Updated: Feb 20, 2019
A true hidden gem, a paradise waiting to be uncovered! If you're looking for a tranquil place away from the bustling cities for your next travel destination, you must definitely consider Kagoshima! It is the southernmost prefecture on mainland Japan, and while it boasts of just as much (or maybe even more) natural beauty as its more popular counterparts, the main charm is how this place is untouched by tourists!
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I've been to Kagoshima twice this year, and I'm truly touched by the people, the scenery and their culture. I'm really hoping that more people from around the world would want to find out more about the Kagoshima and develop a love for the place like I did! So here's a blogpost I've compiled from my trips (with the help of Kennard, who's stayed in Kagoshima for 6 years), and hopefully it'll help you plan your trip(s) to beautiful Kagoshima!
If you're looking for the easiest way to travel in Kagoshima, I'd highly recommend contacting CPI Travel (https://www.instagram.com/cpitravel/) as I know they can help you plan customised trips to Kagoshima. As mentioned earlier, Kagoshima isn't as famous as other parts of Japan like Tokyo, Hokkaido, etc., and therefore many travel agencies don't offer Kagoshima-only packages, but that doesn't mean it's any less amazing or beautiful than any other destinations! For those who prefer to buy your own travel tickets, CPI Travel also has land packages to offer.
FREE INDEPENDENT TRAVELLERS
For free independent travellers who really just want to experience Kagoshima in total privacy and freedom, you might face a tiny bit of challenge. But based on experience, getting lost overseas is also part of the entire holiday experience hahah!
Transportation in Kagoshima: Public Transportation: Quite a bit of limitations (some places of interest are not accessible by public transport) Chartered taxi: You have to first tell the taxi driver where you want to go (might be quite pricey) Drive on your own: The most economical method, you can book this online, but to drive around you will really need GPS with good Wi-Fi. You can travel between Airport > Kagoshima City via Airport Shuttle (￥1,250 per adult) Within Kagoshima City via City Tram (￥170 per single trip per adult) Kagoshima > Ibusuki via JR train from JR Kagoshima Chuo Station If travelling by JR train, you'll be able to explore Kirishima & Ibusuki
WIFI (DO NOT FORGET)
Because the first time we went there, we thought that we could get Wi-Fi at the airport/ in the city, but nope, we ended up going through the whole trip without internet LOL! On our second trip, we loaned from Changi recommends at an extremely affordable rate. Wi-Fi was stable and fast so it was great!
If you're travelling in a group of 4, rent a car (~S$250 for 5 days) For refuelling, it should cost about S$1.80/L And just buy all the insurance just in case. That should set you back S$30-S$40. All in all, it would cost about S$300 for 4 pax. If you're travelling in a group of 6-8 pax, it's more worth it to charter a maxi cab. It'll cost about S$600 a day, but you can ask the driver to send you to your intended locations. For groups larger than 8, you can opt to book a mini bus to send your party around.
IF YOU ARE IN KAGOSHIMA FOR....
1 - 2 days: Good to explore within Kagoshima City, Sakurajima, Sengan-en Garden
3 - 4 days: Kagoshima City, Sakurajima, Sengan-en Garden, Ibusuki (sand bath), JR Nishi-Oyama Station, eat swimming noodles, stay at Hakusuikan (highly recommended)
5 - 6 days: Kagoshima City, Sakurajima, Sengan-en Garden, Ibusuki (sand bath), JR Nishi-Oyama Station, eat swimming noodles, stay at Hakusuikan (highly recommended), + Kirishima (shrine, Kareigawa station, outdoor art museum etc)
I'd also recommend visiting the area around Ogawa waterfall if you have time to spare! To cover the islands in Kagoshima (Yakushima, Tanegashima, Amami), you'll need at least 7 or more days.
For Amami island, I've never been there (yet), but you will have to travel there by plane. It's a place surrounded by pristine waters, and very very pretty (based on the photos I've googled hahah)!
ACCOMMODATION From our experience, we stayed in hotels in Kagoshima, but you could try looking for Airbnbs as well.
