On the south-western tip of the Island of Kyushu lies the enigmatic, enchanting capital city of Kagoshima Prefecture, Kagoshima City (鹿児島). Nicknamed "Naples of the Eastern World," there is much to discover in this beautiful locale. Here are 5 activities you should not miss!
5. Take In Stunning Views and Historic Sites On the Hayato no Kaze Railway
Japan's world-renowned trains are reason enough to visit the country. Whether it's the unparalleled speed of the Shinkansen (bullet train) or the on-the-nose punctuality of commuter trains (you could honestly set your watch to them), the railways here are famous for a reason. The Hayoto no Kaze is no exception.
Operating from Yoshimatsuto to Kagoshima-chuo, the "jet-black" train is designed as a nostalgic homage to the railways of
yesteryear, and features both a passenger cabin and an observation lounge. The journey offers unbeatable views and fascinating stops along the way. History buffs will want to check out Kareigawa Station, which opened in 1903, as well as Osumi-Yokogawa Station, which survived the second World War and even has a platform post punctured with bullet holes.
The train runs along Kinko Bay, which features impeccable views of the stunning and majestic Sakurajima Volcano. Hayato no Kaze even serves bento lunch boxes, local sprits and beers, and desserts for purchase to passengers on board.
4. Indulge In Local Specialties
Kagoshima cuisine is often called Satsuma Ryori (薩摩料理), or Satsuma Cuisine, after the old name of the prefecture. The city's location at the very southern end of Kyushu leaves it a bit isolated, giving it a wonderfully unique and distinct culinary style even in Japan. Two very famous specialties of Kagoshima are Satsuma-age and Satsuma Shochu.
Satsuma-age (薩摩揚げ), a delicious fried fishcake, is one of the most famous dishes from Kagoshima. It's made by combining surimi (minced fish) with flour and various spices, then then deep-frying the batter. Many restaurants in Kagoshima bring you skewered satsuma-age that you are able to cook at own your table! Throughout Japan, the dish is served either plain, with soy sauce, or in udon and ramen bowls.
photo by @shigerudeli
The two major Japanese spirits are sake and shochu. While sake can only be brewed from rice, shochu can be made from a number of sources, including wheat, brown cane sugar, Japanese chestnuts, and the Kagoshima specialty, sweet potatoes.
Much of Kagoshima’s land formed from volcanic ash, so it's rather difficult to grow rice. It is, however, the perfect environment for growing sweet potatoes, which is why the ancient residents of Kagoshima created the distinctive Imojochu, sweet potato shochu. Fun fact: Kagoshima consumes the most shochu annually out of any prefecture in Japan. It can be enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or mixed with hot water.
photo by @christopherpellegrini
3. Wander the Beautiful Grounds of Senganen & Discover the History Behind Japan's Industrial Revolution
Senganen Garden is a beautiful and very famous Japanese landscape garden, right on the coast of Kagoshima Bay. The most prominent feature of the garden, many say, is its proximity to and impeccable view of Sakurajima volcano.
photo by @sengan_en
Constructed in 1658, Senganen was once home to the very wealthy and powerful Shimazu clan, the family who ruled over the Satsuma (present day Kogshima) region during the the Feudal Japan era. In the early 1800s, Shuseikan Industrial Complex was built here, helping usher in the Meiji Industrial Revolution in Japan.
In 2015, the Shuseikan complex was part a large group of sites throughout Japan that received UNESCO World Heritage status. Many of these sites are located right in Kagoshima and include:
Former Kagoshima Foreign Engineer's Residence
Built in 1867, this is where British engineers who contracted their imported technology were invited to stay. Underground, the building also contains ruins of the first steam-engine powered spinning plant in Japan. You should also check out the visitor's centre here to make the most of your visit!
Sekiyoshi Sluice Gate of Yoshino Leat*
Ruins of the sluice gate that controlled the water supply for the Shuseikan Project. A sluice (from Dutch, "sluis") is a water channel that is controlled at its head by a gate. Built in 1852, this sluice powered the mill wheel and is still used for irrigation today. photo by @dc_dy
Shuseikan Reverberatory Furnace Ruins
Using a dutch manual, and through trial and error, Japan was able to build 11 fully functioning reverberatory furnaces by the 1850s. The ruins here are 1 of the 3 remaining originals.
Former Shuseikan Machinery Factory
The earliest existing Western-style factory building was completed in 1865. It processed metals and repaired steam engines using machines imported from the Netherlands.
Terayama Charcoal Kiln*
Constructed in 1858 out of traditional solid stone masonry, this charcoal kiln remains, astonishingly, wholly intact. Created to produce high-calorific white charcoal, it was built to compensate for the coal shortage to the Shuseikan project.
*Please note that the remains of the kiln and sluice gate are a few kilometres from Senganen, located in the nearby hills above, and are difficult to reach by public transport. Access by rental car is recommended!
2. Break a Sweat On a (Surprisingly) Relaxing, Weird & Wonderful Sand Bath Experience
Like taking an onsen, a sand bath is a soothing and tranquil treat you can give yourself on holiday. Unlike an onsen, the experience is a bit weird and wacky, so you're in for a whole other kind of adventure.
Along Kagoshima Bay, many facilities offer Sand Baths for about ¥850. The price includes use of a rented yukata (casual kimono), as well as a bottle of water, and a small onsen towel you can hold on to as a souvenir. A sand bath is exactly what it sounds like: guests are buried neck-deep in hot sand for about 10 to 20 minutes, in order to reap the full benefits.
Where does the heat come from, you ask? Thanks to the nearby volcanoes along the coastline, the water beneath the surface of the beach is quite warm and rich in minerals, and heats up the sand naturally through rising steam from below. A sand bath is said to be thee to four times more effective than a traditional onsen in soothing muscles and ridding the body of toxins. For more information on the unique and wonderful experience, check out this how-to guide on what you can expect from your first time.
1. Marvel At The Wonder of Sakurajima
Sakurajima (桜島 or Cherry Blossom Island) is an active volcano off the coast of Kagoshima. Though it sits connected to Osumi peninsula, the name comes from its origins as an island, long before the major eruption in 1914 changed that. Sakurajima may no longer technically be a jima (island), but it is still most easily accessed by a 3.5 km ferry trip, from Kagoshima Port to Sakurajima Ferry Terminal.
The volcano's summit has three peaks: Kita-dake (northern peak), Naka-dake (central peak) and Minami-dake (southern peak). The southern peak is currently active, and is known for many minor eruptions a day. Kita-dake, Sakurajima's highest peak, rises to 1,117 m (3,665 ft) above sea level.
There is much to see and do in Sakurajima, including onsens, foot baths, and short hiking trails. Those wishing to explore the former island and see the volcano from closer up can access lookouts via buses or rental bicycles.
Yunohira Observation Point is the closest to both the ferry terminal and Sakurajima's crater (only 2.5 kms away!), and has the highest elevation at 350 meters. The panoramic view of the volcano, the bay, and the valley from Yunohira are also reasons to make the daunting trip up the very winding, but also very scenic and beautiful road. photos by @thejapandiscovery and @hawks1ban
Have you ever been to Kagoshima, or anywhere else in Japan? What would you include in this list, and what was your favourite part of your visit? Let me know what you think!
For additional info the UNESCO World Heritage Sites listed above, see here.