travel Guide site Kagoshima Kankou ; Kagoshima City Guide kagoshima-yokanavi.jp Map: happinessisjapan.com Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Kagoshima is accessible by air, ferry, bus and train from several Japanese cities. It is less than 2 hours from Tokyo by plane. A new section of the shinkansen opened up to Kagoshima. It connects with the main shinkansen line to Tokyo and Osaka. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Entertainment and Shopping: The neon-lit Tenmonkan District is the center of Kagoshima nightlife. It is filled with restaurant, shops, designer stores and sweets shops. Many of the restaurant have special lunch deals. At night, the streets and arcades are lit up with neon lights; restaurant have all you can eat deals; and karaokes and izakaya bars do good business. There is a lively morning market, with locally-grown produce and locally-caught fish, in front of Nishi-Kagoshima station everyday except Sunday.

Sights in Kagoshima

Sights in Kagoshima include memorials to St. Francis Xavier, scattered through the city; Kotsuki-gawa, riverside promenade path popular with walkers; and Shiroyama Park, a wooded park on a hill in the center of the city with splendid views from the summit; the Kagoshima Tropical Vegetation Park, with orchids, ferns cacti, palms, macaws and other birds and plants.

There are some museum, temples, shrines, amusement parks and an animal park. The Museum of Meiji Restoration and Hometown Museum of Archeological History are worth a look if you are interested in Japanese history. The Kagoshima City Art Museum contains works by Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, Rodin, Maillol, Kiyoteru Kuroda, Takeji Fujishima and Seiji Togo. An hour away from Kagoshima is Gold Park Kushikino, where visitors can try panning for gold.

Kagoshima Hot Springs: There are more than 2,000 hot springs in the Kagoshima area. Some are located on the mountains. Some are in the city. Other are near the sea. Most are inside hotels and onsens. There are outdoor hot springs in the Sakurajima area. One of the nicest one, Furusato Hot Spring, unfortunately closed a few years back. It had a variety of baths including a large bath for men and women — where bathers cover themselves with towels — next to the sea. Sakurajima Magma Hot Springs is famous for its "magma mud bath and massage." Shirahama hot spring features rust-colored iron-laden water.

Iso-teien Garden (northern Kagoshima) is considered one of finest examples of landscape gardening in Japan. Laid out in 1660 on the edge of Kinko-wan Bay, it incorporates Sakurajima into its borrowed scenery and contains a beautiful villa and a museum with relics collected over 700 years by the Shimazu family. A cable car takes visitors to the top of a small hill with great views. Sengan-en Gardens is Kagoshima’s other large garden

Kagoshima Aquarium (on the waterfront) is large complex with a 1,500-ton tanks with a whale shark, tuna, rays and others fish: an Underwater tunnel; sea otter tank; mangrove tank; a small cramped indoor dolphin pool; and a pirarucu tank, with giant Amazon fish. It opened in 1997.

Shoko Shuseikan Museum and Garden (in Sengan-en, 20 minutes from central Kagoshima) is a classic Japanese manor home and garden. Spread over 12 acres, the estate was built in 1658 by the 19th head of the Shimazu clan—a famous lineage of samurai lords who ruled this part of Japan’s far south.The traditional Japanese garden attached to the residence beautifully uses the majestic Mt. Sakurajima and Kinkowan Bay as an artificial mountain and pond, respectively, to create a magnificent borrowed landscape. It is deemed to be one of the famous gardens of Japan and was designated a National Place of Scenic Beauty in 1958. Take a stroll in the beautiful gardens with views of Sakurajima across Kinko Bay. Address: Shoko Shuseikan Museum, 9700-1 Yoshino-cho, Kagoshima-shi, Kagoshima; Website: senganen.jp/en

Meiji Era Industrial Sites: UNESCO World Heritage Site

“Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining” were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2015. According to UNESCO: “The site encompasses a series of twenty three component parts, mainly located in the southwest of Japan. It bears testimony to the rapid industrialization of the country from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century, through the development of the iron and steel industry, shipbuilding and coal mining. The site illustrates the process by which feudal Japan sought technology transfer from Europe and America from the middle of the 19th century and how this technology was adapted to the country’s needs and social traditions. The site testifies to what is considered to be the first successful transfer of Western industrialization to a non-Western nation. [Source: UNESCO]

“A series of industrial heritage sites, focused mainly on the Kyushu-Yamaguchi region of south-west of Japan, represent the first successful transfer of industrialization from the West to a non-Western nation. The rapid industrialization that Japan achieved from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century was founded on iron and steel, shipbuilding and coal mining, particularly to meet defence needs. The sites in the series reflect the three phases of this rapid industrialisation achieved over a short space of just over fifty years between 1850s and 1910.

