Iso Area - Home to Numerous Traditional Gardens
A glimpse at the map of Japan reveals the location of Kagoshima at the southern tip. Because of this strategic location, it has been heavily influenced by foreign countries. This location has made Kagoshima one of the most important sea-trading hub in Japan.
In addition to this, Satsuma, the former name of Kagoshima, had developed various kinds of advanced technology by taking advantage of the easy access to western learnings and techniques, through the active interactions with western powers. Especially during the period of Japan’s modernization in the 19th century, the lord of Satsuma, Shimazu Nariakira, promoted construction of the industrial complex and strengthen military power to compete with the West.
In the Iso area, you can see the remains of Japan’s industrialization brought about by the lord of Satsuma domain, who was intelligent and always eager towards new technology. Moreover, it also has a beautiful traditional Japanese gardens that are well-maintained and enjoyable through four seasons.
Driving northward for 20 minutes from Kagoshima-chuo station takes you to so-called Iso area, which literally means the shore of the sea. It’s a very best location commanding a magnificent view of the Kagoshima bay and Mt. Sakurajima. The lord of Satsuma, Shimazu Nariakira had chosen this place as a home for Japan’s modernisation, for constructing the industrial complex.
This building, built in 1865 was a part of many factories in Shuseikan project, is designated as a national cultural property. It is characterized by a combination of Western and Japanese architectures. The museum exhibits an array of historical materials including the Shuseikan project that Shimazu Nariakira promoted at that time, such as the model of the reverberatory furnance and the ship of Ryukyu. You can learn a lot about the historical background which helps understand how Satsuma played an important role in forming the Modern Japan during the 19th century.
Adjacent to the Shuseikan museum, there is a traditional garden called Senganen. It was built about 400 years ago as a villa of the Shimazu family. Facing Kagoshima bay, it boasts of fantastic views of the Sakurajima volcano. And you can observe the influence of Chinese culture in the garden since Kagoshima has been the south gate of Japan and incorporating foreign culture over the history.
1. The replica of iron canon
This military weapon doesn’t match with the traditional garden, does it?
This is the symbol of the project that Shimazu lord was promoting in the late 19th century. He made this to make Japan stronger enough to compete with western powers. In fact, the cannon made was used in the battle with Britain in 1863. At the site of Senganen, there used to be a lot of factories producing not only iron products but also ceramic, porcelain and sheet steel. Here is the birthplace of industrialization in Japan.
2. Tin-roofed gate
The gate was built 350 years ago. It is said that the lord and his first son were allowed to go through the central gate while the wives and other low-ranked people had to use a smaller gate (on the left side). This gate is characterized by the roof made of tin that was produced in Kagoshima.
3. The main garden
This is the highlight of Senganen. You can enjoy the spectacular view of Sakurajima and Kagoshima bay in the background. This garden adopts the traditional method called borrowed scenery which incorporates Sakurajima as a mountain and Kagoshima bay as a pond. Surrounding nature is also part of the garden.
The three letters are carved on the surface of the rock. This method is often seen in the Chinese-style garden. In order to carve three letters on the wall, it took a total of 3900 people and 3 months. They laid out the framework with a bamboo and cedar tree to get a higher working site. Senjingan literally means 'a large rock' in English.