SHOPPING Shopping wise (clothes, bags, shoes etc), I think Kagoshima wouldn't be my top choice, but you could probably shop at Tenmonkan, Chuo station or Don Quixote!
WHO SHOULD GO THERE? Kagoshima is the perfect place for anyone who wants to get away from the bustling city life, forget all your stress from work, and just get closer to nature without any of the noise, crowds and queues. The true meaning of going on a holiday. Better visit the place before it gets too well-known and tourists start flocking over~
February 2018, Kagoshima
The Kagoshima airport is located at Kirishima, and so this was the first stop of my first trip to Kagoshima! We had Tonkatsu pork cutlet lunch at Kurobuta-no-Yakata (Kirishima). During this trip, we travelled as a group and moved around on a chartered jumbo taxi (more details on how to travel in Kagoshima at the end of this post). The must-visit place would be the Kirishima Shrine! "it is believed that Ninigi no Mikoto, the grandson of the sun godess Amaterasu, first descended from Heaven to rule the Earth at this location." Generally speaking, Kirishima Jingu Shrine is a famous "power spot" that feels you sacred and shows its divine favor in "prosperity descendants" and "matchmaking". (information extracted from https://www.welcomekyushu.com/)
Dinner at Nanshukan (Kurokuma-nabe hot pot) Have you seen anything more beautiful and saliva-inducing? Hotel for the night: Nanshukan
Sengan-en Garden https://www.senganen.jp/en/ One of the most calming and beautiful gardens I've ever been to. Heck, it's so pretty, even the flowers smell amazing!
You can also watch craftspeople craft their signature Satsuma Kiriko crystal glass live, and to our surprise, a lot of them are young, and some very cute and pretty girls! Talk about talent~~ You can also choose to purchase these Kiriko crystal glass at the gallery shop. Mt. Sakurajima can also be spotted from Sengan-en!
Sakurajima Ferry ⇒ Sakurajima One of my most unforgettable memory from our Kagoshima trip would be going on board the ferry to Mt. Sakurajima. First thing's first, CARS AND BUSES COULD DRIVE UP THE FERRY. To a suaku Singaporean, this was already so beyond cool and I was snapping videos and photos of it the whole time. LOL!The ferry to Sakurajima was only 15 minutes but many locals would buy a bowl of piping hot Udon and slurp it up. On our first ferry ride, we bought it at the very last minute, and burnt our tongues while trying to devour the entire thing quickly. NO REGRETS! It was so comforting and delicious, we had one more bowl each on our return ferry! 10/10 would recommend!
Arrived at Sakurajima and had lunch at Café Shirahama. The epitome of a "quaint and cosy" cafe every other cafe aspires to be, with a legit farm-to-table concept because they use fresh produce from their own garden in their dishes. The vegetables were so delicious and sweet that even Sean, who usually hates vegetables, enjoyed them.
Another bucketlist item checked - Sakurajima radish harvesting. Due to the rich and fertile soil from the volcanic ash (Mt. Sakurajima is an active volcano and erupts every other day), the radishes found on Sakurajima are the largest in the world (it is in the Guinness Book of Records)!
If you'd like to harvest the radish, you'll first need to make an appointment with the cafe owners, and visit around the harvest season (we were there in February).
While you're at Sakurajima, you can also drop by the Visitor’s Centre, as well as the nearby Nagisa Lava Park Foot Spa for a warm foot bath (it's free!).
Sakurajima Ferry ⇒ Kagoshima city Another bowl of yummy Udon, please!
We had dinner at Tenmonkan and ate one of the BEST Okonomiyakis I've ever tasted in my life! In general, Japanese food obviously tastes a lot better in their land of origin, but this was some next level goodness! It was at a restaurant named Mangetsu Okonomiyaki.
Hotel for the night: Hotel and Residence Nanshukan
Meijigura Shochu Distillery (Makurazaki) What left the deepest impression in me was that the vats (for making Shochu liquor), which are buried in the ground, gave this place amazing acoustics! And they placed a piano inside the distillery so that they can have quality live music during their company celebrations! So cool!
