Kagoshima, Japan

Sakurajima Volcano

April 9, 2010

Kagoshima is at the southern end of Kyushu, the southern-most of Japan’s main islands.  Our day started out overcast, but the rain held off during the most important part of our excursion, the visit to Sakurajima, the island with the very active volcano pictured above.  The name Sakurajima literally means ‘island of cherry blossoms’, and the cherry trees were in full bloom when we were there.  While we were there, the volcano was continuously spewing ash from one vent, and steam from another.  In this photo you can see a little of the steam above the word ‘dam’ on Susan’s hat.

Kagoshima is a nice-looking city, which has many modern buildings.  There are flowers in unexpected places, like planter boxes along the tram route.  The city has also planted grass along several kilometers of the tram route to help mitigate the heat generated by too much asphalt.   Many of the street trees are pruned into interesting shapes so they all look uniform.  We drove through the city, past several parks, to the ferry terminal, where our bus boarded the ferry for a ten-minute ride over to Sakurajima.  We got off the bus and went to the top level so we could enjoy the scenery and take photos.  Very soon we were called back to the bus, and we drove off the ferry onto the island, which currently has about 5000 permanent residents.  The number used to be greater until the major eruption in 1914 that spilled enough material to connect the island to the mainland.  So much ash is released every day that there is a full-time crew working there to clean up the observation area.  There is also a lava shelter near the parking lot for the observation area.

Since the shelter is not very deep, it is more likely for protection from heavy ash eruption.  The soil on the island is very fertile, and they grow several crops, primarily sweet potatoes and loquats (a fruit).  Most vegetable gardens grow under shelters, and the loquat trees have all their fruit encased in paper bags to protect the delicate fruit from the ash.  This photograph shows several trees covered with the bags.  It was fun to be able to get fairly close to an active volcano without having to worry about our safety.  The wind was blowing away from where we were so we did not experience the ash.

After taking the ferry back to the city, we went to the Sengan-en Garden, an extensive garden done in the Japanese style, which is part of the estate of the Shimazu lords who ruled Kagoshima for seven centuries.  One can tour their mansion, which appears from the outside to be a typical old Japanese-style house with shoji screen walls.  The garden is quite extensive, and includes specimens like this 400-year-old pine tree.  we had limited time at the garden, so we did not tour the house.  It would be worthwhile to go back when we could tour the garden at our own pace and also have time to tour the house.  As it was, since it had started to rain, we opted to go to the gift shops to see if we could find some shochu (pronounced show-jew), a brandy made from the variety of sweet potatoes that grows so well in the area.  We tried two different types - one with 25% alcohol, and the other with 38% alcohol.  They are both very nice.  The milder version reminds us of the pisco we found in Peru and Chile.

Kagoshima is a pleasant city that we would enjoy going back to.  We had an excellent tour and a really nice send-off from a local group that played traditional Japanese drums for us.  The port area was possibly the nicest we’ve seen on this trip.  The seriousness of their desire to send us off nicely is shown in the photo of the drummers: the ones in front are sitting on the wet ground with no protection!


© Susan L. Stone 2015                   rovingstones@me.com