With good weather for most of the year (notwithstanding the almost daily fall of ash from the volcano), Kagoshima on the Japanese island of Kyushu is a prime location for spending time outdoors.
From athletic pursuits and other healthy hobbies to visiting cultural locations and enjoying local experiences, here are the best outdoor things to do when you’re in Kagoshima.
Japan isn’t best known for its beaches, but down in Kyushu where the temperatures are enviable for most of the year, hitting the beach is a top outdoor activity. Don’t be surprised if you visit a beach off-season and find it deserted, even in perfect weather – locals are often reluctant to visit beaches outside of peak season. Visit in June and you might find beaches populated by litter pickers who are preparing the bay for summer crowds. Bear in mind that there are other reasons locals might avoid beaches at certain times, such as the poisonous Habu (box) jellyfish, or strong currents that make swimming dangerous. After checking local guidelines, here are the top beaches around Kagoshima you’ll want to visit in the summer.
Southwest of Satsuma-hanto, Maruki is a small beach with pristine white sand and nearby camping facilities.
Near Hioki City, Eguchi is popular with surfers, and swimmers can enjoy gentler waters behind the breaker. The cliff face behind the beach makes it a secluded and sheltered location for a day out.
Easy to reach from central Kagoshima, Iso Beach has coarse sand that’s mixed with ash from the volcano, so not the best for sunbathing or swimming but you get a great view of Sakurajima.
The Amami Islands are a bit of a trip from Kagoshima, but well worth it for this stunning beach with deserted golden sands and waters populated with fish and crabs.
About a one-hour drive from Kagoshima city, Ajiro beach in Minamisatsuma is perfect for snorkelling and uninterrupted sea views.
In a mountainous country like Japan, hiking is a top outdoor activity whether you like short, gentle walks or more challenging hills to climb. There are a few hiking locations close to Kagoshima city, and others that are a bit further afield for brilliant days out.
Near Kagoshima City
A short walk from the centre is Shiroyama, a quick climb which will reward you with views of Sakurajima. If you’d rather be walking on the volcanic island than just looking at it, take the ferry across and hike to the lava fields, or attempt to hike the circumference of the island.
One of the best hiking locations in Kagoshima prefecture is Kirishima. Head to Ebino-Kogen, the highland camp village where all the best walks start. The village also has shops, restaurants, a fascinating eco-museum and the footbath station. Information is available locally for the short walks, or challenge yourself with Mt Karakuni (the mountain range’s highest peak) or Onami-ike (Japan’s highest crater lake, with a circumference of 1.9 kilometres (1.2 miles)). Follow the circular route which encompasses both attractions in 6 to 7 hours.
An hour from Kagoshima city, ‘The Fuji of Satsuma’ is an undissected volcano near Ibusuki. From the summit you’ll be rewarded with views of Kinko Bay, Lake Ikeda, Tanegashima and Cape Sata – you can even see Yakushima on a clear day.
Want an unusual outdoor experience in Japan? How about an authentic farming experience in a picturesque rural location? In Izumi, stay overnight with a farming family who will introduce you to their way of life and show you how to weed, prune, harvest and more depending on seasonal availability, before serving up a traditional meal made of home-grown vegetables. At Kagoshima Green Farm, harvest your own vegetables and take part in communal cooking. From July to August, visit the Isa Blueberry Farm to harvest your own ripe fruits and purchase delicious blueberry products. Near the Fukiagehama Seaside Park, visit a local farm to pick ripe heart-shaped tomatoes. From January to May, near Hioki you can pick your own strawberries.
Visit the home of the Shimadzu family and discover their 800-year history at Sengan-en, which has a beautiful garden with unrivalled views. If Amami Island is too far away to visit on your trip, discover the culture of the island at Amami no Sato. Learn about traditional crafts, such as weaving, and spend time in the exotic garden, featuring the distinct vegetation of Amami Island. Kanoya Rose Garden is Japan’s largest rose garden, and though a fair distance from Kagoshima city centre, the eight hectares (19.75 acres) of garden are well worth visiting. Perfect for cherry blossom viewing, Yoshino Park is decked out with flowers, lawns, a children’s paddling pool, a play area and ocean observatory. Check the website for details on which flowers will be in bloom in the month of your visit.
While Amakusa is the most famous location in Kyushu to catch a glimpse of wild dolphins, you can also book a spot on a dolphin tour in Kinko Bay, with Sakurajima as your backdrop. Dolphin tours are booked in packages of up to five or 11 people, and Blue Marine Cab also offers island tours, night boats and more. If you’re around in May, head to Satsuma for a firefly watching evening boat cruise. From Kagoshima ferry port, catching a boat to Sakurajima is just a short journey, but you can also travel to Ibusuki, Yakushima Island, Nishinoomote, Kuroshima, Amami, Okinawa, and other remote locations.