Explore Uchinoura and Find a Passion For Aerospace
Kimotsuki is situated in the southern tip of the Osumi Peninsula, one of two peninsulas making Kagoshima prefecture. The town is dubbed "The Oriental Florida" because of its mild climate and abundant nature of mountain ranges and the Pacific Ocean behind it. In addition, it is also known for Uchinoura Space Center, one of the only places in Japan where you can see a rocket launch. Kagoshima is known as the Japanese rocket prefecture.
Japan has two space centers, which are located in the Uchinoura area of Kimotsuki and the Tanegashima Island, 40 km south from the mainland. Did you know both of them belong to Kagoshima? During Golden Week, I had an opportunity to go in and around Kimotsuki including Uchinoura Space Center. Let me share what I saw in the town!
When you want to go the Osumi peninsula by car from Kagoshima city, there are two routes. One is to get on a highway running along the coastline of Kinko Bay. It takes about one and half hours to get to Tarumizu City in the middle of the Osumi peninsula. The other is to take a short cut by getting on a ferry across Kinko bay. It takes 35 minutes from Kamoike ferry terminal to Tarumizu terminal on the Osumi side. The problem with the ferry route is you may have to wait for the boarding if you take your car. Since the ferry operates every half hour, however, it is both convenient and pleasant to feel the sea breeze on a ferry with a beautiful scenery!
After arriving in the Osumi peninsula, you will see the scenery of traditional Japanese countryside, such as tea plantations, vegetable fields, fishery villages and more. Whenever I visit a place around a seaside town, I crave for fresh seafood caught in the region. There was a local diner called "Serina" near a fishery port, offering various seafood dishes with fresh produce.
Inside the restaurant, I felt as if I visited my grandmother's house because of the rustic atmosphere. I ordered Kaisendon, a rice bowl with sashimi of ocean-fresh fish and my husband, a set meal of hourse mackerel cooked rare then sliced. Fresh fish meat was even crunchy or chewy rather than soft in texture.
After lunch, we headed to Uchinoura Space Center, one of the objectives for this trip. Because of its location in the far southeast of Kagoshima prefecture, Osumi is kind of out of reach for dwellers of Kagoshima City. We had to take advantage of this opportunity, visiting one of the most important national scientific research facilities: JAXA for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. After a 40-minute drive from Kanoya—which is also known for having a kamikaze training air base—you get the Space Center built on the hill along the coastline. There are several reasons why it was built here. According to the information I searched on the Internet, Uchinoura's location meets all the requirements and high standards needed to launch rockets and satellites.
The center was built in 1962 and since then, it has launched 400 small and large vehicles and 30 satellites and 10 explorers. Above all, Japan's first satellite the "Osumi" was launched here. It has carried out various important missions such as tracking and receiving data from satellites in space.
Getting the center, you register for the facility tour at the reception desk and get a map and brochure. After getting a number card to show the staff, you can drive on the property. We first went to the satellite observation deck on the hill top. You can look up the huge antenna, and oversee the complex of the space center facing the Pacific Ocean.
After going down the hillside, we went to see a launch pad. The square building on the left was the M Center designed for assembly and maintenance for rockets.
At the entrance, there is a space museum where you can learn about scientific satellites and the history of rockets.
You can get into the facility for free. If you have a chance to visit the Osumi peninsula, it is a must-see exciting spot where you can observe the advanced technology and aerospace projects!!