GBA Lifestyle News
Travel Outside HK Section
By Andrea Lo | February 16th, 2016
  • Countryside, Culture, Outdoors
  • Asia, Japan, Kagoshima

The Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan is known for its magnificent natural landscapes, abundance of specialty foods and of course, hot springs. Situated on the southernmost tip of the Kyushu island, it has something for everyone — whether you’re looking to fill your itinerary with outdoor activities, sampling the best local cuisine or just wind down.

Must Do

Immerse in an onsen

A trip to Kagoshima wouldn’t be complete without a dip into a steamy onsen, which is just a local hot spring. Ibusuki, an hour and 20 minutes by car from Kagoshima City, is an onsen town with plenty of hot springs. While you’re there, be sure to take a sand bath in volcanic sand right on the beach (292 Yamagawafukumoto, Ibusuki, Kagoshima Prefecture 891-0511, Japan, (+81) 993-27-6966). You’re basically buried in hot volcanic sand while dressed in nothing but a kimono. It’s an oddly satisfying experience: you can barely move under the sand, but it is believed to have tons of health benefits.

Sand Bath
Sand spa anyone?

Take it outside

The Kagoshima Prefecture has several smaller islands that are worth more than a day trip. A 30-minute flight from the Kagoshima airport or three-hour by boat, the island of Yakushima is known as “The Alps of the Sea”. The island has earned its praise, offering more than its fair share of forests and waterfalls, plus activities like mountaineering and scuba-diving. Try out the canopy walkway (677-44 Michigami Yubinbango, Yakushima-cho Haranaka Island, 891-4403 Kagoshima Prefecture, (+81) 997-49-3232), which consists of a series of wooden bridges that reach higher heights as you go along. The canopy walk affords views from the top of the trees (and an exercise in maintaining your balance) — as well as views of the majestic Senpiro Fall nearby.

Canopy Walkway & Senpiro Fall
Don’t go chasing waterfalls

See a volcano

Sakurajima (“cherry blossom island”), half an hour away from the mainland by ferry, offers gorgeous views of the Kagoshima Bay. Its biggest claim to fame is the still-active volcano that sits at the center of the island, which dominates the skyline in the Kagoshima region. Over hundreds of years, the island continued to expand in size thanks to newly created land from volcanic eruptions. Take a foot bath outside, or head up to the observatory to take a closer look at the crater.

Kagoshima Volcano
Kagoshima’s crown jewel

Should Do

Don a kimono

The Kirishima Shrine, dedicated to six gods, is popular with believers who visit to pray for good fortune. Ladies, before heading up to the shrine, get dressed up in a kimono. You’re helped into the traditional Japanese costume, which takes some time to do — but the result is worth it. Just think of all those Instagram likes.

2608-5 Kirishimataguchi, Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture 899-4201, Japan, (+81) 995-57-0001.

Shop ‘til you drop

Most Japanese cities have great shopping malls, and Kagoshima City is no different. Located the city center, Amu Plaza is chock-full of fashion and beauty stores, but for us the best part was browsing through the supermarkets, which had a ton of Japanese foods and ingredients that are either overpriced or hard to find in Hong Kong. Photography enthusiasts, head to Bic Camera next door — you’ll find good bargains there for cameras and equipment.

Must Eat

黒豚の館 (Black Pork House)

Kagoshima is famous for its black pork, aka kurobuta. The breed itself, the Berkshire pig, actually comes from the UK — but they’re bred right here in Kagoshima and widely known as a local specialty. One of the most famous restaurants in the area offering the kurobuta is 黒豚の館 (“Black Pork House”), which serves it up shabu-shabu style, where meat is sliced thinly and cooked in a hot pot. You’ll find the restaurant’s walls lined with autographs of celebrities who’ve visited and it doesn’t disappoint.

4962 Kirishimanagamizu, Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture 899-4202, Japan, (+81) 995-57-0713.

Black Pork House
Black pork house is not-to-miss

Cafe Shirahama

Cafe Shirahama on Sakurajima is a family-run restaurant, and you can trust that their ingredients are fresh. Why? They own a farm next door that grew the heaviest Sakurajima daikon radish in the world in 2003, certified by the Guinness World Records. The tiny space serves up set lunches made from the radishes in their farm, prepared with different cooking methods: from a hearty miso soup to fine chopped pieces. There are also excellent desserts here. Call ahead to book.

