Kagoshima, the Naples of Japan

Kyushu Travel Trends & Culture - March 9th, 2012

Located on the southern tip of Kyushu, Kagoshima has a territory extending about 600km from the prefectural border in the north to the boundary in the south bordering Okinawa.

Kagoshima is endowed with the some of the most spectacular scenery in Japan that includes beautiful seas, mountains, rivers, numerous hot springs and a wide variety of flora and fauna.

There are also many cultural sites and places of historical interest. There are about 30 islands out at sea far beyond to the south, including Yakushima Island, which was registered as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, the Tokara Islands, a chain of twelve isles of different sizes stretching over a distance of about 162km, and Amamioshima, the second largest isolated island in Japan.

Taking a closer look at the prefecture, it comprises volcanic areas such as the Kirishima mountain range and Mt. Sakurajima (pictured), the Kirishima-Yaku National Park which encompasses Yakushima Island and Kuchinoerabujima Islands, and the Nichinan Kaigan Quasi-National Park, which is known for its abundance of subtropical plants. There is a large number of natural parks and abundant nature in Kagoshima extending from the temperate to the subtropical zones.

The Koshikijima Islands, located about 30km away from the western shore of the Satsuma peninsula, are famous for the natural growth of Japanese lilies, covering the islands in pink during full bloom after the rainy season.

Other attractions include Tanegashima Island and Uchinoura Bay, known for their rocket-launching bases, which are one of the most technologically advanced gateways to space.

The whole of Kagoshima is steeped in history; it was here centuries ago, brave Spanish preacher Saint Francis Xavier first introduced the gospel of Christ in Japan. Kagoshima is still home to one of Japan’s oldest Catholic communities, who were driven under ground after the local Shogun banned foreign religion.

It was here that Shogun Saigo Takamori, (AKA the last Samurai) witnessed the brunt of modern industrial technology first hand. Kagoshima felt the wrath of the then technically superior West when it was shelled by the British Royal Navy during the short Anglo-Satsuma war.

It was this encounter that inspired Japan’s favorite son, Sakamoto Ryoma to began his revolutionary quest to drag the country into the modern world, culminating in the Meiji restoration and Japan’s rebirth as a modern industrial power.

Aside the wealth of history, this charming region is home to scores of natural hot-springs, palm trees, picture-perfect beaches and gorgeous local cuisine. Fast forward to 2012 and Kagoshima is booming tourist destination. Dubbed the ‘Naples of Japan’, due to its bayside location and towering stratovolcano Mt. Sakurajima.

Although a short flight from Tokyo, you have never felt so far away from the rat race.

Welcome to Kagoshima!

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ABOVE: Kagoshima’s mighty Mt. Sakurajima erupts almost every day leaving the area covered in a gentle layer of fine ash. Kagoshima is often called the ‘Naples of Japan’ and has had trade links to Europe for centuries.

Text courtesy of JNTO