“The first phase in the pre-Meiji Bakumatsu isolation period, at the end of Shogun era in the 1850s and early 1860s, was a period of experimentation in iron making and shipbuilding. Prompted by the need to improve the defences of the nation and particularly its sea-going defences in response to foreign threats, industrialisation was developed by local clans through second hand knowledge, based mostly on Western textbooks, and copying Western examples, combined with traditional craft skills. Ultimately most were unsuccessful. Nevertheless this approach marked a substantial move from the isolationism of the Edo period, and in part prompted the Meiji Restoration.

“The second phase from the 1860s accelerated by the new Meiji Era, involved the importation of Western technology and the expertise to operate it; while the third and final phase in the late Meiji period (between 1890 to 1910), was full-blown local industrialization achieved with newly-acquired Japanese expertise and through the active adaptation of Western technology to best suit Japanese needs and social traditions, on Japan’s own terms. Western technology was adapted to local needs and local materials and organised by local engineers and supervisors.

The 23 components are in 11 sites within 8 discrete areas. Six of the eight areas are in the south-west of the country, with one in the central part and one in the northern part of the central island. Collectively the sites are an outstanding reflection of the way Japan moved from a clan based society to a major industrial society with innovative approaches to adapting western technology in response to local needs and profoundly influenced the wider development of East Asia. After 1910, many sites later became fully fledged industrial complexes, some of which are still in operation or are part of operational sites.

“The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution illustrate the process by which feudal Japan sought technology transfer from Western Europe and America from the middle of the 19th century and how this technology was adopted and progressively adapted to satisfy specific domestic needs and social traditions, thus enabling Japan to become a world-ranking industrial nation by the early 20th century. The sites collectively represents an exceptional interchange of industrial ideas, know-how and equipment, that resulted, within a short space of time, in an unprecedented emergence of autonomous industrial development in the field of heavy industry which had profound impact on East Asia.

“The technological ensemble of key industrial sites of iron and steel, shipbuilding and coal mining is testimony to Japan’s unique achievement in world history as the first non-Western country to successfully industrialize. Viewed as an Asian cultural response to Western industrial values, the ensemble is an outstanding technological ensemble of industrial sites that reflected the rapid and distinctive industrialisation of Japan based on local innovation and adaptation of Western technology.”


Meiji Era Industrial Sites in Kagoshima

“Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining”: Area 2: Kagoshima:
1) Shūseikan pioneering factory complex; Kagoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture:
2) Remains of Shūseikan Reverbatory Furnaces. A reverberatory furnace is a a furnace in which the roof and walls are heated by flames and radiate heat on to material in the centre of the furnace.

3) Shūseikan machine factory erected in 1865; Important Cultural Property
4) Former Kagoshima spinning engineer's residence erected in 1867; Important Cultural
5) Terayama Charcoal Kiln constructed in 1858, Historic site
6) Sekiyoshi Sluice gate of Yoshino constructed in 1852

Shoko Shuseikan Museum adjoins the UNESCO World Heritage Site sites of Shūseikan pioneering factory complex, the remains of Shūseikan Reverbatory Furnaces and Shūseikan machine factory adjoin the which explores the region’s industrial heritage and the modernization of Japan during the Meiji period (1868-1912).. For a closer look at another local export, admire the skilled craftsmanship on display at the Kiriko Glassworks. Here they produce colorful Satsuma Kiriko cut crystal glass, which you can also browse in the onsite shop.

The Shoko Building opened in 1865. The Shoko Museum (Seiko Shuseikan) opened in 1923 as part of the integrated building project started by Masaaki Shimazu, the 28th owner of the Satsuma Domain. Currently operated by Shimadzu Kogyo Co.. it displays historical materials related to the Shimazu family, Satsuma Kiriko, and Satsuma ware. The main building was built in 1865 and is an important cultural property of the country. Adjacent to Senganen, this is the first stone Western-style building in Japan that has an arch. In 2015, it was registered as a World Heritage Site as a machine factory of the "Former Shuseikan" that constitutes the " Industrial Revolution Heritage of Meiji Japan: Steelmaking, Steelmaking, Shipbuilding and Coal Industry". [Source: Wikipedia]

The main building is roughly divided into three exhibition blocks, and permanent items such as models of reverberatory furnaces related to the building building business are exhibited. Items and places on display include: 1) Shuseikan Machine Factory (designated in 1962); 2) Bunroku 3rd year Mr. Shimadzu Kokutaiko inspection site Shakuishi Mitsunari station judgment (designated in 1980); 3) Materials related to Kahei Kimura (designated in 1998); 4) Print type 8,283; 5) 52 printing tools; 6) Ranbun English Literature 1 book; 7) Silver plate photo (Shizutsu Shimazu statue) (designated in 1999); 8) Shaper (Made in 1863 Holland) (Designated in 2000); 9) Materials related to dogs and pets (Shimadzu tradition) 665 points-Designated in 2017; 10) Documents and documents 610 points; 11) 44 costumes and bows; 12) 11 original photo glass plates. The following important cultural properties are owned by Tsurumine Shrine; A) Tachi Meizumi Kunizumi Unji (designated in 1927); B) Akai Itoi Great Armor (helmet, large sleeves, apricot leaves) (designated in 1964). Location: Yubinbango 892-0871


Sakurajima (across Kinko-wan Bay from Kagoshima) is regarded as one of the world’s most active volcanoes. It belches out dangerous gases and produces ash showers on a regular basis that cover Kagoshima in a snowfall-like blanket of gray. Sakurajima has been producing steam and ash almost continuously since 1955.

