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Japanese Culture >> Travel Reviews

Kagoshima, Japan

Many of us are familiar with the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka on the main island of Honshu. Attractions such as Tokyo Tower and Himeji Castle are frequented by many first time visitors. However, Kagoshima the southernmost prefecture located on the island of Kyushu provides even the seasoned traveler a new perspective of Japan.

Sakurajima has long reminded visitors and residents that the islands of Japan were a result of volcanic activity. With is trademark billows of smoke, Sakurajima is an active volcano which has seen constant volcanic activity. Located in Kinko Bay, Sakurajima was once an island. In 1914, a major eruption which lasted for months poured lava into the straits thus connecting the island to the Osumi Peninsula. It provides a scenic backdrop for the city of Kagoshima.

Yaku Kirishima National Park is home of Sakurajima. But Yaku Kirishima is so much more. To the north, the Kirshima mountain range provides travelers with views of crater lakes carved eons ago by volcanic activity. With over 20 volcanoes, hot springs and crater lakes it provides sightseers an opportunity to see nature at its finest. Many have said how Kirishima is where the gods Ningi-no-mikoto descended from heaven. Today, Lake Onami provides us all with a spectacular scene with varying hues that dance across the water surface. Yaku Kirishima National Park also includes the southernmost coast of Kyushu. Osumi Peninsula is on the southeast region of Kyushu. Within the Osumi Peninsula, Cape Sata is the southernmost point of Kyushu and thus the most southern point of the major Japan islands. At Cape Sata, along with scenic vistas, one can find the oldest Japanese lighthouse built in 1871.

Kagoshima city is often referred to as the Naples of the Eastern Worldfor its bay location, hot climate and its stratovolcano (Sakurajima). To make it official, Naples Italy has an official sister city relationship with Kagoshima. Like many other large cities, Kagoshima will not disappoint when it comes to shopping. Tenmonkan is a large shopping arcade featuring everything from 100 yen shops to a very unique shop selling hundreds of sweet potato products. Sweet potato is a major agricultural product of Kagoshima prefecture so it is not surprising to find such a shop at Tenmonkan

In Kagoshima, there are several delicacies which are unique to this part of Japan. First, tonkatsu in Kagoshima is not breaded and deep fried. The pork is marinated in shochu and slow cooked, resembling a stew. Satsuma-age are fried fish cakes. Different shapes and sizes have different flavors. One must try the small round ones which have a delicious sweet potato flavor. For the adventuresome, kibinago sashimi is for you. Kibinago is a small fish similar in size to a sardine. The kibinago is prepared and served with a miso dipping sauce.

As one can see, a visit to Kagoshima is unlike those made to many other cities in Japan. It provides travelers a very different perspective of Japan, realizing that Japan is more than just large cities and temples. Kagoshima reminds us of the true diversity of Japan in both landscape, people, foods and natural beauty.  

About the Author

Howard writes for Kobayashi Travel