As the volcano capital of Japan, much of Kagoshima Prefecture is dominated by its unique scenery of smoking peaks which stand imposingly behind far-reaching beaches. The geography of Kagoshima is also to thank for its pristine waters which result in perfectly blue waters, delicious food, and irresistible naturally heated springs and sand that offer invigorating days out from Kagoshima City.
Sakurajima is one of the icons of Kagoshima Prefecture. Found in the middle of Kagoshima Bay between Kagoshima City and Osumi Peninsula, Sakurajima is an active volcano that can be seen puffing smoke onto its surroundings as it erupts several times a day. While it’s likely you’ll get caught in a shower of ash, the island is safe to visit and is a common day trip from Kagoshima City which is just a 15-minute ferry ride away. With the main event being the awe of getting so close to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, visitors can take a bus, car, or bike between observatories, onsen, and parks around the island.
Ibusuki Sand Onsen
Satsuma Peninsula in the west of Kagoshima Prefecture is home to one of the most sought-after onsen experiences: the sand onsen. With naturally heated sand covering much of the southeastern corner of the peninsula, visitors are invited to change into a yukata and then buried under the warm sand. Said to be much more effective than the usual water onsen for giving you energy and healing ailments, it is recommended to stay in for just 10 to 20 minutes.
Ibusuki Onsen is the best known of the peninsula’s sand onsen which can be reached in a couple of hours from Kagoshima City by train, bus, or car. However, the lesser known Tamatebako Hot Spring is worth the extra trip for its unbeatable outdoor water onsen which is positioned along the beach overlooking Kaimondake Volcano.
There is no shortage of volcanoes to be seen in Kagoshima Prefecture but heading all the way down to the bottom of Satsuma Peninsula will bring you to the perfectly pointed Kaimondake Volcano. Fondly nicknamed “Satsuma Fuji”, the 924-meter high peak not only makes for spectacular scenery, especially from the warming waters of Tamatebako Hot Spring, but is also a great hiking spot for those wanting the breathtaking view over Japan’s most southern point. At 2.6 miles from top to bottom, the climb is a good five to six hours there and back and it’s a steep ascent so be prepared with walking gear and a day’s worth of food and water.
While many of Kagoshima’s sights lie to the west of the prefecture down Satsuma Peninsula, Osumi Peninsula in the east is home to its fair share of natural splendors, not to mention fantastic views over Sakurajima from its eastern coast. The immaculate Ogawa no Taki Falls lie halfway down the peninsula tucked away in thickly forested mountains, while heading to the very south of the peninsula - the most southerly point of mainland Japan - brings you to Cape Sata. Marked by the country’s oldest lighthouse, the cape over the ocean back onto the Satsuma Peninsula’s Kaimondake Volcano and the southern islands including Yakushima and Tanegashima.
As the most southerly of mainland Japan’s prefectures, Kagoshima offers plenty of beach weather for the sun worshippers among us. Stretches of sand line the coast all around the prefecture making for the perfect lunch spot. However, the most appealing of the beaches are those that sit above naturally heated water including at Ibusuki and the Fushime coast which both offer sand baths.
Kagoshima is also home to more than a dozen islands that sit off the southern coast with Yakushima, Tanegashima, and Amami Oshima some of the most noteworthy. The idyllic beaches of the islands promise white sand, warm waters, and snorkeling opportunities aplenty.