Sakurajima consist of three peaks: 1,117-meter-high Kita-dake, 1,060-meter-high Naka-dake, and 1,040-meter-high Minami-dake. Minami-dake contains the crater where most of the volcano’s activity takes place. On the slopes of the volcano are deep layers of lava and ash. In some places there is incredibly fertile soil that produces white radishes that weigh 24 kilograms (80 pounds).

Sakurajima, which means “cherry blossom island”, is the name of the island and volcano. It faces Kagoshima, a city of over 600,000, across Kagoshima Bay. When the volcano erupts, people say the ash feels like a slight tingling on your skin or being bombarded by tiny insects. If you stay outside long enough your lower arms become covered in grey powder with consistency of finely ground pepper. Often the powdery precipitation stops after a few minutes, but if it doesn’t and the rain comes, it’s can be like printing ink dripping from the sky. [Source: JNTO]

Mt. Sakurajima lies to the south of the Aira caldera. On the southern side of the volcano lies the Ata caldera. The topography of Mt. Sakurajima continues to change tremendously due to the volcano's many eruptions, such as the large-scale eruption 100 years ago (in 1914) in which larva created a land bridge between the island and the Osumi Peninsula. The volcano is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from a nuclear reactor that was switched on in August 2015 after it had been turned off because of the Fukushima crisis that followed the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Visiting Sakurajima

It is not possible to hike to the top of Sakurajima but is it possible to bicycle around it on a road that follows the coast around the entire peninsula. Stops along the way, include small towns, rock beaches, lavas flows, and hot springs.

At Shioyagamoto port the sea is a bright turquoise color because of the effect of microbes feeding on nutrients released by the hot springs. Bicycles can be rented at a shop near the ferry terminal. The bicycles are not in very good shape so be prepared for that.

One stretch of the road traverses a A monstrous lava flow produced by the 1914 eruption that buried Torishima Island. The Kurokami Buried Torii is a remnant from before 1914. At Arimura Lava Formation Observatory you can wander around on wooden walkways that winds through lava flows. The Yunochira Observatory is at the top of a steep road, about a third of the way up the western slope of the volcano. Although it not possible to climb around the top of Sakurajima you can hike on the lower slopes on hiking trails that lead to lookouts with good views such as Yunoshira Observatory.

Sakurajima Visitor Center has displays in geology, volcanic eruption and natural history and offers easy-to-understand displays, overviews, and a variety of information about the nature of Sakurajima Volcano and its history of eruptions. It features an eruption experience section, a video section, and more, letting visitors experience the still-active Sakurajima Volcano through computers and hi-vision imagery. Location: Sakurajima Yokoyama Town 1722-29, Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture, Tel: 099-293-2443 Hours Open: 9:00am- 17:00, Closed Open daily throughout the year; Website: sakurajima.gr.jp

Websites: Kagoshima Tourism site kagoshima-kankou.com Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Sakurajima: National catalogue of the active volcanoes in Japan - Japan Meteorological Agency PDF data.jma.go.jp/svd Sakurajima Volcano Research Center svo.dpri.kyoto-u.ac.jp Getting There: Kagoshima is accessible by ferries from Kagoshima that run several times an hour. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Sakurajima Activity

1991 eruption
A record high 996 eruptions was recorded at Sakurajima in 2011, the highest number since record keeping began in 1955, the local meteorological observatory said.. Sakurajima recorded 548 eruptions in 2009 and a record 896 in 2010. In January 2010 there were more than 100 eruptions with some of them sending lava flowing down its sides, shooting ash skyward, and producing purple lightning bolts. Most of the eruptions have been in the 800-meter-high Showa vent not the larger 1,000-meter-high Minamidake vent.

