Practical Tips To Know Before Visiting Kagoshima

There is much to explore in and around Kagoshima
There is much to explore in and around Kagoshima | © F1online digitale Bildagentur GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Celia Jenkins

Every Japanese city you visit will have different highlights, as well as different top tips to help you make the most of your trip. Read on to discover the things you need to know before visiting Kagoshima.

Kagoshima is located in southern Japan, away from the more cosmopolitan cities like Fukuoka. There are far fewer foreign expats here, as well as fewer foreign tourists. Many visitors to Japan stay near Tokyo and don’t even make it as far as Kyushu, and while going places that are usually missed by tourists is a great way to get an authentic experience, it can make travelling tricky.

While restaurants and bars in Tokyo are used to foreign visitors and might even have English-language menus, you’ll find it much harder to get around and communicate when visiting smaller cities like Kagoshima. Chain restaurants will have English menus, but more local places likely won’t, and even if the staff can speak or understand English, they may be shy and reluctant to do so.

The path to a smooth experience when visiting non-cosmopolitan cities is to be prepared. If you have dietary requirements or allergies, learn how to say this clearly in Japanese or get it printed in kanji to show when you go to restaurants. Look up how to travel to places you want to go, and write directions down – if you rely on finding signposts in English or being able to ask for directions, you will quickly get stuck.

Calling all outdoor people

Kagoshima is the perfect place for those who love the outdoors. Here, you can hike in the mountains of Kirishima, marvel at the active volcano on Sakurajima, relax in rotenburo outdoor hot springs and hit the beaches. Pack your swimming costume and your walking boots and really make the most of the stunning backdrop the south has to offer – it will be a breath of fresh air if all you’ve seen of Japan are the central big cities.

The Sakurajima volcano is visible from Kagoshima

Find the right transport

It’s a fair distance away from the capital, and even from other cities in Kyushu, so you’ll need to plan your journey carefully to get enough time in this southern city. Kagoshima airport isn’t conveniently placed in Kagoshima (unlike the super convenient airport in Fukuoka) and is about a 40- to 60-minute bus ride away, but if you’re travelling from Tokyo, the flight is only about two hours. Airlines for cheap travel include Peach, JetStar, Skymark Airlines and Solaseed Air. You can also get the train from Tokyo – a high-speed Shinkansen will take seven or eight hours depending on your ticket, with a change in Osaka or Fukuoka. The train station is right in the city, and the tram stop is just outside the entrance. Taking the tram is the best way to get around Kagoshima city. It’s cheap, convenient and goes right through the centre of town. You can also get around on the City View Bus (good for tourists) and the Machimeguri Bus.

A bullet train leaves Kumamoto Station for Kagoshima Station

Prepare to chill

Do you find yourself rushing around to see all the best attractions in big cities? When you visit smaller cities like Kagoshima, you can afford to put the brakes on and let yourself slow down for a couple of days. While there are certainly things to keep you busy in the south, there are also ample opportunities to relax. Whether you want to kick back on the beach, enjoy a serene forest walk, seek peace on a temple pilgrimage or let your worries ebb away in the healing waters of a hot spring, Kagoshima is a place to chill out, unwind and recharge your batteries.

Find a peaceful moment at Chiran Peace Kannon Temple in Kagoshima Prefecture

Seek out culinary delights

Every town in Japan has its own local delicacies that you should try, and Kagoshima’s top dishes are famous across the country. Kurobuta is “black pork” named after the skin colour of the pigs, and can be sampled in a shabu shabu hot pot. Japanese giant radish, daikon, grows particularly well in the volcanic soil of Sakurajima, and is a top vegetable to choose as a side dish. Sweet potato cakes are a speciality to try if you have a sweet tooth. Kagoshima is also famous for the variety of local shochu you can try; the drink is a distilled alcoholic beverage with a strong taste, which you can sample in speciality bars.

Kurobuta pork is a Kagoshima speciality

Wear a smile

The locals in Kagoshima are said to be some of the friendliest in the whole of the country, which rings true of the thought that those down in the south have a casual and laid-back attitude. Get the most out of your visit by interacting with some of the locals. While you might not find many people who speak fluent English, you’ll find Kagoshima-hito are pleasant to talk to and you might be surprised who you strike up a conversation with. Without many foreigners in town, locals who have learnt English or are currently attending classes will be pleased to speak with you, whether you sit next to them on the tram or find them approaching you as you enjoy a footbath on Sakurajima.

Plan an island visit in advance

Kagoshima city isn’t huge, and while there are plenty of things to do within the city, you’ll also be tempted by other attractions further afield within Kagoshima prefecture. Ibusuki is a nearby destination popular for sand bath hot springs, and you can also catch a ferry to islands further afield such as Yakushima Island, Amami Island and even Okinawa. While these places might look appealing, do bear in mind how long it can take to get there and whether travel is regular or not – you’re unlikely to complete such visits as a day trip. If you’re dead set on visiting one of these paradise islands, plan it properly and leave yourself enough time. Another nearby place to visit is Kirishima, a mountainous forest area that’s an incredible hiking destination and fantastic for hot springs, but it can take some time to get there. Prioritise your Kagoshima travel to leave yourself enough time to reach these destinations.

If you plan well, you can enjoy a soak in an outdoor hot spring in Kirishima

Check the weather before you go

Kagoshima has a subtropical climate, with gorgeous weather year-round. In the summer, record highs have reached 37ºC (99ºF), and record lows in the winter have been −7ºC (20ºF), but average temperatures throughout the year are around 29ºC (83ºF) to 9ºC (47ºF). Kagoshima is a coastal city prone to typhoons, so just remember to check typhoon warnings during typhoon season, which lasts from June to October.

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