Kagoshima Prefecture makes up the southernmost part of Kyushu, though its territory also includes a few islands south of the mainland. This prefecture is full of both active and dormant volcanoes, thanks to which beautiful nature has sprouted in the many national parks. To get a sense of everything Kagoshima has to offer, let’s get out of the capital and explore some of the prefecture’s other wonders.
Day 1Let’s start off our custom tour by exploring the treasures of Satsuma Peninsula, which extends about 50 kilometers south of Kagoshima City.
Our first stop is Chiran, a small town in the middle of the peninsula. In 2003, it merged with other nearby towns to become Minamikyushu. Chiran can be explored on foot, though bicycles are available for rent on the town’s main street.
Chiran Samurai District
Our first stop is the preserved samurai district with gardens and properties dating back over 250 years. The district consists of a quiet 700 meter long street without any telephone poles or parked cars, protecting its historical atmosphere. Visitors can buy a pass for 500 yen to visit the seven traditional gardens located within the district.
Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze PilotsThe Chiran Peace Museum commemorates the kamikaze pilots, otherwise known as “Special Attack Corps,” who flew missions for Japan during the second World War. The museum is built on the site of the airfield from which the pilots took off for their missions.
The museum presents intimate details of the pilots’ lives, including essays and final letters written prior to their deaths. There is a hall with pictures of each pilot arranged in the order of their death. The exhibit also includes four planes recovered from the ocean which had been used during the war. Visitors get a personal look at the pilots who gave their lives during the war. The museum is open every day from 9am - 5pm, with the last entry half an hour prior.
From Kagoshima, drive down the Ibusuki Skyline Toll Road to Minamikyushu, about an hour away.
For those traveling by public transportation, hourly buses leave from Kagoshima Chou Station and Yamagataya Bus Center and stop in the center of town. To reach the Peace Museum by bus, get off at Tokko-kannon-iriguchi stop.
It’s only a quick drive to get to the southernmost point of the peninsula: Cape Nagasakibana. There is a lighthouse at the end of the cape which grants travelers a view of Mount Kaimondake, nicknamed “Satsuma Fuji” due to its similar appearance to Mount Fuji. The 924 meter high mountain is a popular hiking destination, with plenty of panoramic views of the bay and surrounding land.
Ibushuki OnsenAfter sweating up and down the mountain, what could be nicer than a dip in a nearby onsen? Ibushuki is located on the coast facing Kagoshima Bay and is famous for its sand baths. Guests lie down on the beach and are buried in hot sand that is heated by steam from below. Two of the popular facilities providing this service are Saraku Sand Bath Hall and Healthy Land, both of which also provide regular indoor onsen. Healthy Land additionally offers large outdoor baths called rotenburo, which provide views of the coast.
From Chiran, Ibusuki is quite near and easy to reach by car. To get to Ibusuki from Kagoshima City, take the limited express train from Kagoshima Chuo Station to Ibusuki Station.
Both Saraku Sand Bath Hall and Healthy Land are reachable via bus from Ibusuki Station.
Day 3What trip to Kagoshima would be complete without visiting the famous Sakurajima? This volcano, the symbol of Kagoshima, will be our final stop during this quick three day tour through the prefecture.
Sakurajima is one of Japan’s most recognizable natural landmarks, rising 1117 meters above sea level. From the visitor’s center at the base of the mountain, information is available on hiking trails as well as the latest updates on the safety of hiking up the mountain. There are three main peaks: Kita-dake, Naka-dake, and Minami-dake. At each peak there are observation points from which the craters and potential eruptions can be observed.
Nagisa Lava Trail
Sakurajima is considered one of the country’s most active volcanoes. In fact, the Nagisa Lava Trail has a recent eruption to thank for its existence. This trail consists of three kilometers of walking trails along the water nearby the Sakurajima Ferry Terminal. The trail runs along the area where lava flowed during the eruption of 1914 which resulted in the joining of Sakurajima with the mainland. Now the fertile land along the trail is home to thriving plants and flowers.
From Kagoshima City, the volcano is easily accessed by a ferry ride from Kagoshima Port. Cars can be taken onto the ferry for a charge of 1150 yen. Around Sakurajima Ferry Terminal, there is an information center, an onsen, and the entrance to the Lava Trail.
Where to stay:There are many hotel and ryokan options in Kagoshima City. For those travelers who want to stay somewhere outside the rush of the big city, there are limited yet high-quality options in Chiran and Ibusuki as well as near the base of Sakurajima.
Green Hotel Chiran Fukuzumi
897-0302 Kagoshima, Minamikyushu-shi, Chirancho Kori, 4810-24
Phone: +81 993-58-7800
Ibusuki Seaside Hotel
891-0402 Kagoshima Prefecture, Ibusuki, Jitcho, 1912
Phone: +81 993-23-3111
891-1419 Kagoshima, Kagoshima, Sakurajima Yokoyamacho 1722-16