After the freezing cold of Mount Aso, it was time head south to warmer climes. Kagoshima is the main city in southern Kyushu, and the largest city in Kagoshima Prefecture. Here the weather is almost sub-tropical, with no snow, which makes this part of the island a very popular tourist destination. In keeping with the theme of the trip, we visit another active volcano and also drive along Satsuma peninsula, the most southern tip of Kyushu, which is dotted with resorts and hot springs.
Dominating Kagoshima’s skyline is Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano just 15 minutes ferry ride from the downtown pier. A massive eruption in 1914 resulted in lava flow that connected this former island with the neighbouring Osumi peninsula. There is a ring road around the volcano, and also a side road up to an observation deck near the crater. The southern peak is quite active with billowing smoke and black ash (you can literally taste it in the air), and noxious fumes. This is the closest I’d want to get to a live volcano…
Ibusuki and Satsuma Peninsula
Heading further south, we spend a night at a ryokan in the resort town of Ibusuki. A famous spa and health retreat, Ibusuki Hakusuikan is known for its onsen hot springs and “hot sand baths”, where you are covered up to your neck with hot volcanic sand and literally left to bake. It’s a unique experience for sure! The resort grounds consist of multiple wings and several gardens, all immaculately kept.
Touring Satsuma peninsula we could still see fall colours in the lovely Japanese maple trees, due to the exceptionally mild weather in this area.