Kamafuta Shrine A really unique shrine by the sea where you have to challenge yourself to balance the rice pot lid on your head and walk the designated path towards the shrine, for your wishes to come true! I love challenges like this haha!
Lunch at Tosenkyo (Ibusuki Somen Noodles) I first had a glimpse of the refreshing taste of swimming noodles in Singapore during the Kagoshima Night event but having the real deal in Kagoshima was really an eye-opener! Like literally though, I think my eyes lit up when I took the first mouthful of swimming noodles. Naturally cold, refreshing and may I even add subtly sweet? These noodles are worth travelling for hours to enjoy. The cold spring water is extremely clear and clean, you can see all the way to the bottom of the lake.
JR Nishi-Oyama Station We then went to the southernmost JR (Japan Rail) train station – Nishi-Oyama Station. With Mt. Kaimon as a scenic backdrop and fields of luminous yellow rapeseed flowers before us, it's truly an amazing sight to take in. And the cutest part of the place is that almost everything is yellow - mailboxes, the pen for you to write your postcards, the decorative items etc! Wished my sister was there with us because yellow is her favourite colour!
We also took a quick visit to Ibusuki Sand Bath Sayuri! If you've tried onsen in Japan before and want a different experience this time around, it's said that sandbath "is 3 to 4 times more effective than normal onsen on fatigue recovery and beautiful skin." (information from https://journey-of-japan.com/article/142/en) Also, because you're fully clothed in yukata (Japanese bathrobe), there's no separation between male and female, so I think more conservative Singaporeans like me can enjoy this with our partners without feeling awkward seeing one another naked haha!
We had a wonderful dinner at Ibusuki Hakusuikan! Hotel for the night: Ibusuki Hakusuikan (10/10 recommend!!)
Ibusuki ⇒ Tanegashima (Jetfoil 112) Sadly, there's no udon on this ferry ride hahah! But as this was a way longer ride, so we all got a good nap on board while hearing the soothing sound of the waves
Chikura-no-Iwaya Rock Cavern I love caves!!! And I remember the wind being so crazy I was so scared my wig would fly off LOL! There's a great spot at the cave that everyone takes photos at too. But remember to wear stable shoes because you really don't want to slip and fall~
Tanegashima Space Centre When Sean saw the Space Centre on our itinerary, he was so so so excited ok! Tanegashima Space Centre, said to be the most beautiful rocket launch pad in the world, is the one of two rocket launch pads in Japan (the other is in Shibushi, Kagoshima). They have scheduled rocket launches across the year, so if you're a huge fan of all things space, you'll be awed by their tour!
Hotel for the night: Tanegashima Araki Hotel
Before we left Tanegashima for Yakushima Island, we quickly visited the Matchlock Museum and Gessotei Cultural Home. The Matchlock Museum showcases the history of how matchlock rifles were introduced to Japan (through Tanegashima) by the Portuguese. It also houses models of the early rifles being brought here. What's also cool about Tanegashima is that if you bring along a magnet to their beaches and stir the magnet around the sand, you'll actually find iron fillings all around!
Lunch at Yakushima Visitors Centre During lunch, we saw some photos of wedding couples who did their photoshoot at Yakushima. It's really super dreamlike and beautiful! If you're looking for a unique location for your wedding shoots, Yakushima would be a nice place! And the best part.... NO MOSQUITOES :X Check out the original photos at http://backpackwedding.com/category/yakushima/
Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine We went on a little hike at the ravine, and if you just focus on listening to the sounds of nature, it's really very very soothing. It's the most peaceful place ever. While you're in the presence of thousand-year-old trees and the thick, lush and green forest, you'll actually feel like there's so much more to life than just the daily grind, work, money, lame politics, and superficial things blahblah. In a minute, all your stress and problems become minuscule and trivial.
