- I was in Kagoshima City: on April 16, 2013.
- Number of recommended days: in a day you can visit it, including Sakurajima if you hurry up.
- My score: 2/5.
Kagoshima is a city of just over 600,000 inhabitants, the most important in southern Kyushu by population. Although there are few foreign tourists who come to these lands, those who we want to explore the country in depth and many Japanese are interested in it because:
- It is the port where ferries arrive from Okinawa, Amami Islands and Yakushima.
- It is also a notable railway junction to access Kirishima National Park to the east, Satsuma peninsula to the south, and Kumamoto City to the north.
- But itself it has few attractions, specifically we could say that it only has two, Sakurajima and the Sengan-en garden.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN KAGOSHIMA
Open daily from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, adult admission 1000 ¥.
The Sengan-en (仙 巌 園), Senganen or Isoteien (磯 庭園) is by far the most acclaimed place in the city itself. This Japanese garden was built by the powerful Shimazu family in 1658 on the hillside north of the city, with magnificent views of the bay and Sakurajima, where they established their residence, although the current building is from the late nineteenth century. Interiors can only be visited with a separate guided tour, which unfortunately is in Japanese, but it is interesting since it includes a traditional ceremony of tea preparation, something that I consider should be witnessed in a visit to Japan; is, forgive the redundancy, a very ceremonious act, some will find it absurd, others relaxing, and most will find both sensations at the same time.
The subtropical climate of southern Kyushu favors the adaptation and growth of many types of plants, benefited from the incredibly fertile volcanic ash that comes from Sakurajima. This makes it an interesting visit at any time of the year.
A zone of the gardens was used to set the first factory of Japan in the industrial revolution. The remains of these buildings are still preserved and in 2015 they were included in UNESCO’s heritage as part of the Sites of the Meiji Revolution in Japan. Some have been restored and are now the Shoko Shuseikan Museum, dedicated to Shimazu clan.
Senganen is 3 km northeast of Kagoshima Station (not to be confused with the main station of the city which is Kagoshima Chuo). To get there we recommend City Tour or Machimeguri buses, which take between 35 and 45 minutes from the Kagoshima station, they are detailed below in this article, in the section GETTING AROUND IN KAGOSHIMA.
The inhabitants of Kagoshima are more than accustomed to the daily smoke and explosions. This permanently active volcanic cone on the other side of the bay, a few kilometers away, is the symbol of the city. It is an obligatory visit and an interesting half-day excursion, for that a specific article is dedicated in the following link.
- Kagoshima Aquarium. An interesting visit if we have not seen Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa. Located in the port next to the ferry terminal, it has all kinds of fish and local marine fauna, being the star a whale shark. There are 3 dolphin shows a day during the week and 4 on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as the possibility of feeding the whale shark, electric eels and seals. Open from 9 am to 6 pm (last entry at 5 pm), adult price 1500 ¥.
- Meiji Restoration Museum. To the west of the center of the city, next to Kotsuki river walk, about the history of the city in this period. Open from 9 am to 5 pm, admission 300 ¥.
- Shiroyama Park, on a hill very close to the city center is popular, as well as for its national historical connotations, for its views of Sakurajima, but the view does not contribute much if we have already visited the Senganen. You can reach the highest area, called Shiroyama Observatory, with the City Bus Tour or Machimeguri buses.
- There are more than 50 onsens in the city.
Kagoshima is a must to explore southern Kyushu, but the interesting places to visit nearby require too much time to be advisable a visit in a single day, especially Kirishima, whose hiking trails are in the north of the Park.
Still, there are many who strive to get up early and visit the corners of Kagoshima Prefecture based on excursions. On a rush, we can visit Kumamoto if we use the Shinkansen and Yakushima, although we can hardly see more than Shiratani Unsuikyo or Yakusugi Land, in neither case both.
WHEN TO GO
Kagoshima City has no notable festivals, so the recommendations to visit it do not differ from the rest of the island and are detailed in the article ESSENTIAL INFORMATION IN KYUSHU.
The first thing that interests us is, how to get to Kagoshima?
