A Wellness Guide to the Best Onsens and Hikes in Kagoshima

Breathe in the fresh air of the great outdoors on a mountain hike in Kagoshima
Breathe in the fresh air of the great outdoors on a mountain hike in Kagoshima | © Travelina / Getty Images
Staying well and healthy in Kagoshima is easy with the help of these relaxing onsens and energising mountain walks.

Whether you’re a tourist or an expat living in Japan, embracing Japanese culture is a great way to enhance your wellness routine. Wellness is all about promoting your overall well-being, from physical and mental health to feeling supported in your emotional and spiritual life. Keeping that in mind, these are the best wellness things to do in Kagoshima in our top two favourite categories – onsens and hikes!

Enjoy panoramic views in Kirishima National Park © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Hot springs

Japanese hot springs are famous for their ability to make your worries float away. Not only do people find it relaxing to spend time in the soothing waters, but the geothermally heated springs also produce waters that are high in minerals, helping to heal your body. Certain places in Japan are hot spots for onsen, and Kagoshima is filled with amazing places to take a relaxing bath.

Kagoshima Shiroyama Hotel Onsen

You don’t need to be a guest at the hotel to use the Satsumanoyu onsen. Entry is a hefty 2,300 yen (£16.75) for adults, but the payoff is an onsen experience of pure luxury. Jaw-dropping views of Sakurajima from the outdoor bath is worthy of the entry cost, and your ticket includes entry to the sauna, relaxation rooms, indoor pool and more. Private baths are available, as are spa treatments for those wanting a full day of extravagance.

Kagomma Onsen

If you’re looking for something a bit more down to earth, visit a hot spring frequented by locals rather than tourists. Kagomma doesn’t look like much from the outside, and behind the thin curtain you’ll find that the changing room reminds you of your school gym locker room. However, this charming little onsen has enough different baths to sample varying temperatures during your visit, including a sauna and a salt scrub bath. Enjoy the quirky paintings on the tiles that add to the rustic charm at Kagomma. For the most atmospheric visit, we recommend going in the evening.

Sand baths in Ibusuki

The onsen town of Ibusuki is an hour away from central Kagoshima and is famous for being one of the best hot spring locations in the area. A special feature of the onsen in Ibusuki are the sand baths. Guests wear yukata robes and are buried in the hot sand, with steam rising up from below. Ten or twenty minutes is an ample amount of time to enjoy the sand bath before dusting yourself off and heading to the regular baths for a long, hot soak. Two top choices here in Ibusuki are Happy Land, or the Saraku Sand Bath Hall. Saraku is the more popular facility, with longer opening hours and no closed days. Admission is 1,080 yen (£7.90) to the complex. At Happy Land, pay 510 yen (£3.70) for the rotenburo (outdoor baths) with spectacular views, and there are separate tickets for other baths.

Bury yourself in the sand in Ibusuki © Yiming Chen / Getty Images

Sakurajima

Take the ferry to this volcanic island to experience some authentic geothermally heated waters. The Sakurajima Yogan Nagisa Park Footbath is just a 10-minute walk from the ferry port and is free to use. For the full onsen experience, go to the nearby Rainbow Hotel, which has a public bath that is 390 yen (£2.80) for adults. The volcanically heated water in these baths has a distinct smell and a murky quality that makes the water look like miso soup.

Kirishima

Only an hour’s drive from Kagoshima, Kirishima is a national park area that’s overflowing with incredible hot springs to wash away your worries. Sakura Sakura Onsen offers a luxurious meal with an overnight stay, or you can go to the hot spring as a day visitor for 700 yen (£5.10). The outdoor bath is mesmerisingly beautiful, and the unique feature of the skin-soothing mud bath is well worth a try. If you want to visit a larger, more showy facility, the Kirishima Hotel is one of the most popular in the area. Having both unisex and separated facilities, the Kirishima Hotel has one of the largest bathing complexes in Kyushu. Hotel Ebino Kogenso is a luxury hotel right on the Ebino plateau with a gorgeous onsen, offering stunning views up the misty mountainside as you relax in the rotenburo.

Kirishima’s onsen are set in picturesque natural landscapes © Chris Willson / Alamy Stock Photo

Walking and hiking

Once you’re done relaxing, it’s time to get active. The mountainous, coastal region of Kagoshima is crammed full of places to go for a walk, from gentle strolls to vigorous hikes. Whether you just want a quick spot of shirin yoku (tree bathing) or are up for a weekend of camping and hiking, you’ll find plenty of locations to do so in and around Kagoshima.

Mt Shiroyama

Not far from the centre of Kagoshima, Mt Shiroyama offers some of the best views in the city. The walk isn’t too long and can be steep in places, but the shade from the trees make it a pleasant walk even on a hot day. The viewing platform provides an opening, framed in foliage, where you get an unrivalled view of Sakurajima. With the volcano – one of the most active in the world – erupting a little bit on most days of the year, you’re sure to enjoy the view. Sunset is the perfect time to enjoy the vista.

Sakurajima

If you’d rather hike on the volcano than up to get a view of it, be aware that there are restrictions on where you’re allowed to hike on the island. As Sakurajima is an active volcano, it’s not permitted to hike to the top. The highest point you can reach is the Yunohira observation point, located 373 metres (1,224ft) above sea level and just 2.5km (1.6mi) away from the crater. However, the walk there is mainly just on roads and without dedicated footpaths. For a shorter walk, make your way to the Lava Fields. The 3km (1.9mi) pathway that cuts through the ethereal landscape won’t take long to complete, but it’s a scenic spot.

Sakurajima is an active volcano © Joshua Hawley / Alamy Stock Photo

Mt Kaimon

Known as The Fuji of Satsuma, Mt Kaimon is an undissected volcano near Ibusuki. It takes about five hours to hike up and down the whole thing, and hikers should be prepared with the correct equipment, especially for hydration as there is nowhere to get water once you’ve started walking. From the top, you’ll be rewarded with views of Kinko Bay, Lake Ikeda, Tanegashima, Cape Sata and even views of Yakushima on a clear day. Travelling to the nearest station from Kagoshima Chuo Station takes about an hour, so plan ahead if you hope to hike the whole thing.

Kirishima

Whether you want an epic day trip out of Kagoshima or have a longer holiday to play with, Kirishima is a great location not just for walking and hiking, but also camping, visiting temples and chilling out at the hot springs. Whatever kind of walk you’d like to do in Kirishima, start your journey at Ebino-Kogen, where you can find the highland camp village along with shops, restaurants, the fascinating eco-museum and the footbath station. Follow local maps for short walks through the stunning scenery, looking out for the wild deer and other animals you might encounter. For a seasoned hiker, both Mt Karakuni (the highest peak in the mountain range) and Onami-ike (the amazing crater lake, Japan’s highest, with a circumference of 1.9km/1.2mi) are both great choices. Follow the circular route which encompasses both attractions in 6-7 hours.

Onami-ike is the highest crater lake in Japan © Travelina / Getty Images