And for the anime fans, you'll be pleased to know that Miyazaki Hayao’s Princess Mononoke was based on the forest of Yakushima, and here in Shiratani Unsuikyo ravine, there is an area dubbed “Mononoke-hime-no-Mori or Princess Mononoke's Forest." (https://kotaku.com/visit-the-real-princess-mononoke-forest-1282488846)
Nagata Inakahama beach
Seibu Rindo Forest Trail Take a relaxing walk down the trail and catch the common sightings of Yakuzaru Macaques and the Yakushika Deers chilling with each other. We were told there's a 90% chance you'll spot them, so no worries there!
Hotel for the night: The most amazing Sankara Hotel & Spa
Yakusugi Land My alma mater is Cedar Girls' Secondary School, and I was told that our name was inspired by the strength and sturdiness of Cedar trees, hoping that we'll be inspired to grow up into independent and capable ladies. When I was told that Cedar trees were tall and big, I really wasn't expecting THISSSSS BIG! I mean seriously though, these trees are over 1000+ years old, and you can't even see the top of the tree! Photo credit to http://www.kagoshima-kankou.com/for/attractions/51260
Izumi Fumoto Samurai Residence Kimono dressing My first experience wearing a Kimono! The entire process is so elaborate~ It started to snow a little when I was being dressed, and it was freezing cold, but we tried our best to take as many photos as we could haha.
Misono Maguro Ramen Lunch couldn't have been timelier with a generous portion of hot soupy Maguro Tuna Ramen at Misono in the cold weather! The tuna broth was light and flavourful, and very different from the usual ramen broth we're used to.
Satsuma Kinzangura Gold Mine Shochu Distillery (Satsumasendai) This is one of the must-visit locations at Kagoshima because it's not only a location where you can learn about Shochu liquor production, but you can also take a tour into the old gold mines (which are now used to produce and store Shochu liquor due to the naturally cold temperatures all year round), and ride on the fun mining cart too! They also have a Shochu which contains gold flakes. Super lux!
Iriki Fumoto Samurai Residence Samurai armour dressing It's a totally different feel from the Kimono dressing earlier in the day. In the morning, I feel like I need to sip my tea delicately, walk with small baby steps, and then in the late afternoon I feel really brave and empowered donning the samurai armour! Each armour weighs at least 5kg or more. Mad respect for Samurais in the past who went to battles with it!
The last day before we headed back to Singapore was spent walking around Kagoshima City and going to the Shiroyama Park Observatory! Sean was given a Saigo Takamori mask from the City Hall and he wore it while walking around. It was really fun when the locals react with surprise and amusement because they all really like Saigo! :D Saigo Takamori is the real last samurai from Kagoshima with a fascinating story, and you can read more about it at http://jpninfo.com/61737
September 2018, Kagoshima
On the first day of our second trip to Kagoshima, we started off with Tenmonkan! And because it's a lot warmer on our second trip, we could finallyyyyy try the famous Shirokuma shaved ice! :P Shirokuma means polar bear, and it's the mascot of their famous shaved ice. It's a refreshing treat on a hot day, and the shaved ice melts in your mouth so nicely~
We also went to take photos with the Statue of Saigo Takamori!
Satsuma Kinzangura Gold Mine Shochu Distillery
We're back again because it's Nana's first time here and I was so excited for her to experience it too! This time around, I heard that if you put the Guanyin statue as your phone wallpaper, you'll receive good luck! And ever since the trip I haven't changed my wallpaper haha!
Misono Maguro Ramen Can't miss out on this delicious ramen everytime you go to Kagoshima! :P
Marutake Sangyo Company (Samurai armour) This time, we headed to an even bigger samurai armour production house! I've never seen so many samurai armours (and such amazing variety) in my life before, not even in photos! We also saw the manufacturing process of the samurai armours and it's definitely a craft to behold.
Satsuma Students Museum The history about the Satsuma Students is really interesting because you can really imagine the emotional conflict they felt - the pride they have for their country and not wanting to accept another's technology, versus the need to explore and learn new knowledge of the outside world to better protect their country. This was also the place where the Satsuma Students set sail for their journey to England.
Sakurajima (Arimura Observatory) Headed to Sakurajima again on this trip, and the view is still as breath-taking as ever!