Kyodo reported: “At the 800-meter Showa crater, which erupted in June 2006 for the first time in 58 years, 994 eruptions were observed in 2011. Two eruptions were observed at the Minamidake vent, at about 1,000 meters elevation, the Kagoshima Meteorological Observatory said. The observatory warned the volcano in the middle of Kagoshima Prefecture is becoming increasingly active. But eruptions at the Showa crater are relatively small and no signs of imminent large eruptions have been observed, it added. Sakurajima erupted 548 times in 2009 and 896 times in 2010, breaking the previous record of 474 times in 1985 for three consecutive years through 2011. The Japan Meteorological Agency defines an explosive eruption as one accompanied by an explosive release of gas, ash or rock. [Source: Kyodo, January 3, 2012]

Ichiro Ohara wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “After I set up my camera about four kilometers from one of Sakurajima’s craters, a huge pillar of fire suddenly erupted in the dark night sending lava spewing down the mountain and turning the surface a glowing red. This kind of explosive eruption was observed 450 times last year on Sakurajima island in Kagoshima. As of Feb. 15 this year, eruptions already have been observed 127 times. Toshihide Fukamichi, 73, former head of the town association of the Mochiki district in Kagoshima, is worried that residents are becoming less cautious, saying, “Eruptions have become a normal occurrence, so people tend to shrug them off as there is no element of surprise.”[Source: Ichiro Ohara, Yomiuri Shimbun, February 27, 2015]

“According to the Kagoshima-based Sakurajima Volcano Research Center of Kyoto University’s Disaster Prevention Research Institute, the mountain has been swelling due to an increase in magma and other reasons. Below ground on the island’s northern side, the center confirmed the existence of a large magma reservoir, equivalent to the amount of magma that caused the 1914 Taisho eruption in which 58 people died or went missing.

Kirishima-Yaku National Park

Kirishima-Yaku National Park (north and south of Kagoshima) is Japan's first national park. Established in 1934, it embraces old pine forests, sulfur springs, 23 volcanos, 10 crater lakes, 15 craters, clear mountain lakes, shrines and mountains. Some scenes from the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” was shot in the park.

Kirishima-Yaku National Park consists of three main parts: 1) the largest section is north of Kagoshima around the village of Ebino-kogen. 2) The smallest section embraces Sakurajima volcano east of Kagoshima. 3) The southernmost section embrace the southern tips of Satsuma-hanto Peninsula and Osumi-hanto Peninsula on the southern tip of Kyushu. Websites: Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan Kirashima Town Kirashima-cho

Established in 1934 as Kirishima National Park, was one of Japan's first national parks. Southern Kyushu, where the park is located, is an area where volcanic activity is frequent. Eruptions continue to occur today, and giant calderas (depressed topography formed by eruptions accompanied by large spurts of magma) formed by large-scale eruptions in the past can be seen. This volcanic activity is caused by the movement of a plate sinking into the ocean floor to the east of Kyushu, and the Kakuto, Kobayashi, Aira, Ata, and other calderas are located in a row running north-south. Furthermore, eruptions have had an enormous impact on the topography and geology of southern Kyushu, such as the pyroclastic plateaus formed by sediment from falling ash and pyroclastic flows accompanying large-scale eruptions in the past. In and around the park are many hot springs — blessings of the volcanoes — that have been enjoyed since ancient times by local residents and visitors coming for hot spring cures. Hot springs in the Kirishima area are known for their rich spring quality, including sulfurous and hydrogen carbonate springs. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

A diverse range of plants is distributed through the park due to vigorous volcanic activity, repeated climatic changes in the past, differences in altitude ranging from sea level to mountain peaks rising 1,700 m above sea level, the Kuroshio Current — a warm ocean current that is one of the largest ocean currents in the world — and abundant rainfall in mountain areas said to reach as much as 4,000 mm per year. In high altitude areas, there are solfatara formations (open vegetation that has adapted to a solfatara environment) that have been impacted by volcanic activity as well as colonies of Rhododendron kiusianum. Moreover, in medium altitude areas there are broadleaf deciduous forests of Beech, etc., temperate coniferous forests of Fir, etc., and broadleaf evergreen forests of Castanopsis and Oak, etc.; and in low altitude areas, there are subtropical forests of Banyan and other trees. Thus there is rich variation in vegetation, and the ecosystem functions based on this.

Also, in places that have been impacted in the past by volcanic eruptions, such as the remains of lava flows, there are plants whose transitional stages differ for each eruption period, making the area a valuable place in terms of research where ecosystem changes can be observed. In the ocean area, due to the effects of the Kuroshio Current, there is a vividly colorful underwater seascape comprising stony corals and soft corals (seaweed) where a distinctive ecosystem with subtropical fish, such as butterfly fish and heavenly damselfish swimming around can be observed.

The Kirishima area is home to a variety of birds, including the extremely rare pitta and the ruddy kingfisher with its distinctive reverberating call. Insects found here include the wonderful hairstreak (southernmost distribution) and Antigius butleri butterflies. In recent years, the number of Japanese deer in the Kirishima area has been increasing, and the strong pressure of their grazing is having a huge impact on the vegetation overall.

