Kagoshima is made up of two peninsulas – Satsuma and Osumi and is often compared to the Italian city of Naples. This is an area of active volcanic activity and just across the peninsula from where we are docked is the active volcano of Sakurajima. During 2022 there were 235 explosions from this volcano and so far this year there have been 80. Sakurajima has two peaks – the North Peak is now inactive but the South Peak continues to erupt. Because of the presence of volcanic ash, the main industry is agriculture. Rice cannot be harvested in this region but the local speciality is sweet potato which is, of course eaten, but also made into Sochi or spirits as in saki. Black pork is also a local speciality. The pigs are fed on the sweet potato and it was discovered many years ago that people from this region were taller than other Japanese. This was put down to the primary diet of pork with less rice being eaten. Interesting! Daikon radish is grown widely and they are the biggest in the world weighing up to 30 kg. How on earth would you hold that to peel or cut it! The Satsuma mandarin originated here and the trees produce up to 1000 lbs of fruit.

Nagasaki was originally the only place in Japan to trade with westerners. It is a pretty city with many green spaces with perfectly formed trees and trimmed shrubs for people to enjoy. There is an order to everything. Our lovely guide Michiko tells us that her name comes from Mi meaning beautiful, Chi meaning intelligent and Ko meaning girl. She speaks English very well and tells us about her family of twin boys, husband, daughter-in-law and grandson and shows us photos with great pride. Kagoshima is on the island of Kyushu in the southernmost part and has seven prefectures. (Japan is made up of 1500 islands). The population of Japan is 127 million and 12.7 million or one tenth live in Tokyo. 25% of the population is over the age of 65 which is when you can get a pension.

Michiko warns us about the bathrooms in Kagoshima – let’s just say they are not what we are used to and it would be wise to go to the gym regularly to train for it!

We learn a few interesting facts from our lovely Michiko. This year or 2023 is known as Year 5 in Japan because this relates to the Emperor’s reign and he has been the Emperor now for five years. There is a commitment to cleanliness and it applies everywhere. The streets of Kagoshima are often covered with volcanic ash – but briefly because everyone comes out to clean them immediately. No kindness goes unrecognized and there is a massive amount of gift giving – the gifts are often items of food delicately packaged.

There is some interesting signage – “Slip carefully”, “Because you are dangerous you cannot enter”, and on an escalator “Go down carefully, turn left and follow your behind”. Mmmmmm……….

We board the bus and there is the usual chatter going on in the back where no one hears what channel the Quietvox needs to be on. Some can’t connect their device so the tour starts off with the usual excitement of some knowing exactly what they are doing and some not having a clue but today things settle quite quickly as we drive the palm-lined streets and up to the hilltop haven of Shiroyama Park (where I can report that the bathrooms are exactly as she warned us they would be!) From here we get a great view of the volcanic mountain but we see no ash because there is cloud covering the top. This is good and the rescue remedy is not required! There are little souvenir shops selling everything from combs to a towel with an image of a dressed lady which remarkably turns to a naked lady when the towel is wet. I am so relieved the one in charge of the bathroom is not wanting to purchase one or several of those!

We go on to the Reimeikan museum located within the walls of the old city castle ruins and browse a fascinating display of remarkably preserved artifacts – we can tell they are old because the only piece of information belonging to each one that we can understand is the year. Sadly we cannot read the description in Japanese!

We drive through the city past schools with large well planned playgrounds (but no grass), past apartment blocks and businesses and you cannot help but get the sense that everything is meticulously planned and well cared for. All the buses, trams and trucks are clean and shiny as are the hundreds of very small cars. The cars are tiny little oblong boxes actually and you see them reversed into the tiny parking spaces at their houses.

We have now just left the port of Kagoshima and are on our way to Beppu – the upscaled Rotorua of Japan and another very active volcanic region. I think it is fair to say that in Japan you really do feel like a tourist because there is minimal signage or descriptions in English. You can pick up a lovely item of fabric in a shop which is beautifully packaged but you have no idea if it is a handkerchief, a scarf, a table napkin, a tea towel or a table runner. Most countries we have visited you can always ask a young person a question because almost always they speak English but this is not the case here. Some people have been critical of the tour guides and say they cannot understand them but we must remember that Japan has been shut down for about three years so these lovely people have not had an opportunity to keep speaking English and they are so very happy to be welcoming people back and doing the job they love.

A typical apartment block in Kagoshima
The gate signifying an entrance to a Shrine
The building adjacent to the museum. Because Japanese houses are made of wood they always have fish sculptured out of wood to signify water which will protect the house from fire
Typical tree lined street in Kagoshima
We drove through areas of mature bamboo forests
The view of Sakurajima volcano and city of Kagoshima
Little street scene in Kagoshima
One of the hundreds of pieces that are centuries old on display at the Reimeikan Museum
A beautiful example of a Japanese screen

One thought on “Kagoshima

  1. Christine Jack

    Quite an up lifting day I suspect Shannon after the sadness of Nagasaki. The Japanese sound meticulous in every aspect of their lives. So happy that the volcano was sleeping during your visit that day!!!! So many things to reflect on after a full on visit to this city.
    Smiles Chris xo


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