Kagoshima International Airport (KOJ) is a considerable distance away from the city center, almost 40 km and much closer to Kirishima Town. It has two terminals, the small domestic terminal and the very small international terminal. Among its direct flights are:
- Tokyo: more than 20 a day, 1h 50 min, sales can be found from 7000 ¥.
- Osaka: more than 15 a day, 1 h 10 min, sales from 5,000 ¥.
- Nagoya: 7 a day, sales from 5,000 ¥.
- Fukuoka: direct ones are very scarce, 1 every two or three days, from ¥ 20,000.
- Yakushima: 1 or 2 per week, 40 minutes, from ¥ 20,000.
- Amami Oshima: 10 a day, 1h 15min, from 8,000 ¥.
- Yoron-to: 1 or 2 a week, 1h 35 min, from ¥ 27,000.
- Okinawa: 2 a day, 1h 30 min, from 17,000 ¥.
- Seoul: 3 a day, 1h 35 min, from 3,000 ¥.
- Hong Kong: 2 a day, 3h, from ¥ 12,000.
- Shanghai: occasional, but at an exorbitant price, it is more advisable to take a flight with stopovers.
How to go from the airport to the city center?:
- There is no direct train, our best option are buses:
- There is an information desk next to the exit at the domestic terminal.
- In addition to Kagoshima City there are buses from the airport to multiple destinations in South Kyushu, including Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kirishima, Ebino, Ibusuki and Fukuoka among others.
- On the official website are the schedules and prices, but only in Japanese, and being reflected in a pdf, Google Translator can not translate them.
- From the airport to the city: there is one approximately every hour from 6 am to 5:30 pm, it takes 55 minutes. 1450 ¥.
- From the city to the airport: one every hour from 9 am to 9 pm. Same price and duration.
- A taxi will cost us approximately ¥ 11,000.
- There are car rental offices at the airport, and short and long stay car parks.
Kagoshima is on the JR line of the high-speed train and is the most important railway junction in southern Kyushu, which will allow us to arrive by train to almost anywhere. Many more foreign tourists will use this option than the plane, making use of their Japan Rail Pass, Kyushu Rail Pass or less frequently, buying the tickets separately. There are two remarkable stations:
- Kagoshima: north of the city, near the town hall, the port and the aquarium, at the northern end of Tenmonkan main avenue.
- Kagoshima-Chuo: west of the city, at the western end of Tenmonkan. The station is included in a leisure complex and is the only high-speed station in the city, all Shinkansen arrive and depart from here.
Common destinations and fares for those who do not have a pass:
- Kumamoto: frequent, take 55 minutes, from 6940 ¥. The majority continue towards Fukuoka, 1h 35 m, from 9930 ¥. We can even continue to Hiroshima or Osaka without changing trains.
- Miyazaki (passes through Kirishima, but not all of them stop there): frequent, 2h 20 min, from 3710 ¥.
- Ibusuki (local train): frequent, 1h 5 min, 1110 ¥.
At the main station, Kagoshima Chuo, is where buses leave for multiple destinations in Kyushu. Most stops are at the east exit of the station, and many stop on the main avenue of the city, Tenmonkan. Some main routes:
- Miyazaki: 2780 ¥, 3h.
- Kumamoto: 3700 ¥, 3h 30 min.
- Fukuoka: 5450 ¥, 4½ hours (express).
- Ōita: 5660 ¥, 7½ hours.
- Nagasaki: 6690 ¥, 5½ hours.
You can use the Sun Q Pass.
Considering that there are few foreign tourists who visit Kagoshima, many make use of ferries, they are essential to go to three places:
- Naha in Okinawa, passing through all the Amami Islands, that’s how I got there:
- There are two companies, A-Line Ferry and Marix Line; They go on alternate days, so, from one company or the other, there is one a day at 6 pm. It takes 25 hours.
- The price for the entire Naha-Kagoshima journey is the same in both: from ¥ 21,000 in second class (passenger without car, it is a common room without beds, you sleep on a carpeted tatami), although you can find sales in second class for ¥ 16,660. The prices have risen up a lot in recent years, to me at the beginning of 2013 it cost ¥ 14,700. The official websites of both shipping companies are in Japanese and are very unintuitive even using an automatic translator. Obviously, if we only buy a trip to Yoron-to or Amami Oshima, it’s cheaper, but we’ll have to leave the islands by plane.
