Kirishima is located in the northeastern part of Kagoshima Prefecture, and it's here you'll find the famous Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, one of the first three areas in Japan designated as a national park in 1934. Kirishima National Park is also well-known for being one of the most environmentally diverse national parks in Japan, boasting a high concentration of volcanoes and crater lakes, including the highest crater lake in Japan, Lake Onami, which sits at 1,412 meters above sea level. A beautiful forest with a large variety of diverse plant and tree life sprawl throughout the national park, making it a star attraction for outdoor walks and hiking.
The mountains of Kirishima are said to be where Ninigi-no Mikoto, the grandson of the Sun Goddess, descended to Earth to start the lineage of Japanese emperors. This is said to all have occurred at Mt Takachiho-no-mine, where Amenonuhoko planted his spear into the summit as he did so. Before his descent, this spear was said to have aided in the creation of the actual islands of Japan themselves and remains at the summit of Mt Takachiho-no-mine to this very day.
The spectacular mountain ranges, many of which offer breathtaking panoramic views, can be enjoyed throughout the year, but spring to autumn are considered the best times for hiking the several courses available. This is because during the winter months some trails may not be accessible. Interestingly, up until 2011, James Bond fans would have been able to spot Ernst Blofeld's underground base at Shinmoedake, but recent eruptions have displaced this lake entirely.
Kirishima also enjoys some of the best hot springs in Japan, with the southwestern slope of the Kirishima mountain range hosting the ever-popular hot spring villages, Myoban, Yunotani, and Shin-yu. Here you'll be able to stay overnight and enjoy the scenery and quiet tranquility, or if time is of the essence, then a day trip to the area still provides ample opportunity to relax in the rejuvenating waters.
An incredibly popular attraction to both locals and tourists alike is the vermillion lacquered Kirishima Shrine. It is South Kyushu's largest Shinto shrine and is dedicated to Ninigi-no-Mikoto, the grandchild of the Amaterasu Goddess in the ancient legend of Tenson Kourin. Donated by the 21st lord of the Shimazu Clan, Yoshitaka in the 6th century, the Japanese government has also officially designated Kirishima Shrine as an ‘Important Cultural Property’. The Kirishima Shrine hosts festivals and musical performances held in offering to the gods, including the Minami-Kyushu Kagura Festival in the summer where the Kagura dance is performed, the Tenson Korin Gojinkasai fire festival in autumn, and Kumen-daiko drum performances in winter.
Most of the popular sightseeing locations are found 30-50 minutes away from the Kagoshima Airport or the Kagoshima Chuo Train Station, with train tours highly recommended for seeing as much of the countryside as possible. Because public transport to and from the various hiking trails is infrequent, your best option is to rent a car while in Kirishima or make use of a local taxi.
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR