Kagoshima

Kagoshima (鹿児島) is the capital of Kagoshima prefecture on the island of Kyushu, Japan.

NOTE: On August 15, 2015, the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a Level 4 Emergency Warning for the Sakurajima volcano, indicating the increased possibility of an eruption. Those near the volcano have been urged to prepare for evacuation, and travelers should exercise caution.

Understand

Kagoshima is a historical city watched over by the looming bulk of Sakurajima (桜島), an active volcano that regularly dumps ash over the city and erupts a bit every now and then to remind people it's still there. The home of near-mythical samurai hero Saigo Takamori (see History), it's full of sites related to the Satsuma Rebellion.

Get in

By plane

JAL and ANA offer flights into Kagoshima from several major cities in Japan. Kagoshima Airport is also the starting point for many flights to Okinawa and the surrounding islands. Low cost carriers Fuji Dream, Jetstar, Peach, Skymark and Solaseed fly into Kagoshima, and the airport is also served by flights from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

Kagoshima's Airport is one hour away from Kagoshima's main train station by Bus (¥1200). There are buses from the companies Iwasaki and Nangoku-Kotsu every 10 minutes going from and to the city center, most or all of them stopping at the main train station and the Tenmonkan shopping street. If a few of them stop at the port, it is 15 minutes away by foot from the stops of Tenmonkan, Kinseichō and the city hall.

By train

Kagoshima is the southernmost city on Japan's extensive bullet train network. Services terminate at Kagoshima's main rail station, Kagoshima-Chuō (鹿児島中央).

Kyushu Shinkansen trains run several times per hour from Hakata Station in Fukuoka, taking as little as 80 minutes at a cost of ¥10,170. If you have a Japan Rail Pass you can use Kyushu Shinkansen services at no charge, with the exception of Mizuho trains.

Sakura and Mizuho trains connect Kagoshima with stations north and east on the San'yo Shinkansen network. Using the Sakura, Hiroshima is 2 hr 40 min away (¥17200), Okayama 3 hr 20 min (¥19830) and Osaka 4 hr 10 min (¥21300).

From Tokyo, it is possible to travel the full distance of the Tokaido, San'yo and Kyushu shinkansen lines in 7 hours using a combination of Nozomi and Kyushu Shinkansen trains. Japan Rail Pass holders can make a day trip in 8 hours using a combination of Hikari and Sakura/Tsubame services.

Note that Kagoshima has two central stations, Kagoshima (鹿児島駅) and Kagoshima-Chuō (鹿児島中央駅). The former is the older station slightly to the north of the city centre, and you're unlikely to use it. The much larger Kagoshima-Chuō station is likely where you'll be travelling to and from. Don't confuse them!

Sleeper Trains

Because all sleeper trains from Tokyo and Kansai to Kyushu have been discontinued, traveling overnight to Kagoshima strictly by train could be a little difficult. Thankfully, trips are easier to make now that the Kyushu Shinkansen is fully operational.

From Tokyo, it is still possible to take an overnight train, the 10 PM Sunrise Seto/Sunrise Izumo, to Okayama where you can connect to a bullet train the next morning to continue the journey. With a Japan Rail Pass, a connection to a Sakura at Okayama will get you to Kagoshima at around 10:45 AM. Without a Rail Pass you can connect in Okayama to a Mizuho that gets to Kagoshima by 9:50 AM.

Rail Pass holders can opt for carpeted spaces on the overnight train where you sleep on the floor - as these are technically classified as "reserved seats", they are free to reserve with the pass. Otherwise, accommodation charges of approximately ¥10,000-17,000 must be paid. Bullet trains west of Okayama are covered by the pass as long as you stick with the Sakura or Hikari services.

Overnight by train with rest stop

If you are unable to secure a space on the overnight train, another option - especially for those using a Japan Rail Pass - is to split up the journey, stopping at an intermediate destination en route in order to sleep somewhere. The cost incurred will only be for the hotel room; the Rail Pass covers your transportation.

This two-part method carries a couple of advantages. You will more than likely find good accommodations very close to a main train station in a smaller city, compared to a big city such as Tokyo, and it will more than likely be cheaper than hotels found in Tokyo. You could use the money you save to forward some of your luggage using a luggage delivery service and take an overnight bag with you, which will make the journey easier.

From Tokyo, you could depart in the late afternoon or early evening on the bullet train and sleep over at a hotel in Himeji or Okayama. In the morning, grab one of the first bullet train departures in the same direction to continue your trip. For example, if you were to overnight in Himeji, you can take a direct Hikari service (3 hours 45 minutes) and stay in a hotel close to Himeji station for around ¥3,000-5,000 per person. In the morning, the 6:55 AM Sakura departure will get you to Kagoshima by 10:45 AM.