- Even in high season they do not fill up, so it is recommended to go to the port and buy the ticket in the office one or two days before, although I personally went an hour before sailing from Naha and there was plenty of room, even all passengers we had been stuck in Okinawa Island for at least 5 days due to bad weather.
- Yakushima: for detailed information on how to get to Yakushima by ferry, see the post TRANSPORTATION IN YAKUSHIMA.
- Sakurajima. All the information regarding this volcano is in its specific article.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN THE CITY
- Walking. The city center is not very big, and we can walk it on foot in search of tasty restaurants or shops. Considering that the nucleus of the city is Tenmonkan Avenue, its limits are Kagoshima Chuo to the west, the ferry terminal, the aquarium and Kagoshima station to the northeast and Shiroyama Park to the northwest. From the central zone of Tenmonkan, it will not take more than 15 minutes to reach any of these locations.
- Bike. At Kagoshima-Chuo station they rent for 500/1500 ¥ 2 hours / 1 day, with a 20% discount for JR users.
- Train: JRP owners can make unlimited use of the JR line between Kagoshima and Kagoshima-Chuo stations.
- Tram: there are two lines, one of them connects the south of the city with Kagoshima station, and another connects both stations. The two going through Tenmonkan. They cost 170 ¥ per trip or a one day pass will cost ¥ 600.
- Bus. The most recommended are:
- City Bus Tour. Take a tour that goes through the Sengan-en, Shiroyama Park and the ferry terminal to Sakurajima. It runs every 30 minutes and costs 190 ¥ each way or 600 for a day (not 24 hours).
- Or Machimeguri Bus, with a similar, but more frequent and cheaper route: it runs every 20 minutes, costs 170 ¥ per trip or 500 ¥ per day.
- From Kagoshima-Chuo there are shuttles to the ferry terminal:
- For Sakurajima and Yakushima every 15 minutes, it takes 15 minutes and costs 160 ¥.
- For Okinawa one a day coordinated with the arrival and departure of the ship, it takes 20 minutes and costs 160 ¥.
The Welcome Cute Pass is a pass only for foreign tourists (passport is requested when buying it) that is bought in the tourist offices and serves for trams, the City View Bus, Sakurajima Island View Bus, other city buses and the ferry to Sakurajima, in one or two consecutive days. The 1-day pass costs 1200 ¥ and the 2-day pass is ¥ 1,800. It also includes discounts on some points of interest.
WHERE TO SLEEP, EAT AND GO SHOPPING
- Tenmonkan Avenue is the heart of the city and maybe the best area to stay and eat. Many of the streets in the area are covered by an archway. There are a lot of restaurants and as in neighboring Okinawa, South Kyushu also has a predilection for black pig, especially shabu-shabu, and everything related to sweet purple potato. It is also where more accommodations are concentrated and where to party, with bars and karaoke.
- The Kagoshima-Chuo Station includes Amu Plaza shopping center, with many restaurants on it and in the surrounding streets, and even has a Ferris wheel, and is also one of the favorite entertainment places of locals. Surrounding the station there is accommodation for all budgets.
- The port area has another shopping center, the Dolphin Port. The streets that lead from here to the town hall, to the northwest, are the Meizanbori, which is trying to become a cool neighborhood, with bars, shops, alternative restaurants and international court. There are hardly a couple of hostels in Kagoshima, the oldest and where I stayed is the Green Guest House, which is not bad but it was not anything special either, it has the advantage of being very close to the ferry terminal to Yakushima and Naha, and rent bicycles at low prices.
DANGERS, PROBLEMS AND ANNOYANCES
Kagoshima has the reputation of being the friendliest city in Japan. The inhabitants of this city are relaxed, friendly and enjoyable. The risk of accidents or robberies is practically nil and we will only have to worry about the daily eruptions of Sakurajima, which can occasionally emit more ash than usual to the ambient air.