Part 10 - Kagoshima, Japan
Part 10 - Kagoshima
We didn’t have any expectations for the port of Kagoshima, our destination of the day. To be honest, we hadn’t even heard of the city at the foot of the Sakurajima volcano before. When looking for excursions, no outstanding sights came up either. So we had planned this day as a day without plans and thought that with all the other highlights this might actually be quite relaxing for a change.
We weren’t scheduled to dock in Kagoshima before 10.00 am. So we had enough time for an ample breakfast, and the weather with forecast temperatures of up to 30° C (90 F) made for ideal conditions.
We knew from the board magazine that there would be a free shuttle bus taking the guests into town, taking about 30 minutes. When the first rush had passed, we left as well. The shuttle bus was behind a small port building with a tourist information office. Friendly helpers gave out maps to the passengers and explained them what there was to see and do. We waited for a free helper and listened to his recommendations.
A few minutes later, armed with a map and a day pass for all trains, buses and ferries for only ¥ 1,000 (about EUR 7.50/USD 9.20) we sat in the shuttle bus on our way to town.
As the helper had explicitly recommended that we go to Sakurajima Island to see the volcano, we decided to go there first. We usually like to visit the farthest destination first and then work our way back. We find this the easiest way to keep track of the time.
From the bus stop we walked 10 minutes to the ferry terminal, where a ferry was just about to leave.
On board the ferry, among a large group of Millennium passengers with the stickers of Celebrity excursions, we met Judy and Frank. Frank was surprised to see us and asked how we had got there and what our plans were. I told him about the ticket and our plans and he was a little annoyed to have paid more then 10 times for the excursion.
Together we enjoyed the ferry ride and the view of the volcano.
When we arrived on Sakurajima, we parted company again and Birgit and I headed for the stop of a tourist bus that drives around the island. Like with a hop-on-hop-off bus you can always get off and continue on the next one. One of the bus stops was at the visitor center. We figured that should be easy to find and walked along the road in the direction of the center.
However, the road was directly in the midday sun, so we worked up quite a sweat. A section of the road was closed off because of a marathon. Encouraged by the spectators at the roadside, the participants ran past us. Considering the heat, we didn’t know whether to admire or to pity them.
Once we had reached the visitor center, we had some time left until the next bus would leave. After our walk in the sun we much appreciated the cool rooms and gladly accepted the offer to watch a documentary in a small movie theatre.
We learned from the interesting video that the Sakurajima volcano is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. It smokes constantly and several small eruptions a day are completely normal.
People on Sakurajima have learned to live with the volcano. For the event of an emergency, shelters were built everywhere and instead of the colorful caps we had seen on the children in Yokohama and Hiroshima, children on Sakurajima wear colorful hard hats on their way to school.
A sign indicated a public foot spa, which we wanted to see.
Overlooking the volcano and the bay of Kagoshima, you can bathe your feet in long water creeks with hot spring water from the volcano.
We did as some Japanese ladies and relaxed our feet in the hot water. Despite the heat, this was surprisingly pleasant.
Then it was time to take the next sightseeing bus. The small bus was already packed and no seats were to be had. But it didn’t matter, since the next stop, Karasujima lookout, was only three minutes away.
The bus stopped here for precisely 5 minutes. As everything else in Japan, this was taken very seriously. In order to make this clear to all passengers, the driver held up a board on which he had written the departure time. The 5 minutes were enough to take some pictures and get back on the bus.
On the dot, the bus drove on. The ride took only a few minutes again and we reached Akamizu Observatory Square. The 8 minutes here were also sufficient to take a few photos of the sculpture “Portrait of a Shout”. Surely we could have spent more time at each stop. But then we would have had to wait an hour for the next bus. To get an impression, the time was enough.
Looking across the bay we could confirm that the Milleinium hadn’t left without us.
The next stop was 15 minutes away. At a brisk pace, the bus snaked its way up the mountain along the narrow hairpin bends before finally reaching the highest point accessible to the public, the Yunohira Observatory. Here we had 15 minutes to enjoy the view from a tower.
Later we learned from Frank that their group had gone to a point closer to the edge of the crater. They were even lucky enough to witness a small eruption and take photos of it. He kindly left me one. (Thanks Frank!)
While we were waiting for the next bus at the lookout, we met René-Pierre. Unfortunately, he was travelling on his own that day, as Jacinthe wasn’t feeling well. Since we were heading for the same places, we quickly decided to spend the rest of the day together.
We took the next bus and got off at the ferry port. We were lucky again and didn’t have to wait long for the next ferry.
There was a small bistro on the ferry and the offer of drinks and cupnoodles was well received. I preferred something cold and tried one of the unusual ice creams.
We had picked the Senga-en gardens as our next destination. René-Pierre had an app with the departure times of the public buses, which told us that we had just missed the bus going there. Instead of waiting for the next one, we grabbed a taxi in front of the ferry terminal, which took us there right away.
Sengan-en was built as the summer residence of the Shimadzu family in 1658. For over 350 years the property remained in the possession of the family. The gardens offer spectacular views of the Sakurajima volcano while providing a glimpse into the lifestyle of a powerful feudal lord of the time.
However, the Shimadzus didn’t just love gardens. The 28th lord of the family watched the opening of Japan in the 1850s and set up a complex of ground-breaking factories (Shuseikan) in his gardens. He built Japan’s first steamboat and developed the manufacture of cannons. The factories were even equipped with a modern reverberatory furnace. It is said that Shuseikan is the birthplace of modern Japan and marked the beginning of the transfer of western technology to Japan.
Although you could also visit a museum of the factories and some ruins, we were more interested in the gardens, which we entered through a beautiful wooden gate.
We were also allowed to walk through the red “Tin Roof Gate”, which at the time was exclusively reserved for the head of the clan.
If you wanted you could also buy an additional ticket for guided tours of the residence, followed by a tea ceremony.
When designing the gardens, they took advantage of nature. A Japanese garden usually includes a pond. As the gardens weren’t fenced in at the time, the entire bay including the volcano was basically integrated into the garden as its pond.
A little path took us to a lantern made of large stones (Lion Stone Lantern).
There were hiking trails leading up a hill. If you followed them, you could also reach a cliff high above the estate with the inscription “Senjingan” (千尋巌, "huge rock").
We just followed a circular route that took us around the gardens.
Part of the creeks running through the complex were channelled and fed a hydroelectric power plant, which supplied the residence with electricity already back then.
Chinese influences could also to be found in the gardens. A large bamboo forest is said to have been the first in Japan, and it is said that this is from where bamboo has spread to the Japan.
Mystical little shrines were hidden in the shade of the trees.
Around 4.00 pm in the afternoon we were back at our starting point at the entrance.
Very pleased with this beautiful experience, we took a public bus at the parking lot and got off at the ferry terminal again. The ferry port was familiar to us and we knew how to walk from there to the shuttle bus, which finally took us back to the Millennium.
In the port building, all seats were taken by passengers wanting to use the free wifi. As a result, it was completely overloaded. After a brief, futile attempt to log in ourselves, we preferred a cool drink at the Sunset Bar to the waiting room.
„Unfortunately“, to get there we always had to go through the Ocean View Café, where delicious dishes were already arranged at that time of day. However, we often found it absolutely justified to have at least a few antipasti to go with our drinks on the outer deck.
That afternoon, however, we held ourselves back, as we had a date that evening. Together with our lovely travel friends Judy, Frank, Kate and Kelly we had booked a table at Qsine.
With its quirky dishes presented in unusual ways, Qsine is ideal for groups. You can taste many dishes and share in the delight of their quaint presentations.
Another beautiful ending of a great day.
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