By bus

Various overnight bus services are available to Kagoshima from Osaka and Kobe (~¥10000 one way; ~¥21000 round-trip). Tickets for Osaka and Kyoto can be bought from Willer Express's English site for around ¥7800 each way. Daytime and nighttime buses also run from Fukuoka (yen 5400 one way; 4 hours) and Oita. There are day buses from Kumamoto for about ¥3600; 3 1/2 hours.

By ferry

Kagoshima is one of Japan's most busy ferry terminals, with a plethora of ferries connecting mainland Japan to its southern islands. For the Okinawan archipelago there's several routes towards Naha which stops on different islands along the way. Operators include Matrix Line and A Line ferry - expect the full journey towards Naha to take around 25 hours, although you can stop halfway through in the Amami Islands.

Towards the world heritage site of Yakushima and the island of Tanegashima near Kyushu you can opt for either Orita Kisen (4 hrs, ¥4000), or the Toppy and Rocket hydrofoils completing the journey in less than 2 hours (¥7000) for Tanegashima and in 2-3 hours for Yakushima (¥8500). Finally for the Tokara Islands, the municipality operates 2 weekly ferries plying the route in around 7 hours (¥6000).

Get around

The ferry to Sakurajima

Streetcars are a convenient way to get around Kagoshima city. Both lines 1 and 2 can be boarded at the Kagoshima station; only line 2 runs by Kagoshima-chuo. Board the tram from the back door, and pay the ¥160 per ride fee when exiting the front door. If you don't have exact change, the fare machine can make change, but it is polite to get your change during the ride, so as to not hold people up when at your final stop. Streetcar signage varies by the age of the streetcar; some have electronic signs that indicate the stop, but many do not. Streetcar information and a route map are available from www.synapse.ne.jp.

The ferry between volcanic island of Sakurajima and Kagoshima harbor operates frequently and around the clock. The boat ride will take about fifteen minutes.

Given Kagoshima's relatively small size and straighforward layout, buses (¥150) are less confusing than in larger Japanese cities.

If you plan to make Kagoshima a base for multiple trips, or make Kagoshima a stop on a trip throughout Kyushu, then a 5-day Kyushu rail pass may be the best option. If you are travelling from Tokyo or farther via train, then a 7-day Japan Rail pass is about the same price as a one-way shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kagoshima. Both of these passes have extensive limitations; be sure to review terms and purchase your pass before entering Japan.

See

Mt. Sakurajima covered by clouds, seen from Yunohira Lookout
Sengan'en Garden

Do

Sunamushi or sunaburo is a hot spring and sand bath combined. "Bathers" are covered in hot sand. It can be found at Ibusuki Onsen, about an hour south of Kagoshima.

Buy

Tenmonkan shopping arcade

Tenmonkan shopping arcade (天文館通り, Tenmonkan-dōri) has a plethora of shops, where you can satisfy your consuming needs.

Eat

See Kagoshima prefecture for listings of regional dishes.

Drink

Kagoshima is known throughout Japan for its sweet potato shochu, or imo-jochu (芋焼酎). While shochu is often compared to vodka, it first goes through a fermentation process. In Kagoshima, almost all restaurants have imo-jochu, and some have hundreds of different brands. Even the Shinkansen platforms at Kagoshima-chuo station have a bar/shop with 100+ varieties of shochu.

In Kagoshima, the most common way to drink shochu is mixed with hot water, or oyu-wari. This releases the fragrance of the shochu, and also reduces the alcohol content to be on-par with wine. Because Kagoshima is the center of manufacture, many factories offer tours and have small shops for tasting and purchasing the locally made shochu.

Sleep

Budget

If you're looking for inexpensive accommodation, the tourist information in the Kagoshima station can hand you a leaflet, where they have listed all the inexpensive options in Kagoshima. They can also check availability and book the accommodation for you.

Sleep is only ¥1300 a night (there are two beds available, extra futons upon request), and you get what you'd expect for that price. The toilet is outside in the parking lot, and the shower/bath is to be taken at the nearby onsen. Despite all of this, the Guest House has a wonderful, welcoming atmosphere.

Bicycle rental is available for free, and if you're lucky the hosts might even offer to give you a tour around the island in their pick-up truck. If the host asks you if you'd like to come along to watch the sunset as he plays his electric Koto, be sure to go along for an experience not to be missed.

Go next

Routes through Kagoshima

Hakata sendai  N  S  END
Kumamoto sendai  N  S  END
Oita Kirishima  N  S  END
Kumamoto E Ebino JCT  N  S  END


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, November 07, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.