Kagoshima is the furthest point that I am going in this trip. The strategy that I am employing is to go to the furthest point during the initial part of the trip (i.e. 3-4 hours train rides) and then followed by shorter train ride as I move back to Tokyo. Though this is the furthest point, it is not halfway point. Halfway point is planned to be in Osaka which is towards the end of next week, where I will spend approximately 2 days – just enough for two rounds of Endo Sushi (yes – it is a reason to go to Osaka) and scallops at Kuromon Market!
Kagoshima is a a port city, it is nearer to South Korea than to Tokyo. In fact, the weather in Kagoshima is an opposite reflection of the weather in Nagano. Few days ago – I was trekking in cold winter and now – it felt like I am in spring. The weather is approximately about 12-15 degrees Celsius. Pretty nice if you ask me.
The train ride here from Kyoto is quite long. It took more than 4 hours and required a switch of train in Shin-Kobe. As it is still a Sakura Shinkansen – there was no need to switch platform. Just need to change train. The following map shows the route that I took from Kyoto to Kagoshima:
Before I start – I think it is worth mentioning that the hotel that I am staying is right smacked in the middle of the red light district. It was not done on purpose (really??). If you don’t pay attention to the advertisements and signboards, you probably would not realised but as you look thru – I reckon almost 70-80% of the signboards are for some club or lounge! Here are some examples:
The good thing about coming to Kagoshima is that there are not many tourists. In fact – I do look like a sore thumb. A part from being that big dude walking around in an oversized jacket, there are not many other tourists around. I do hear some Chinese speaking people around but not many . Unlike the other cities that I’ve been thru in this trip like Nagano and Kyoto. By the way – there were no Mat Salleh in sight!
One good observation here is that the English is hell a lot better than Kyoto and Nagano. Perhaps it is due to the relationship that Kagoshima had with the British (and the war too!). I’ve been to Tully’s Coffee, Family Mart, Krispy Kreme and JR offices – most of them do converse some sort of English that made the experience a lot easier (relative to Kyoto!).
If you look thru Wikipedia – the population of Kagoshima is about 600k, slightly less than Ipoh. Not that big, but from a development perspective – you can see high rise buildings and mature public transport. Apart from being connected thru Shinkansen network, the city are also connected via network of subway, buses and trams. In fact – my travelling to and from the railway station is via a taxi which was pretty convenient. Far cry from the public transport network that I experienced in “small” towns in Malaysia.
Following is a bunch of street shots that I took while I wander around the city. I do not mind coming here again (missing the night lounges – perhaps?).
Sakurajima is an island off the Kinko Bay that was naturally made from the volcano eruption many decades ago. In fact, the attraction to Kagoshima is actually Sakurajima – which is one of the few places in the world where you can see an active volcano. If you look at the photo below – it shows me doing a shameless selfie with a background of the volcano. This was taken at an observatory just after I did some light trekking (2.5km lava trail) from Sakurajima Visitors Centre.
The best way to get to Sakurajima is to go hop on a ferry from the ferry terminal in Kagoshima. There are a lot of ferries, once every 15 mins if I am not mistaken. In addition to that, the ferry runs 24 hours thus you won’t have any issue of being stranded on the island in case you missed any ferry. I bought the Welcome Cute Pass from the ferry terminal.
- Unlimited ferry usage to Sakurajima
- Any city view buses in Kagoshima
- Any local buses in Sakurajima (you need this to go to some weird places on the island)
- The island sightseeing bus
The ferry is a very quick journey. Once you get into the ferry terminal, you will be directed to the ferry (if the ferry is available for boarding). And in the ferry – depending on the type of the ferry that you are in, different floors will have different views. The bottom two floors of the ferry are for the cars and lorries.
Once you get to Sakurajima – you have multiple options. Being a first time here, and not making my research, I went wondering away!
After coming back, if I were to make a trip here again, I will rent a car which going to cost me about JPY4800. It is probably easier to travel around on your own on the island and you can save a lot of time versus waiting for the buses which runs on a very sparse frequency. For example – the sightseeing bus runs once every hour and if you in a peak season, you might not be able to get a seat as it can get quite full. The other alternative would be going for bicycle which is JPY300 an hour. Looking at the terrain – I don’t think I want to subject myself to such torture!
After arriving – I went to Lawson for a quick lunch (and cheap). Then I continue walking to the visitor centre to learn a bit more about Sakurajima – not that I understand much of it given that most of the exhibited items are in Japanese. Had to use my visual instincts to somewhat predict what they are trying to say!
After I finished at visitor’s centre, I then went to the foot onsen. This is a natural onsen in which the water comes from the geothermal activity of the volcano. It does look a bit murky but the temperature was pretty damn hot! It was painful to start but after a while it turns out very comfortable. My skin also felt so much smoother – must be the minerals in the water!
After the onsen – I then headed for the trail. It was a short trail indeed on my normal pace, I would probably finish the 2.5km trail in about 30 mins or less. But given the weather was awesome (about 13-15 degrees Celsius) with blue sky and great scenery, it took me about 1.5 hours! The trekking it self is over lava trail in which the land is formed after the eruption, where the lava solidifies after meeting the sea.
At different part of the trek – you will see some minzan or small oranges. The oranges are sold by the locals and it is extremely sweet. The stalls are not manned and you just need to drop JPY100 into the piggy bank. Pick and choose the ones that you want and enjoy it. Super best!!
I then took a bus to the highest observatory point. The bus is the Island View Sightseeing bus – that came with the Welcome Cute pass. In the bus – I notice that the volcano has erupted again! Well – it does erupt few times a week. Nothing to get worried off, at least not yet!