Sakurajima – 桜島
Kagoshima, the main southernmost city of Kyushu island, is symbolized by its active volcano “Sakurajima“, one of the most famous landmarks of this island, and thus in this post we are going to focus on it!
What’s special about Sakurajima?
Thanks to its mild climate, the geographic conformation with the volcano, and the strong dialect, Kagoshima is often related to Naples, in Italy. And in fact the two cities are sister towns since 1960.
Let’s talk more about Kagoshima’s characteristics: its active volcano is always blowing smoke, and it is possible to see it from everywhere in Kagoshima.
The Sakurajima is 1117 m high, and its vast shape lays on a 50 square km area. Sakurajima used to be an island, separated from the mainland, but the solidified lava of the 1914 eruption led Satsuma Peninsula to the Kinkō Bay across the shore.
Another eruption happened on August 8th 2013, when Kagoshima city was covered by a big amount of ash and the sky became immediately dark for the few following days.
The warm city of Kagoshima extends along the coast and many palm trees grow here.
You can somehow feel the atmosphere of Okinawa and other southern destinations.
Finally, due to the influence of the volcano there’s plenty of hot springs around.
How to reach Sakurajima
– Kagoshima is the Japanese Naples –
As Italian, I visited Kagoshima to see with my eyes if the two cities have really so much in common.
I came to Kagoshima in 2009 (although on that time I still hadn’t been to Naples), and on that time the last part of the Kyūshū Shinkansen line was not complete yet, so accessing Kagoshima from Fukuoka took some time.
I remember that I could enjoy a peaceful midsummer landscape from the train’s window, especially during the first part of my journey, on the slower train from Hakata to Shin-Yatsushuro.
When I arrived at Kagoshima Central Station my eyes were taken by the ferris wheel on the top of the building. It was the first time for me to see a ferris wheel on a train station.
In front of the station building you can find a streetcar stop. Kagoshima in fact, is one of the three cities of Kyushu still having a tramway system, the other being Kumamoto and Nagasaki.
I got on a Line 2 tram bound to Kagoshima Statuon*, and arrived at the stop called “Sakurajima Sambashi“, then stepped on a ferry heading to Sakurajima.
Since the volcano is located right in front of Kagoshima’s port, I got there in just 15 minutes.
* note: Kagoshima owns two main railway stations: Kagoshima Station is the former main station, and now handles only local traffic; Kagoshima-Chuo (Central) Station is instead the main Hub of the city, and you are likely to enter the city from this station.
From the ferry, I could see the shape of Sakurajima capped by clouds. It was the first time for me getting so close to an active volcano, and I felt somehow thrilled!
When you get off the ferry, you find yourself in front of the Visitor Center. Here you can learn about Sakurajima’s features, ecology and history through plastic dioramas, videos and other interesting documents. There are also pieces of solidified lava exposed here and there.
In addiction, thanks to the fertility of the terrain, because of the minerals contained in magma, rare species of plants grow here.
I will now introduce some of the spots I visited in Sakurajima and I most recommend:
This observatory is located 380 m high above the sea level, and it is possible to behold Sakurajima’s eastern crater from here.
There is no doubt Sakurajima’s nature has been worshipped by men from the ancient times. At Kurokami Shrine two thirds of the torii are buried by the ashes, and this was probably caused by the 1914 eruption.
You can enjoy this hot spring, where the water is warmed up by Sakurajima’s caldera located beneath it. Thanks to the wide, bright window you can contemplate the landscape while taking a warm bath.
To conclude, there are two nice spots from where you can enjoy a view on Kagoshima city:
The first is Shiroyama Park, which used to host Kagoshima’s castle on its ground. Nowadays it is a panoramic terrace very appreciated by Kagoshima citizens and tourists.
From here there is a gorgeous view on the whole city, the Kinkō bay and, of course, Sakurajima. I recommend Shiroyama Park especially to enjoy night views and to photographers.
A second place I suggest, is a Japanese garden called Sengan-en. You can reach it by bus from Kagoshima Central Station or Shiroyama Park.
This place is pure beauty, the Japanese-style garden and the traditional buildings are very photogenic.
I’ve been briefly talking about Kagoshima, and especially about its symbol, the Sakurajima volcano.
Unfortunately I had a short stay, so the next time I will visit it by taking more time!
Kagoshima Prefecture boasts really a lot of wonderful sights. From the exhotic Yakushima Island, with its rare plants and flowers to the rural Satsuma peninsula, and the Kirishima volcanoes range in the north. Kagoshima is awaiting for you!