Northern Part of Kirishima National Park

The Kirishima area in the northern part of the park has a series of more than 20 volcanoes, both large and small, as well as crater lakes, fumarole phenomena, hot springs, and plateaus all created through volcanic activity, in addition to a large amount of natural vegetation. Many tourists and others visit the main usage bases for the Kirishima area, including the Ebino Highland, Kirishima Onsen hot springs resort, Takachihogawara, and Kirshima-jingu Shrine. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

The Kakuto and Kobayashi calderas are located in the southern part of the Kirishima area, which is also referred to as the "Volcano Museum" because of its diverse cluster of more than 20 volcanoes, both large and small, including Mt. Karakuri (1,700 m above sea level) and Mt. Takachiho-no-mine (1,574 m above sea level) Volcanic activity in the area is still vigorous, with Mt. Shinmoe erupting in 2011.

In the Kirishima area, volcanoes with various topographies, crater lakes, fumarole phenomena, and hot springs characterize the landscape. Due to climate changes in the past, volcanic eruptions, differences in altitude, and other factors, the area has a wide variety of plant life, and seasonal changes such as blossoming flowers, crimson autumn leaves, and accumulated snow color the landscape. Moreover, the peak of Mt. Karakuri provides a commanding view of not only the Kirishima area's many and various volcanoes but also Mt. Sakurajima, Mt. Kaimon , and other volcanoes aligned in the direction of Kinkowan Bay.

Especially in the nationally designated Miike Wild Birds' Forest at the foot of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, many wild birds including the screech owl, black paradise flycatcher, and Mandarin duck can be observed.In addition to being home for various insect species, such as cicadas and Artimpaza setigera japonica, the Sata area is a stopping point for many migrating birds such as the gray-faced buzzard and Chinese goshawk, and birdwatchers flock here during the migration season. Malus spontanea is a wild species of the rose family found nowhere else in the world but Mt. Kirishima. The pale pink flowers bloom in early May. Rhododendron kiusianum is a species of the Azalea family. Found in the high mountains of Kyushu. The prevalent variety on the slopes of mountains on which the ecosystem is disturbed by volcanic activity, and therefore, is found in large numbers around volcanoes. Covers the entire mountainside in pink when in bloom.

A wide variety of plants grow in the Kirishima area, enabling observation of a diversity of flowers in each season. Early spring is the time to view, Japanese Witch Hazel, and Gentiana thunbergii; early summer is the season for Wisteria brachybotrys, Magnolia sieboldii ssp. japonica, and Schizocodon soldanelloides; summer is the time for viewing Japanese stuartia and Conandron ramondioides; and autumn is the season for Patrinia scabiosifolia and Swertia japonica. There are also many plants whose Japanese names include the word "Kirishima", including Miyamakirishima (Rhododendron kiusianum), Kirishimamizuki (fragrant witch hazel), Kirishimagumi (Elaeagnus epitricha momiyama), and Kirishimahikodai (Saussurea scaposa).

Volcanoes and Places in the Northern Part of Kirishima National Park

Mt. Takachiho-no-mine in the Kirishima area is a sacred mountain said to have been where Tenson (Ninigi no Mikoto, grandson of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu) descended to earth bearing three celestial gifts. The Amanosakahoko (legendary spear) at the mountain's summit is said to have been driven into the mountain when the deity descended to earth, and so is consecrated as a sacred treasure of the Kirishima-higashi-jinja Shrine. At the foot of the mountain is also the Kirishima-jingu Shrine and ancient shrine ruins, giving the area a mystical atmosphere imbued with a sense of ancient history. Along its hiking trails you can see patches of colorful Rhododendron kiusianum. The best time for flower-viewing is mid-to-late May. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

Kirishima-jingu Shrine is associated with Mt. Takachiho-no-mine. The primary deity of this shrine is Ninigi-no-Mikoto (grandson of the goddess Amaterasu, founder of Japan). Initially the shrine sat on Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, but due to the mountain's volcanic activity, the shrine was moved via the Takachiho Dry River Bed and rebuilt in its current location. Visitors come all year round to worship at this venerable place. Kirishima Shrine was originally built in the 6th century but has been rebuilt many times due to fires and volcanic activity. The present structure was built in 1715, Although it is a Shinto Shrine it has many Buddhist touches. To the right of the main sanctuary is a stone honored in the Japanese national anthem as symbol of Japanese unity.

Mt. Hinamori is a 1,344-meter-high volcano. It has a conical shape that is especially beautiful viewed from the northern side. The mountain is also called "Ikoma-Fuji", after the area surrounding its base. Mt. Karakuri is the highest mountain in the park (1,700 meters above sea level). Its crater measures 900 meters in diameter and 300 meters deep. The views from the top of the mountain are spectacular, and on fine days you can see Kinkowan Bay and Mt. Sakurajima, and even as far as Mt. Kaimon. Onami-ike Crater Lake is Spread out below Mt. Karakuri. It can be circled in a 1.5 hour walk. During the autumn foliage-viewing season, the colorful tree leaves and blue of the lake's surface combine to create a breathtaking scene.

