Kagoshima in Kyushu is a nature-rich prefecture with fantastic spots such as the volcanic island Sakurajima and the World Heritage Site, Yakushima. It also has many historic buildings, and is a great place to experience Japan's history. Here are 20 recommended things to do and see in Kagoshima!
Where Is Kagoshima?
Kagoshima consists of the southern part of the main island of Kyushu, and the outlying Satsunan Islands such as Yakushima and Amami Oshima. The best way to get there from outside the prefecture is by air. It is around 60 minutes by plane to Kagoshima Airport from Fukuoka, around 70 minutes from Osaka, and around 110 minutes from Tokyo. There are also direct flights from Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, and Hong Kong.
The Satsuma Area is in the western part of the prefecture. It is centered around Kagoshima City, and has many spots where traditional Japanese culture is preserved, such as Sengan-en. The area also boasts beautiful natural scenery, including Sakurajima, which is the symbol of Kagoshima Prefecture.
Admire the Magnificent Waterfall at Sogi-no-taki Park
Sogi-no-taki Park is a natural park in Isa City, and is famous for Sogi-no-taki, a waterfall sometimes referred to as the Niagara of the East. It is a massive waterfall that is 210m wide and 12m tall, and the sight of it rushing down is absolutely stunning. The park also has a variety of seasonal plants that add elegant colors to the waterfall, such as cherry blossoms and rhododendrons in the spring and gingko trees and momiji (Japanese maple tree) with autumnal foliage in the fall. The waterfall is lit up during the annual Momiji Matsuri festival, held in late November, which is definitely worth a visit!
Visit Sakurajima on the Sakurajima Ferry
Sakurajima is an island off the coast of Kagoshima City. It is popular for the majestic, smoky scenery that it offers, and is considered to be a symbol of Kagoshima. You can go there on the Sakurajima Ferry. It is full of sites unique to a volcanic island, such as a walkway on a lava bed and a torii gate buried in volcanic ash. In particular, the views from Yunodaira Observatory are spectacular. You can see the amazing mountain surface up close as well as look down on the lava field below.
Ferry Fare: 160 JPY/adult, 80 JPY/child (age 1 - elementary school age)
Stroll around the Beautiful Sengan-en
Sengan-en is a house and gardens that the feudal lord of the time built in 1658 as his second house. It is an elegant house that has been used as a State Guest House to welcome members of the Imperial Family, as well as the Russian Crown Prince and the British Crown Prince. Part of the former machine factory, Shoko Shuseikan, which stands within the grounds, is registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site. The gardens of Sengan-en integrates with the surrounding landscape to create a beautiful scenery. Sakurajima in the distance looks like an artificial hill of a traditional Japanese garden, while Kinko Bay resembles a pond.
Entrance Fee: 1,000 JPY/adult (high school age and older), 500 JPY/elementary and junior high school age
*Separate fee for viewing the house
Enjoy Fantastic Views from Shiroyama Observatory
Shiroyama Observatory is an observatory at the top of Mt. Shiro, a 107m tall mountain in central Kagoshima City. From there you can enjoy fantastic views of the majestic Sakurajima in Kinko Bay, as well as beautiful cityscape at night. There are more than 600 different types of temperate and subtropical plants, such as large camphor trees, fern, and sweet viburnum, growing in the area. There are walkways in place so you can enjoy a leisurely stroll too!
See the City on Kagoshima City View
Kagoshima City View is a bus that takes in the city's main tourist sites. It goes around the city in about 80 minutes, starting from Kagoshima-Chuo Station and stopping at major spots such as Tenmon-kan and Shugan-en. There is a convenient One-day Pass which allows you to get on and off as much as you like. There is also a Night View Course on Saturdays which takes you around sites that are beautifully lit up.
Fares: 190 JPY/adult, 100 JPY/elementary school age and younger
One-day Pass: 600 JPY/adult, 300 JPY/elementary school age and younger
See Ohara Festival
Ohara Festival is the biggest festival in southern Kyushu, and is held around the Tenmonkan area of Kagoshima City on November 2 and 3 every year. More than 20,000 men and women of all ages take part in dance performances, with So-odori, set to Ohara-bushi folk songs, being the main one. Anyone can join in on the So-odori, so why not jump in and be part of this lively festival? Aside from the dancing, Ohara festival offers much more to see, such as the Ogojo Taiko drums performance by women, and the Hana-densha trams adorned with decorative illuminations.
