Kagoshima prefecture is located in the Kyushu region, down south in a lovely, peaceful part of Japan. It brings a strong sense of home and serenity upon arrival at this beautiful scenic spot.
It is warmer than most parts of Japan during winter season and is a great travel sightseeing spot with lots of charming scenery. Driving around is highly recommended, as you breathe in the beautiful natural sights that Kagoshima has to offer.
The recommended length of stay in Kagoshima is around 3 days with accommodation preferably close to Kagoshima Chuo Station as most sightseeing spots are easily accessible from Kagoshima Chuo Station!
1. Visiting Sakurajima
Sakurajima is one of the most popular spots in Kagoshima Prefecture. The main mountain on the island is still active and erupts smoke on average four times a day. It is still very safe for visitors to visit though. On the island, from the highest observatory deck, you can view the majestic sight of Mt. Ontake. It leaves many including myself in awe.
To get to Sakurajima Island, board a ferry from Kagoshimahonkokitafutouferi Ferry Port close to the Kagoshima Aquarium for only ¥160. I recommend purchasing a day pass for ¥500 to be able to hop on and off the sightseeing bus around the island. Or the other option of purchasing the Cute Pass for ¥1,100 to travel around Kagoshima City and Sakurajima Island for a day.
The sightseeing bus at Sakurajima Island brings you to the top of the observatory deck where you can view the mountain up close and personal as mentioned above. It is truly an experience to view the mountains from a close distance. Walk around the orange (mikan) garden and enjoy a foot bath while eating the local oranges by the bay!
It is recommended to spend a day at Sakurajima. As the ferry schedules are frequent (every 20 minutes), do take your time to explore the island!
2. Visiting Shiroyama Park Observation Deck
A short bus ride away from Kagoshima’s central station (Kagoshima Chuo Station) is Shiroyama Park Observation Deck. Close by is the central park where a statue of Shimazu Hisamitsu lies. Spend a day in the central park and at the observation deck to breathe in the scenic view Kagoshima City has to offer!
I have been to the Shiroyama Observation Deck both in the morning and at night. I do recommend visiting the deck in the evening again to watch the sun set by Mt. Ontake at Sakurajima. It will leave you breathless. On some nights, the moon shines brightly reflecting the clarity of the lake underneath it.
The hike up to the Shiroyama Observation Deck is around 30 minutes but the scenery leaves you in awe of Kagoshima’s beauty.
3. Visiting a Local Onsen and Trying out the Local Kagoshima Sochu
If you have not tried out a local hot spring bath (onsen) in Japan, Kagoshima is a great place to start. Kagoshima onsens are slightly different from the ones in Kansai. The water temperature is slightly higher than Kansai region. Locals usually alternately switch from the hot onsen to the cold onsen every 5 to 10 minutes to get a cool, refreshing feeling after a long, tiring day.
After either visiting Sakurajima, or hiking up Shiroyama Observation Deck, visiting a local onsen close to your accommodation for the night is highly recommended! Depending on the season, the onsen would have a different theme. This winter it was pomelo and I was fortunate enough to taste a hot spring pomelo.
After a refreshing time at the local onsen, head over to a local izakaya and try out the home brewed Kagoshima sochu. Sweet flavoured with a strong hint of sochu in its mix, what a perfect way to end the night!
4. Try the Local Delicacy of Kurobuta or Kurogyu
Kurobuta or Kurogyu is a well known local delicacy here in Kagoshima. Indeed trying these dishes is a once in a lifetime experience.
The meat is sweet, succulent, soft, and melts into your mouth upon the first bite. Shabu shabu is a highly recommended dish. The soft succulent meat soaked in the sweet miso based soup leaves you craving for more! A must try in Kagoshima!
5. Visiting Lake Ikeda in Ibusuki, Kagoshima
Located further down south from Kagoshima city centre is Ibusuki, a local spot well known for hot springs and somen (thinly cut wheat noodles traditionally eaten with soy sauce and dashi in Japan).
To get to Ibusuki, board the JR train bound for Ibusuki for ¥1,000 (one way) for an hour train ride from Kagoshima Chuo Station. Purchase a day tour bus pass for ¥1,100 at Ibusuki Station for a local tour. The last stop from Ibusuki station is Lake Ikeda (approx. an hour drive from Ibusuki Station).
Lake Ikeda is the biggest volcanic lake in Kagoshima, shaped very roundly. From Lake Ikeda, the view of Mount Kaimondake is clearly visible. Legend has it that monsters inhabited Lake Ikeda, which today, remains a tourist attraction spot. Sweet potato is a well known delicacy here in Kagoshima. Do try their sweet potato ice cream whilst visiting.
Try the local somen in Ibusuki for lunch or dinner, and enjoy your day at this scenic spot south of Kagoshima before returning to Kagoshima Chuo!
Take your time to visit Kagoshima. As Kagoshima is famous for its volcanic mountain tourist attractions, onsen and sochu, plenty of foot baths were available at tourist spots with a view of the mountains. For only ¥390, you can spend ample time at the local onsen, sharing your day with the locals and feeling refreshed after. The slow pace in Kagoshima leaves a soothing impression and memory among all my traveling experiences here in Japan! A great escape from the cold in winter!