Mt. Shinmoe is a very active volcano in the Kirishima region that erupted on a large scale in January 2011. It is possible to see inside the crater from the top of Mt. Karakuri. Mi-ike Crater Lake measures about four kilometers around and is about 100 meters deep, this is the largest crater lake in the Kirishima area and was created by the most explosive volcanic eruption in the history of Mt. Kirishima. Camping facilities are provided on the lakefront. Kurino-Hachiman Jigoku is located at the foot of Mt. Kurino, one of the oldest of the Kirishima volcanoes, The jigoku ("hell") hot springs here spew fumarolic gases and spout violently (private property).

Takachiho-gawara Visitor Center and Takachiho-gawara Park Service Center are located in Takachiho-gawara, a base for activity in the Kirishima area and a starting point for climbing Mt. Takachihomine, these Centers describe the nature of the Kirishima area and the mythology of tenson korin (the descent of Amaterasu's grandson Ninigi from heaven).They also offer information on flowering periods and sights of interest in every season. Location: Kirishimataguchi 2583-12, Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture, Tel: 0995-57-2505 Hours Open: 9:00am- 17:00, Closed Open daily throughout the year. Getting There: Ebino Kogen and Krishima National Park are accessible by bus from Kagoshima and several other Kyushu cities with train connections. There are no trains directly to Ebino Kogen and Krishima National Park. The buses can be infrequent and require a little research to get right. Kirishima Renzan Shuyu Bus is the bus stop closest to Ebino Eco-Museum Center. It is about 45 minutes from Kagoshima. There are only four buses per day. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Ebino and Ebino-Kogen

Ebino-kogen (north of Kagoshima and part of Kirishima-Yuka National Park) is popular with hikers and tourists especially in late May when azaleas bloom all over the mountains. Some hikers climb 1,574-meter-high Mount Takachiho-no-mine, a peak on the 10-mile-long Kirishima Volcanic Ridge. According to an ancient myth, Japan and the Japanese people were created on Mount Takachiho-no-mine by the grandson of the Sun Goddess after he descended from heaven. At the summit is an inverted sword which is said to be authentic. Getting There: Ebino Kogen and Krishima National Park are accessible by bus from Kagoshima and several other Kyushu cities with train connections.

Ebino-kogen village sits on plateau with three crater lakes: Byakushi, Rokukannon and Fudo. There is an excellent hike from Ebino-kogen village across the Ebino-kogen Plateau to 1,700-meter-high Mount Karakuni-dake and from there to smoking 1,425-meter-high Mount Shishiko-dake, 1,421-meter-high Mount Shinmoe-dake, 1,345-meter-high Mount Nakadake, which is not far from Mount Takachiho-no-mine. The Ebino-kogen Plateau contains one of Japan's highest hot spring resorts. Other hot springs and onsens are scattered in and around the park. Some are quite expensive and fancy. Some are rustic and simple. From the top of the mountains you can see Kagoshima and smoking Sakurajima volcano. There are also some waterfalls that attract hikers. Getting There: Ebino Kogen and Krishima National Park are accessible by bus from Kagoshima and several other Kyushu cities with train connections. There are no trains directly to Ebino Kogen and Krishima National Park. The buses can be infrequent and require a little research to get right. Kirishima Renzan Shuyu Bus is the bus stop closest to Ebino Eco-Museum Center. It is about 45 minutes from Kagoshima. There are only four buses per day. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Green Park Ebino in Ebino, Miyazaki Prefecture, makes Coca-Cola products and offers tasting of its product lines, including Coke, coffees and teas. It showcases retro and antique vending machines and has a gallery featuring a collection of about 700 Coca-Cola bottles and merchandise. [Source: Akihito Teramura, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 23, 2012]

Kirishima Open-Air Museum (eight kilometers south of Ebino) is situated on a hillside 700 meters above sea level and hosts many site-specific sculptures and art installations by contemporary Japanese and foreign artists. Iconic works by Jonathan Borofsky, Dan Graham, Yayoi Kusama, and Noboru Tsubaki are just a few of the works seen on the grounds. Its indoor space, designed by Kunihiko Hayakawa, houses many more sculptures by notable artists such as Anish Kapoor, Marisol, and Takashi Murakami. Check out Infinity Mirrored Room, In addition to its impressive permanent collection, the museum holds temporary exhibitions and events. Location: Yusui-cho Museum, 6340-220 Koba, Yusui-cho, Aira-gun, Kagoshima 899-6201, Tel: +81-995-74-5945

Ebino Eco-Museum Center is located on the Ebino Highland, a base for activity in the Kirishima area, this visitor center offers an introduction to the nature and culture of the area through photos, videos, models, and more. It is widely used as a space for meetings and events, as well as a base for climbing the mountains of the Kirishima area. Location: Suenaga 1495-5, Ebino City, Miyazaki Prefecture, Tel: 0984-33-3002 Hours Open: 9:00am- 17:00, Closed Open daily throughout the year

Chiran Peace Museum: Honoring Kamikaze Pilots

Chiran (about an hour south of Kagoshima) is a quiet rural town with well-preserved samurai houses and refined Japanese-style gardens. In World War II, it was training camp and departure point for kamikaze missions. Nearby 992-meter Mt. Kaimondake was used as a navigation reference for kamikaze pilots that took off from Chirancho. Websites: Chiran Peace Museum chiran-tokkou.jp ;; Bill Gordon Wesleyan University Kamikaze Images; Getting There: Chiran is accessible by bus from Kagoshima.