Photo by Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau
Take a Walk around the Tenmonkan Area
Tenmonkan is southern Kyushu's leading shopping and entertainment district, and is located right by the Tenmonkan-dori tram stop. There is an arcade full of shops and cafes, as well as restaurants serving local specialties and other cuisines, souvenir shops, and boutiques. There is such a wide variety of shops that it is fun even if you’re just window shopping. There are also a number of famous Kagoshima Ramen restaurants here, so if you are hoping to try this local dish, this is the perfect place for it!
Shop for Satsuma Kiriko Cut Glass as Souvenirs
Satsuma Kiriko is a type of cut glass from Kagoshima Prefecture that was first was developed as an item to trade internationally during the 19th century. It is made by layering colored glass over clear glass, and cutting out patterns from it. The delicate incisions and gradations made by the skilled craftsmen transforms the glass into beautiful works of art that shine like jewels. There are a wide variety of products including whisky glasses and tumblers, as well as pendants and earrings. Their selection ranges from low-priced items to high-end products.
Enjoy Kurobuta Cuisine at Kagomma Furusato Yataimura
Food made with Kurobuta pork is a Kagoshima specialty that you should not miss out on. The famous brand of pork, Kagoshima Kurobuta, is characterized by a higher amino acid content than other pork. This means it has more umami flavors, and is tender and juicy with fat that tastes light. Among the many places serving Kurobuta cuisine in the prefecture, Kagomma Furusato Yataimura is particularly recommended. It is a tourist facility housing numerous unique yatai stalls, seven of which specialize in Kurobuta pork dishes. At Kagomma Furusato Yataimura, you can try Kurobuta cuisine in various forms, including shabu-shabu (sliced meat parboiled with vegetables) and grilled pork skewers.
Satsuma-age are deep-fried surimi (fish paste) flavored with salt and other seasonings. They are a traditional, regional food of Kagoshima, where they are also known as "tsukeage". Each shop make them with their own unique set of ingredients and flavoring, so they are perfect as souvenirs. They can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways, as they are great as a snack when you’re enjoying a few drinks, or as toppings for udon noodles. Satsuma-age are extremely healthy, as not only are they low in calorie and fat, but are also high in protein and calcium.
Stroll around Chiran Samurai Residence Garden
Chiran is an area where there still remains many samurai houses. It is sometimes called Little Kyoto of Satsuma because of its beautiful townscape that looks like a miniature model of a garden. The area is characterized by its streets that were built to twist and turn to thwart enemy attacks, and stone walls and hedges that are placed along it. In addition to the streets, the seven gardens that are open to the public are also worth seeing. The area is designated as a Place of Scenic Beauty by the government, and is reputed for the sophisticated design from around 260 years ago.
Entrance Fee: 500 JPY/adult, 300 JPY/child
Soak in the Baths with Scenic Views at Tamatebako Hot Springs
Tamatebako Hot Springs is a scenic hot spring resort that has been ranked on TripAdvisor as the number one spa or hot spring to go to on a day trip for four consecutive years. It is located in the grounds of Healthy Land resort in Ibusuki City, and offers a majestic panoramic view of the East China Sea from its open-air baths. The famous Kaimondake volcano can be seen from the Japanese-style open-air bath, while the Western-style open-air bath has views of the strange Takeyama rock.
Baths Entry Fee: 510 JPY/adult (junior high school age and above), 260 JPY/child (elementary school age and below)
*There are two open-air baths, one for men and one for women. The gender for each bath is switched daily.
Go See the Fukiage-hama Sand & Flower Festa
Fukiage-hama Sand & Flower Festa is a festival that is held every May in Fukiage-hama, one of Japan's three major sand dunes. At this event, approximately 100 sand sculptures are created, including huge ones between 3m and 8m tall, as well as highly intricate and detailed works. There are also a variety of events at the festival, such as fireworks, sand sculpture making experiences, and sales of local products.
Admission Fee (available on the day): 500 JPY and up/adult, 300 JPY and up/elementary and junior high school age, free for children under elementary school age
*Fees change throughout the period
Enjoy Suna-mushi Sandbaths at Ibusuki Onsen
Ibusuki Onsen is famous for a unique bathing style called "suna-mushiburo", where you are buried in sand that is heated by onsen hot springs. It improves circulation and helps with nerve pain and rheumatism, and even has beautifying benefits. It is also popular because of how comfortable it is, as you lie in the sand and listen to the sound of the waves. The experience is so relaxing, you may just doze off!
Sample prices (Yamagawa Sunamushi Onsen "Sunayusato - Sayuri -"): 820 JPY/adult (junior high school age and older), 460 JPY/child (elementary school age and younger)
[Kirishima and Aira Area]
The Kirishima and Aira Area is in the middle of the prefecture, and faces Kagoshima Bay. It has ancient Shinto shrines, such as Kirishima Shrine and Wake Shrine, maintaining traditions among the grand nature, represented by Maruo Waterfall and Ryumon Waterfall. It is also famous for onsen hot spring areas such as Kirishima Onsenkyo.