1267 Sakurajimashirahamacho, Kagoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture 891-1411, Japan, (+81) 99-293-2887.

Restaurant at Ibusuki Syusuien

The restaurant at this ryokan (see more below) in Ibusuki offers a traditional 11-course Japanese omakase and is consistently voted one of the best in the region. Omasake, which means you let the chef make a choice for you, usually relies on high-end ingredients (and the skills of the chef). It’s unusual outside of Japan, so now’s your chance to give it a go.

5-27-27 Yunohama, Ibusuki, Kagoshima Prefecture 891-0406, Japan, (+81) 993-23-4141.

Should Eat

Yakushima Marche

The unassuming Yakushima Marche restaurant perched on a roadside might not look like much, but it’s worth stopping by for its yakuzen cuisine. A Yakushima specialty, it’s a spread with 18 dishes that showcase the best of the seafood in Kagoshima, as well as vegetables and wild plants sourced directly from farmers in the area.

Yakushima-cho Awa 2617-3, Kumage-gun, 891-4311 Yubinbango, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

Yakushima Marche
Bring it on.

Chiran Samurai Residences

The Chiran Samurai Residences are a collection of homes in a small town in the Satsuma Peninsula that were all formerly inhabited by samurai. Most residences are still lived in by offsprings of the samurai and are out of bounds, but you can wander around the seven gardens open to the public, and check out the restaurant, which serves traditional Japanese lunch that has everything from soba noodles to sashimi.

6198 Kori, Chinan-cho, Minamikyushu 897-0302, Kagoshima Prefecture, (+81) 993-58-7878.

Stay Here

JR Kyushu Hotel

If you’re spending time in Kagoshima City, the JR Kyushu Hotel offers modern comforts in super convenient location.

890-0045 Kagoshima Prefecture, Kagoshima, Japan, (+81) 99-213-8000.

Sunkara Hotel and Resort

The Sunkara Hotel and Resort is a gorgeous property hidden among the lush greenery of Yakushima island. It’s one of those hotels that make it hard to leave, with an infinity pool, spa, and fine-dining restaurant that serves up Japanese fusion dishes. Stay in a Samudra villa, a space that contains all the little luxuries you’d find in a five-star property.

553 Azahaginoue, Mugio, Kumage-gun Yakushima-cho 891-4402, Kagoshima Prefecture, (+81) 997-47-3488.

Sankara Hotel & Resort
Bet you weren’t expecting this.

Ibusuki Syusuien

If you’re after the traditional Japanese ryokan experience, look no further than Ibusuki Syusuien — a gorgeous inn that has Japanese hospitality down pat. The spacious suites come with your very own wooden hot tub, a living area and the option to sleep on a tatami, which was probably one of the most comfortable things we’ve ever slept on. There are male and female onsen with the water changed every eight hours, but if you want a little privacy book yourself a private onsen room.

5-27-27 Yunohama, Ibusuki, Kagoshima Prefecture 891-0406, Japan, (+81) 993-23-4141.

Ibusuki Syusuien
The food’s pretty sweet too!

Getting There and Around

Hong Kong Airlines is the only airline that offers direct flights from Hong Kong to Kagoshima. There are three flights per week and the outbound flight is just under three hours. Kagoshima Airport is located around an hour’s drive from the downtown area, with buses available.

While you can hire a car at the airport or grab a cab (meters start ¥560 (HK$36)), there are also plentiful public transportation available throughout the prefecture. Catch a City View Bus, which stops by major tourist spots, for ¥600 (HK$38.50) for unlimited rides during a week day. There’s also the Welcome Cute multi-pass, available exclusively to foreign tourists. It gives you access to the City View Bus; other buses in the city; the ferry to Sakurajima plus a bus on the island, costing ¥1,800 (HK$115.45) for a two-day pass. There are also reasonably priced trams and trains.

This travel story was based on a complimentary press trip. See our editorial policy here.