Chiran Peace Museum (in Chiran) preserves and displays materials left by deceased tokko (kamikaze) pilots. Tokko means “Special Attack” in Japanese and refers to the military tactic of pilots crashing their aircrafts into enemy warships. The museum was set up near a kamikaze training camp and the take off area for kamikaze pilots who ran missions in Okinawa, and the seas around Japan in World War II. The museum contains models of planes and memorabilia as well photographs of young men who died on kamikaze missions and even some of the last letters they wrote before their missions. The museum is open everyday of the year from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Tickets are 500yen for adults and 400 yen for children in middle school or younger. The guided tours are in Japanese. Recorded guides are available in English.

In December 1941, the Chiran Branch of Army Flight Training School opened in the town of Chiran (currently Chiran-cho in the city of Minamikyushu, southeast of Kagoshima). It was changed into an air base for tokko in March 1945, From bases in Japan, and mainly from Chiran Base, 1036 tokko pilots who were in their 20s flew missions and died in seas mostly around Okinawa.. Chiran was the southernmost airbase on the main islands of Japan, explaining why the most number of tokko missions were launched from there.

Inside the Chiran Peace Museum
A museum was constructed at Chiran in 1975. It became the current Chiran Peace Museum in 1987. Among the items on display are portraits of deceased tokko, sorties and crash videos, farewell statements and letters of pilots and artifacts and possessions of the pilots such as a headband that reads “Perfect Win” and pendants with cyanide capsules that pilots were supposed to ingest if captured. There are also planes and kamikaze submarines on display.

There are also photos of young pilots playing with a puppy, writing notes of thanks, arm wrestling, eating their last meal and having a farewell glass of sochu (a kind of liquor). One famous picture shows female students from Chiran waving to pilots as they set off on their missions. Another shows relatives waving off their love ones with the national flag, and the caption “Head for the south end?”

Outside the museum is a park area on the ground of the tokko airfield. The runway that once stretched at Tsukuba is long gone but the rows of cherry blossoms still stand. In one corner of the Tsukuba grounds, “an underground bomb shelter winds in pitch darkness through several chambers. It was designed to serve as an emergency command, should the main building be demolished in a U.S. bombing. It’s a reminder of the illusory determination that gripped the imperialist forces, to keep fighting, no matter what.”

Ibusuki Hot Black Sand Baths

Ibusuki (50 kilometers south of Kagoshima) is one of Japan's most famous hot spring resorts. Located on the southernmost tip of the Satsuma Peninsula, this town is noted for its sub-tropical vegetation, white sand beaches and natural hot sand baths which can be taken right on the beach.

Ibusuki is filled with modern hotels and traditional inns. The Ginsho Hotel charges visitors ¥710 for the pleasure of being buried in hot black sand heated by natural steam and water from hot water springs passing through the sand. Ibusuki is the only place in the world where you can enjoy this unique experience. Altogether a 16-mile stretch of beach is heated by subterranean volcanic activity.

People have been taking the baths for more than 300 years. One person in the 19th century described them as “curing all kinds of illnesses and especially good for muscles and bones.” In the last hundred years they have been commonly used by farmers in the off season. Westerners first became aware of Ibusuki when it was featured in a Life magazine article in the 1960s. One facility today welcomes 270,000 to 300,000 visitors a year, with 80 percent of them coming from outside Kagoshima. These days more and more are coming from South Korea, China and Taiwan.

Describing his experience at a bath facility called Saraku, Shoicho Nasu wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “I simply went to front desk and paid a ¥900 bathing charge and was issued a special yukata to wear in the sand bath. In the changing room, I stripped off all my clothes and put on a yukata, went outside the building and wandered along the beach. There I saw a simple structure offering a kind of roof over the natural sand baths. Up to about 100 people can lie under the roof.”

“I lay down as instructed by one of the staff. The staff member, who happened to be a woman, poured sand all over my body with a shovel. All except my head that is. As she chatted about the tremendous beneficial affects of the sand bath, a man laying behind me joined our conversation. Saying that he came to this place regularly and never needed any doctors or medicines.

“Although the woman told me that most people lie down for about 10 minutes in the sand, I did so for half an hour. It felt so good with the pressure of the sand all over my body. But I did find that some time after lying down I began to sweat profusely, from my brow especially. To tell the truth. I was able to hold on for as long as I did only by keeping one thing in mind: the thought of a refreshing glass of draft beer...and the beer I had after washing off all the sand in the bathing area next to the changing room certainly did taste good.”

