According to Zipcodesexplorer, Kagoshima is the capital of the prefecture of the same name on the southern coast of Kyushu, that is, the very south of Japan. Further – only the islands of Okinawa (and even further – Taiwan). It is sometimes referred to as the “Naples of the Eastern World” for its location in a bay (Aira Caldera), hot climate, and spectacular views of the Sakurajima stratovolcano. True, those who read David Mitchell’s “Dream No. 9” will surely remember that Kagoshima is mentioned there in a somewhat different context: for the inhabitants of the capital, this is almost a synonym for the end of the Earth and the bear corner. Curious travelers have a good chance to check in practice who describes reality more accurately: guidebooks or fiction.
The landscape and panoramas of Kagoshima are formed primarily by the picturesque Aira Caldera. In turn, the caldera itself was formed by a powerful eruption that occurred about 22 thousand years ago. In the center of the caldera, you can see the smoking cone of the volcano that gave birth to it, about 16 thousand years old, which still remains one of the most active in the country. The latter pretty much adds some spice to tourism in Kagoshima.
In the center of the caldera, you can see the smoking cone of the volcano that gave birth to it, about 16 thousand years old, which still remains one of the most active in the country.
How to get there
The fastest option is by plane: the airport of the same name is located about 40 minutes from Kagoshima. The second option is the railroad. For example, the Tokaido/Sanio shinkansen from Osaka takes five hours to Kagoshima.
For many centuries, Kagoshima Prefecture was the center of the Shimatsu clan’s lands, and Kagoshima itself was a bustling political and commercial port city in the Middle Ages and up to the Edo period. Even though international trade in Japan was virtually non-existent at the time, Kagoshima prospered as the center of a semi-independent Ryukyu vassal state. And later, Christian missionaries were especially active here. It is believed that the Japanese industrial revolution began here. Finally, it was from Kagoshima that 17 young people, violating the Tokugawa ban on travel outside of Japan, traveled to the West for the first time, to England and the United States.
In 1945, American bombers dropped more than 800 tons of incendiary and cluster bombs on the city. Kagoshima was chosen as an important base for the Japanese Navy and also as a railway terminal. And carpet bombing was preferred to targeted bombing due to cloud cover. As a result, more than 5 sq. km of the city were completely destroyed.
Attractions in Kagoshima
One of the most important museums in Kagoshima is dedicated to the Meiji Restoration. In this museum, which stands on the Kotsuki River, visitors are told about a particular interesting historical period using the most modern technical means. The 3D display on the ground floor of the museum uses light and sound effects, as well as robots. And on the floor above there is an exhibition dedicated to the people and events of the province of Satsuma.
Comparison of Kagoshima with Naples has another reason that these two cities are sister cities. There is even a street in Naples in Kagoshima, as well as Perth and Miami, its two other sister cities.
Ishibashi Park is one of the few places in Kagoshima where you can see a preserved piece of history. At the end of the Edo period, the local ruler Shigehide Shimatsu built five bridges across the Kotsuki River. Two of them collapsed during the 1993 flood, but the remaining three were moved to a new location and restored. In addition to them, in the park, which was opened in 2000, there is a memorial museum.
Established in 1971, the Kagoshima Botanical Garden displays a variety of tropical plants from around the world, including palm trees, orchids and cacti.
Many places in Kagoshima are associated with the Satsuma Rebellion: it was here that the semi-legendary samurai hero Saigo Takamori was born.
Cuisine of Kagoshima
The whole prefecture and, of course, its main city in particular are famous for their culinary traditions. The warm climate and the diversity of the surrounding nature make it possible to grow such products in Kagoshima, which are then supplied throughout the country. Top foods include herring, yellowtail, beef, smoked eel, Berkshire pork, and chicken, which are often cooked raw like sashimi. Also noteworthy is “miki” – fermented rice milk, especially popular with the inhabitants of the Amami Islands.
But perhaps Kagoshima’s most popular delicacy is “satsuma-age” (or “tsuki-age”), a kind of fried puffy fritters made from a mixture of minced fish and flour. The dish has a million variations and many names, but Kagoshima believes that the original recipe originated here.
In addition, you should definitely try the famous throughout the country “shochu” – something like a fermented vodka made from sweet potatoes. Almost every restaurant in Kagoshima has it in many variations (even the station bar serves more than 100 varieties of shochu). In Kagoshima, it is customary to drink it diluted with hot water. There are many shochu-producing businesses in the city, and some of them offer guided tours with tastings to visitors.
3 things to do in Kagoshima:
- Take the ferry to the Sakurayama volcano (15 minutes) to go up to the Yunohira viewpoint (two hours on foot or 15 minutes by car from the harbor).
- View the ruins of Tsurumaru Castle, which belonged to the Shimatsu clan.
- Ride the Hisatsu Line (Kagoshima-Kumamoto), one of Japan’s most scenic routes through mountains and river valleys.
Throughout the year, Kagoshima hosts a variety of events, many of which may be of interest to tourists. For example, the sand sculpture festival, which is held here in May. Or a very specific festival of spider (yes, yes!) fights, the tradition of which has existed here, as they say, since the 16th century. Among several festivals in July, Shogadon-no-kasayaki, the umbrella-burning festival, is worth noting. And during the November Ohara Matsuri dance festival, downtown Kagoshima hosts a colorful and noisy parade, whose participants dance to traditional music, dressed in summer yukatas, happies and bright homemade costumes. It is the largest event of its kind in southern Kyushu and attracts 20,000 spectators each year.