KIRISHIMA VOLCANIC GROUP
(1 on map)
Rail/road->road:
1-2h from Kagoshima.

Kirishima This "mist island" highland area in northeast Kagoshima prefecture includes 23 volcanoes, 15 craters, and 10 caldera lakes. The summit of one volcano, Takachiho no Mine, was where the grandson of the Sun Goddess descended to earth. He left a halberd at the summit to mark that event before going on to father the Japanese people. Kirishima Shrine is dedicated to him, and has existed as an institution since the 6th century, although it was physically destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1484. The Kirishima region is perfect for hiking and climbing enthusiasts, and in one or two locations horses are available to ride. Look out for a species of azalea (miyama kirishima) that is native to this region. On Ebino Kogen ("Shrimp Highland"), ambient chemicals turn the beautiful susuki pampas grass prawn pink in early autumn.


KIRISHIMA HOT SPRINGS

(1 on map)
Rail/road->road:
1-2h from Kagoshima

Hot springs in this area are diverse and many offer great scenery. Springs at Shinkawa are situated by a scenic river. At Hinatayama there are a number of smallish "family" hot spring baths where friends can bathe together. Acting on a tip from a god, a samurai in the Edo period discovered Sekihira, which is now nationally famous for its drinkable hot-spring water. Ebino Kogen has some excellent outdoor baths in a natural setting.


HISTORIC KILNS

(2 on map)
Rail/road->road:
1-2h from Kagoshima

The ceramics produced traditionally in Kagoshima prefecture are called Satsuma ware after the region's old domain name. Satsuma ware was first created by Koreans who were settled in the Naeshirogawa area in the 17th century after being captured during a Japanese military campaign. Their descendants still live there. Over the years, many types of ceramic have been made in Kagoshima, including black, white, Thai-influenced, "sharkskin," and three-color wares in addition to the polychrome brocade ware that is perhaps the best known Satsuma ceramic outside Japan. Satsuma-yaki no Sato is a facility dedicated to Satsuma ware.


KAGOSHIMA CITY -Sengan-en (Iso Tei-en)

(3 on map)
To Kagoshima from Tokyo,
rail: 11h; air: 1.50h.

Twenty minutes by bus from central Kagoshima is a garden that was commissioned a lord of Satsuma, a member of the Shimazu (Kagoshima history) family. Sengan-en (Iso Tei-en) dates back to 1660, and offers a fine view of Sakurajima. Outside the garden is a stone building that was Japan's first Western-style factory, built in 1855. Experiments with weapons-related manufacturing would have been especially intense here after the Kagoshima Bombardment of 1863 had offered provincial leaders a chance to see the destructive power of Western technology at close quarters.


KAGOSHIMA CITY - Tsurumaru-jo

(3 on map)
To Kagoshima from Tokyo,
rail: 11h; air: 1.50h.

Fifteen minutes by streetcar from central Kagoshima are the castle ruins of Tsurumaru-jo. The grounds include a museum of regional history, featuring such major figures in Kagoshima history as Saigo Takamori and St. Francis Xavier (Kagoshima history). Visitors can also view videos of festivals held in the sub-tropical islands in the southwest of the prefecture. A nearby cemetery, Nanshu-bochi, contains the graves of more than 2,000 samurai who died in the Satsuma Rebellion, including Saigo himself. The cave where he committed suicide is also in the vicinity.


SAKURAJIMA - Relax under the volcano

(3 on map)
Car ferry from Kagoshima: 15 min.
Bus services from dock.

Mt. Sakurajima What better way to enjoy Sakurajima than to take a soothing seaside bath heated by the volcano itself? The foot of the volcano is dotted with an assortment of healthy hot springs. Some baths are outside, a few right by the sea. And the views can be outstanding. The more unusual experiences include mixed bathing in white gowns at Furusato Hot Springs, and squelching in the magma mud baths of Sakurajima Magma Hot Springs, where the water is yellow and you're encouraged to slop volcanic mud all over your body. Food-wise, the volcanic soil is especially good at producing enormous fat white radishes that can weigh in at anything up to 30 kg! At the other end of the scale are delicate mandarin oranges that have a diameter of only three centimeters. And for a souvenir, how about a teapot or teacups made using lava?


IBUSUKI - Sand saunas

(4 on map)
Road/train:
1h+ from central Kagoshima.

Mt. Kaimon Kagoshima has plenty of hot spring resorts, but one of the really special experiences on a trip to the prefecture is a sand bath on Ibusuki beach. For a few dollars, a woman will bury you up to your neck in sand and leave you to stew gently under a personal parasol. Come in the late afternoon, and you can get yourself embedded in the beach in time to enjoy the sunset. If you prefer a sand bath in slightly quieter surroundings, try Yamagawa, just a few minutes' drive to the south, which also commands a fine view of Kaimon-dake, a walkable conical volcano known as the Satsuma Fuji because of its resemblance to Japan's highest peak. Yamagawa also looks south in the direction of the southernmost point of Japan's main islands: Cape Sata (5 on map), which is at the tip of the peninsula that forms the east side of Kagoshima Bay.


The Uenohara Archaeological Site

Bus services from JR Kokubu Sta. (25 min.)
From Kagoshima City: 35 min. by rail

These extensive ruins of an ancient village, which offer a fine view of Mt. Sakurajima and Kinko Bay in the South, and the Kirishima Mountain Range in the North, were uncovered in 1996. The village was believed to have been settled in the early Jomon period (BC.8000 - BC.300). The ruins of 46 pit dwellings in the Jomon style are considered the largest and the oldest archaeological site in Japan.