Websites: Sand Bath site Hakusikan ; Frommers Frommers.com ; Map: ibusuki.or.jp/info Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Ibusuki is accessible by bus and train from Kagoshima. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Southern Part of Kirishima National Park

The Kinkowan Bay area (mostly south of Kagoshima) in the southern part of Kirishima National Park is centered around Sakurajima and the area south of it. This area is home to Mt. Kaimon, Lake Ikeda, and Chiringashima Island on the Satsuma Peninsular side; Cape Sata-misaki, home of many subtropical plants-on the Osumi Peninsular side; and the sea area within the bay. Although located outside the park, the Ibusuki Sand Baths in the Kinkowan Bay area are also famous throughout Japan.[Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

The Kinkowan Bay area landscape comprises Mt. Sakurajima rising out of the bay as well as the peninsulas enclosing the bay. A unique landscape has been created through the combination of topographies such as Mt. Sakurajima — the entire island of which comprises a lava flow landscape — and the Aira caldera around Mt. Sakurajima, Mt. Kaimon — which is a multiple volcano — and Lake Ikeda around Ibusuki, and the Mt. Tsujidake fault escarpment at the Ata caldera and coastal cliffs around Cape Sata-misaki , with subtropical forests and vegetation and sea areas.

A diverse range of plants that can also be seen in the Kinkowan Bay area, including Balanophora tobiracola, Veratrum linnaeus, Corn Lilies, the Fern Palm, and the Banyan Tree; in Cape Sata-misaki there are also Crateva religiosa and Livistona chinensis, and in the cloud belt around the peak of Mt. Kaimon grow Liparis auriculata and Calanthe reflexa. In the Ibusuki area in particular, both northern species such as Vicia amurensis oetting, Cimicifuga japonica, and Viola chaerophylloides forma sieboldiana and southern species such as the fern palm and seaside morning glory can be observed.

The Kinkowan Bay area is home to birds such as the Brown Booby and Japanese Cormorant, which can be found on Matagoshi Island off the shore of Takeyama, while visitors can also observe rare and migratory butterfly species such as the Great Orange Tip and the Peacock Pansy, which are endemic to southern regions. In addition, the rare Libellula angelina dragonfly can be observed in the ponds and bogs around Ibusuki, and the tropical giant mottled eels measuring more than 2 m in length live in Lake Ikeda — which is designated as a natural treasure as a breeding ground — and various other locations in the area.

Shigetomi Kaigan Nature Experience Museum (Nagisa Museum) provides visitors with an introduction to the Kinkowan-oku area with a focus on the Shigetomi Beach, as well as the natural environment of the Aira Caldera and the sights around Kinkowan-oku. Using dioramas, it also presents information on the topography of Kinkowan-oku and its changes over time, as well as the environment of the tidal flats. Location: Hiramatsu 7675, Aira City, Kagoshima Prefecture, Tel: 0995-73-3146 Hours Open: 9:00am- 5:00pm (until 18:00 from July 19 to August 31), Closed Tuesdays, end and beginning of year (open daily from July 19 - August 31)

Places in the Southern Part of Kirishima National Park

Mt. Kaimon is a graceful 922-meter-high volcano with a perfectly-shaped cone. With its graceful lines, this volcano is also a symbol of the local area. Rising 922 meters above the sea level, the mountain peak provides a 360° panoramic view, enabling you to see as far as Mt. Sakurajima, the Kirishima Mountain Range, the Osumi Peninsula, and Yakushima Island. There is a nice hike to the top. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

Cape Sata-Mikai is the southernmost point on the main islands of Japan. Along the path provided from the car park to the observation deck grow many subtropical plants, such as Chinese fountain palm, fern palm, and large spiny tree fern. Lake Ikeda is the third clearest lake in Japan. Formed in a rare double-sunken crater, it is inhabited by massive eels.

Chiringashima Island rises from the sea to the north of Ibusuki Onsen, a hot spring area famous for sand baths. At low tide (around 80 times a year), a sandbar leading to the island appears, making it possible to walk to this land-tied island is around 30 minutes. Shigetomi Beach is situated in an area characterized by its beautifully varied scenery, featuring the largest tidal flat in Kinkowan Bay, a beach with white sand and green pine trees stretching for several hundred meters, and a majestic view of Mt. Sakurajima. In summer, the coast is lively with many visitors who come to swim in the ocean.

Image Sources: 1) 3) 5) maps and photos Kyushu tourism site 2) Shearaton 4) 6) 10) Kagoshima Prefecture Visitors Bureau 7) NASA 8) University of Tokyo Volcano Research 9) Japan National Parks 11) Chiran Peace Museum 12) Hakusuikan onsen

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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