Yukusa Ohsumi Umi-no-Gakko School (https://yukusa-ohsumi.jp/) Just as an old gold mine was transformed into a Shochu Distillery, this abandoned school was turned into an experience-based accommodation cum chocolate factory, where both tourists and locals can arrange for short getaways here, sleep in classrooms with chalkboards and wooden desks, dine at the school canteen, do sports at the school gym, play ball at the parade square, etc.!
Torii gates of Jintoku Inari Shrine, Kanoya If you've seen photos of people at the red torii gates in Fushimi Kyoto and felt envious, what if I told you that you can take similar photos at Kagoshima but with so much less crowd! :O Additionally, Jintoku Inari Shrine went viral for having Japan's first crystal clear glass torii gate!
Ogawa Waterfall I had such amazing memories of Ogawa Waterfall! The sky was gloomy when we were trekking there, and it was raining heavily. We wanted to film the waterfall with blue skies, so we were slightly disappointed. But who knew that within minutes, the entire scene changed (as if by magic)! The sky cleared up, the volume of water from the waterfall was amazing (usually it’d be small streams of water), and there was even a rainbow! It was so beautiful I teared because I’d never seen anything so spectacular! We also visited the Aquabase Café and got ourselves some waterfall inspired drinks!
Panorama Park Nishiharadai sunset And just when I thought Kagoshima couldn't be more amazing, I was proven wrong yet again. Calling it Heaven on Earth wouldn't be an overstatement after all. The sun's rays were reflecting on the calm waters, and we were surrounded by lush greenery and clear blue skies, the surrounding was so peaceful and relaxing... I wish I could just wake up to such a view every day!
Sakurajima sunset We slept in on the fourth day and walked a distance to enjoy the sunset while admiring Sakurajima~
Had dinner at Umeya again because their Sakurajima shaped tomato shabu-shabu was just so irresistible.
I later tried to recreate this at home and failed miserably. I need to head back to Kagoshima for this shabu-shabu, pronto!!
Yataimura Street Food Village We also took a little stroll around the Yataimura Food Village, which is quite a refreshing experience for me! Lots of outdoor seats, grilled and fried food, beer snacks, etc. Such food streets are usually common in places like Taiwan and Thailand, but I've never been to one in Japan before.
Umeya Oden Our little night stroll led us to an Oden shop called “Umeya”, same as the Shabu-shabu restaurant earlier. Out of coincidence, we later bumped into the lady boss and found out that these two restaurants are owned by her. The lady boss treated us to free drinks~~ super lucky!
JR Kareigawa Station On our last day in Kagoshima, Kennard rented a car and we went to one of the oldest JR stations on Kyushu island! To be honest, I wanted to visit because Nana told me the train master of this station is a cat hahah! Just as we arrived, we saw a bento vendor setting up his booth and a queue was already forming! We later found out from Kennard that this bento was an award-winning bento of the Kyushu Ekiben (train station bento) Grand Prix. It's homemade flavours are so delicious and nostalgic that it was voted number one for three consecutive years. Luckily for us, we managed to snag 2 boxes of yummy bentos :P We also managed to catch the rare black train (called Hayato-no-Kaze scenic train) at the station!! (must be the good luck from the Guanyin wallpaper ^~^)
Maruike Yusui He then brought us to this amazing spring water place which is so crazily pretty. The water was so clear, its reflection made it look like there were two blue skies! And you can drink the spring water from the tap directly. Super super cold and refreshing!
Kirishima Open Air Art Museum We also tried to cover as many exhibits as we could at the Kirishima Open Air Art Museum! It's definitely a fun place for all ages, with optical illusion exhibits, interesting art pieces, and exhibits that interact with nature. The entrance fee was really affordable (about SGD $3.60) too!
For those who are keen to visit Kagoshima, I hope this post helps! You can feel free to DM me on Instagram if you still have any other questions and I'll try my best to answer them (along with Kennard's help, because he's stayed there for 6 years) :D
Thank you for reading!