CHIRAN - Samurai gardens

(4 on map)
Road:
1h+ from central Kagoshima

This town includes a lane lined by residences of warriors who lived in the Edo period (17th through mid-19th centuries). The gardens, and in one or two cases the houses themselves, have been well-preserved. The gardens reveal their owners' taste in formal landscaped gardening, and the dwellings offer a glimpse of what life was like for provincial samurai in those days. Chiran was a kamikaze base during the Second World War, and the town also has a museum that documents their patriotic efforts for peace.


BONOTSU and FUKIAGE-HAMA

(4 on map)
Road:
2-3h from Ibusuki

While Bonotsu is today a scenic fishing village, it used to be a key port for trade with China - a role it played through history from the 6th century. In the 17th century Bonotsu kept trade open between the Satsuma domain and China at a time when Japan was officially closed to the world. A museum documents this and other aspects of Kagoshima's history. To the north is Fukiage-hama, which has a long sandy beach and a place in the record books for the size of sandcastles that are made in an annual sandcastle contest.


KAGOSHIMA'S
SOUTH-SEA ISLANDS


(6-9 on map)
Ferry/airplane

If you're looking for white beaches, coral reefs, and a crystal blue ocean, then you've come to the right place. With an archipelago stretching way down south toward Okinawa, Kagoshima prefecture offers dozens of locations for swimming, diving, camping, marine sports, nature watching, and simply relaxing in a south-sea island atmosphere. There's no better place to linger over a glass of Kagoshima shochu liquor, enjoy the twang of the sanshin lute, watch a spectacular sunset, and feel a million miles removed from the urban jungle. These coral islands also boast a fascinating history to explore, including centuries of trade and exchange with China and Thailand, in particular.


ISLAND FRUITS

(6-9 on map)

Here's an idea of some of the fruit you can expect to see ripening when you visit Kagoshima's sub-tropical island archipelago. For Melon, the season is December through April. Tankan citrus: Feb.-April. Loquat: Feb.-April. Japanese plum: May-June. Passion fruit: June-Sept. Ponkan orange: Nov.-Feb. Banana: July-Sept. Guava: Aug.-Sept. Mango: July-Aug.


TANEGASHIMA

(6 on map)
ferry: 3.30h; jetfoil: 1:40h
from Kagoshima

The first gun ever seen in Japan was a musket that a Portuguese sailor brought ashore in Tanegashima in 1543. A Portuguese musket and the first gun ever made in Japan are among the exhibits at a museum in Nishino-omote, a city in the north of the island. These days, Tanegashima is better known as the location of Japan's main rocket-launching center at CapeTakezaki. The space center is open to visitors on days when no launch is planned. A nearby beach is regarded as one of the best surfing spots in the region.


YAKUSHIMA - Island of ancient trees

(7 on map)
From Kagoshima,
plane: 30 min; jetfoil: 2h;
ferry: 4.30h

akushima: Jomon Sugi (Cryptomeria) The location of Japan's oldest trees: giant sugi (cryptomeria) that date back thousands of years. The biggest of the lot is the Jomon-sugi, which is 25.3 meters tall, and has a diameter of 5.22 meters, and a girth of 16.4 meters. The Jomon-sugi is estimated to be between 2,600 and 7,200 years old. The cryptomeria of Yakushima are now included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Serious walkers can spend days trekking through the island's forests and along the shore. At 1,935 meters, the highest peak on the island, Miyanouradake, is also the highest peak in Kyushu. Even in midsummer it can get quite chilly at the summit. Other enjoyable natural pursuits include viewing waterfalls, following the tracks of egg-laying turtles along beautiful beaches, and spotting monkeys and deer in the forests. At Hirauchi, there's a hot spring bath that can be used only when the tide is out; at high tide it's underwater. For those who wish to enjoy the island without expending too much effort, there are such modern facilities as Yakusugiland and relaxing strolls that showcase the island's charm. The fishing is excellent. Some of the most plentiful species are mackerel and flying fish. The flying fish are sometimes served as a kind of fishcake.


AMAMI-OSHIMA

(8 on map)
By air from Tokyo: 2:20h;
from Kagoshima: 50 min.

Amami-Oshima: Mangrove Among the special natural attractions of Amami-Oshima are a species of black rabbit, dense virgin forests, and mangroves. The mangrove forest can be explored by canoe, and sea-kayaking is also popular. The beauty of the coral reef can be viewed by means of a glass-bottomed boat. The island has examples of traditional "taka-kura", which are storehouses built on stilts. While they may seem typical of a south-sea island culture, they were originally used not only in the islands but throughout Japan to store rice. The island has a centuries-old tradition of manufacturing pongee silk fabric, which is known for its fineness of pattern and pleasant feel on the skin. Agricultural products include sugarcane, sweet potatoes, pineapple, papaya, and bananas.


YORONTO

(9 on map)
By air from Amami: 40 min.

Beautiful sub-tropical flowers are a feature of this island, which is only a short distance from Okinawa. A point of interest for divers is a spot regarded as the first major sunken vessel diving area in Japan. The Yoron folk village reveals something of what life was traditionally like on the island. Like Amami-Oshima, Yoronto is a center of pongee silk fabric production.