This week in Exploring Japan, we go back to Kyushu to take a look at Kagoshima.
Kagoshima is the southernmost prefecture on Kyushu, and includes several islands that extend down toward Okinawa. It has a population of 1,703,406. The capital city is Kagoshima. The 5 largest cities are:
The overall population of Kagoshima has been dropping for quite some time, though the city of Kagoshima is growing. This is a common trend amongst many prefectures.
Kagoshima Castle, also known as Tsurumaru Castle, is located in Kagoshima city, and is a very unusual castle. It was built in such a way that it would’ve been easy to take. It was built without a main tower, as well. Apparently, it was made so small so that it wouldn’t attract the attention of Tokugawa.
Things to see and do
Kagoshima has a large number of popular and very attractive subtropical islands, including the Amami Islands and Yakushima. It also has a famous active volcano, Sakurajima, which is right across the bay from Kagoshima city.
Kagoshima city is a fairly compact city that’s easy to get around. But probably the biggest attraction is Sakurajima, easily accessed via ferry. It’s a very active volcano, and you can’t go within 2 km of the crater. Kagoshima Prefectural Museum of Culture seems to be very interesting. Ishibashi Park is home to 3 bridges that were damaged severely in floods, and so they were moved and repaired. This park was created in 2000. There are a couple of notable gardens, Sengan-en, and Kagoshima Botanical Garden. Other places to see are the Kagoshima Aquarium, Museum of the Meiji Restoration, and Tenmonkan Shopping Arcade.
Minamikyushu is a small city that was created by the merger of several towns, including Chiran. In Chiran, there are a couple good places to see. Chiran Special Attack Peace Museum shows photos and letters from kamikaze pilots in World War II. The town has a great collection of samurai houses, as well.
Ibusuki is famous for its hot springs. The hot springs, Ibusuki Onsen, is actually on the beach where you can relax while covered by hot sand. Climbing Mt. Kaimon gives you a good view of the area. The Ibusuki Experimental Botanical Garden should be interesting to see, as well.
Kirishima is known for its mountains, including Mt. Kirishima, an active volcano. This is part of the Kirishima-Yaku National Park, which also includes Yakushima. In Kirishima, the mountains provide a landscape that has been described as like being on the moon. In the city, there’s also a large shrine, Kirishima Jingu. Uenohara Jomon Forest is a historical park that is an archaeological site and includes an exhibition centre.
Kanoya is an agricultural city that is famous for the Kanoya Rose Garden.
Tanegashima is one of the larger islands of Kagoshima, home of JAXA, and is famous for the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan’s main spaceport. It’s free to enter, but is restricted on launch days. Also on the island are the Chikura Caverns, Takezaki Beach, and Cape Kadokura.
Yakushima is an island that is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. It’s a beautiful island with ancient forests and tall mountains. It’s a popular destination and very well developed. The thing to see is the Yakusugi forest, very old cryptomeria trees. You can see the Yakusugi Museum to learn about the forest. Also available are the Yakushima Fruit Garden and Shitogo Gajumaru-en Banyan Garden. It’s also the largest nesting ground in the North Pacific for the loggerhead sea turtle.
Amami Oshima is the largest of the Amami Islands, and the main city is Amami. In the city, you can see the Amami Islands Botanical Garden. Probably the most popular thing to do on the island is rent a bike and take a look around, as well as go to the beaches. Beware of the habu, a very venomous snake that inhabits most of the island. It’s also the best place to access the other Amami Islands, many of which have beautiful beaches, great diving and swimming.
Kagoshima is mostly agricultural, so there are a lot of local foods. Black pork is a specialty of the prefecture, being the most highly prized pork in Japan. And on the topic of pork, Tonkotsu ramen is quite popular here.
Have you been to Kagoshima? Do you have any other recommendations? Please leave a comment!