Pay Your Respects at Kirishima Grand Shrine
This is a historic shrine that is dedicated to Kososhin, the Shinto deity that appears in the story of the nation's founding, and is said to have been built around the 6th century. The gorgeous vermilion main shrine building sits in the grounds surrounded by deep greenery. The area around it is considered to have a mystical energy, and it is said that strange things have happened there over the years. The shrine is also famous for holding more than 100 ceremonies and events every year. In particular, the annual Kumen Taiko drum performances on New Year's Day and February 11 is highly rated as a majestic performing art of the region.
Go to Kirishima Onsen
There are numerous onsen hot spring areas, large and small, in Kirishima City where you can enjoy natural hot spring water straight from the source, as well as hot spring foot baths. Among them, Kirishima Onsenkyo is highly recommended. It is an area centered around Mt. Kirishima with numerous inns from which you'll see white steam rising. There is a wide variety of spring water types, including sulfur spring water and sodium bicarbonate spring water. The water is said to have benefits for nerve pain, rheumatism, and stomach issues. It is surrounded by untouched nature, so it’s a great place if you want to go for a walk. The Maruo Waterfall, which is popular for its emerald green basin, is also nearby.
The Osumi Area is in the east of the prefecture. It is blessed with fantastic natural views throughout, ranging from the majestic scenery of Cape Sata on the Pacific Ocean and East China Sea to the delicate beauty created by 1,200 gingko trees in Tarumizu Senbon Gingko Garden.
Visit Mizonokuchi Cave
This is a famous spot in So City that has been gaining public interest in recent years. It is a cave created through erosion caused by water that springs up from the Kirishima mountain range. It is about 13.8m wide, 8.6m high, and 224m long. It is academically valuable, due to traces left behind by people from the Jomon Period (about 12,000 years ago to about 2,400 years ago). The cave also exudes a mystical energy, with the torii gate and Kannon statue in front of it creating an extraordinary atmosphere. Powerful dance performances can be seen there at the Mizonokuchi Iwaana Matsuri festival held on the Sunday closest to April 8 every year.
[Satsunan Islands Area]
This is an area that consists of various islands to the south of Kyushu. Each of the islands have a unique, natural beauty, such as Yakushima, which is covered with virgin forests, and Yoronto, referred to as the Pearl of the East for its tropical landscape and beautiful beaches. The islands can be accessed by air from Kagoshima Airport and other locations, or by ferry from the main island of Kyushu or Okinawa.
Visit the Jomon Sugi Tree (Yakushima)
Jomon Sugi is a giant tree that is the best known example of Yaku Sugi, a Japanese variety of cedar. Estimated to be 3,500 years old, it measures 16.4m in circumference and 25.3m in height. It is the thickest cedar among all the natural cedar trees on the island, but is relatively short, which is thought to be due to the effects of typhoons. It is around a nine to ten hour hike to the Jomon Sugi and back using the main route from the Arakawa trailhead, but the paths are well maintained so no experience of hiking is needed.
Visit Shiratani Unsui Gorge (Yakushima)
Shiratani Unsui Gorge has a natural forest that was the inspiration for the setting of the animated movie, Princess Mononoke. It is at an altitude of 600m to 1,300m, and covers approximately 4.24 million square meters. The maintained walkways along Shiratani River are lined with fern and moss, and the sharp gorge and the flowers on the opposing bank create a wonderfully mystic scenery. Cedar trees such as the Yayoi Sugi, Hoko Sugi, and Nanahon Sugi, which are estimated to be about 3,000 years old, are just some of the highlights of the walk. You can choose a walk that takes an hour, three hours, or four hours, depending on your preference.
Swim in the Sea at Urada Beach (Tanegashima)
Urada Beach is located at the northern tip of Tanegashima. The glimmering white sand, blue sky and highly transparent water creates a beautiful tropical scenery. It is a beach on a quiet inlet so that children can play safely in the water. There is also a wide variety of activities available, such as fishing and scuba diving, and there is even a campsite nearby. It is about 20 minutes by car from Nishinoomote Port, and it is recommended that you take the scenic route along the coast.
There is much more to see and do in Kagoshima Prefecture, so if this has piqued your interest, do look into it further.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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- #Ibusuki Onsen
- #Japan Travel Tips
- #Japanese-Style Gardens
- #Kagoshima, Shiroyama Park
- #Kirishima Shrine
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- #Visit Kagoshima
- #Visit Yakushima
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