The Naples of Japan, Kagoshima and Sakurajima volcano
Kagoshima & Sakurajima Volcano Travel Guide
Kagoshima is the capital city of the southernmost prefecture of Japan, which bears the same name. It’s set in southeastern Kyushu. We arrived here from Fukuoka, as one of the first destinations of our bicycle trip in Japan.
On the bottom of this page you’ll find the map of our route from Fukuoka to Kirishima, click on the red path to get the elevation profile.
We arrive in beautiful Kagoshima, the Naples of Japan. Not meaning pizza and espresso, but a seaside town lying at the feet of a volcano, the Sakurajima. The volcano is the other side of the Bay of Kinko. Being not really interested in the city itself we hop on the first ferry across the bay.
There’s one boat every 30 minutes or so, the price should be cheap but we don’t exactly know, we didn’t pay, nobody asked for tickets. The Sakurajima volcano is just in front of us, beautiful in its 1117 meters of cooled lava.
It used to be an island but during the eruption of 1914, one of the most violent, it has joined the island of Kyushu in the Osumi Peninsula. The volcano is apparently one of the most active in the world.
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Arrived at the foothills of the volcano we go to the information center where for the first time we meet a Japanese who speaks English. We see a documentary about the history of the city and its relationship with the volcano and we get the first major difference with Naples: here they are prepared in case of an eruption.
They built large concrete canals that lead lava and mudslides to the sea, saving the city, shelters on the streets for the citizens, and of course an evacuation plan.
In addition, not less important, they proudly display the Guinness Book of World Records: Kagoshima has produced the biggest turnip in the world, well 31,5 kg. There is a photo of the proud farmer with the super-tuber in his arms.
It is not possible to get to the top (of the volcano, not the turnip) but we cycle to the observation point, just 373msl, from where we see the north peak, the oldest, and the southern one, more new and active.
The lava park
Going back down there’s a lava park, made by the 1914 eruption. Pines are already growing here, it’s beside the sea and the shapes made by the cooling magma are impressive, the smell of vegetation and seawater reminds me of my hometown, Catania.
There’s a path through the park, that we follow until we find the statue of a screaming singer and a flying V guitar, it’s a memorial for an epic concert attended by 70,000 people.
We try to bath but it is not easy, there are many algae, the rocks are sharp and the nearby port does not make the water inviting.
We sleep in a wooden gazebo overlooking the volcano. In the morning we bathe our feet in the thermal stream near the info-center, it’s called “foot onsen”, there are many of those in Japan, especially in Kyushu, they are always free.
Along the coast we see the volcano from all sides, it smokes. We stop next to the umpteenth “information point”, here also there are free “feet hot springs”. We put the tent under a tree in the nearby car park as recommended by an old hippie with a van, here to paint and sell paintings to tourists.
We eat with our feet in warm water and poke in the tourist shop that sells local products. Everything is kawaii (cute) and cartoonish, like only Japan can be. Biscuits with a smiley face, in the shape of drunken samurai, animals, samurai animals, and so on.
Just before sunset, the volcano erupts. The huge cloud gets iridescent. There have been 700 eruptions this year.
Here’s the map of the route we first cycled in Kyushu, from Fukuoka to Nobeoka through Kagoshima.