Kagoshima (鹿児島) is the capital of Kagoshima prefecture on the island of Kyushu, Japan. In 2020 its population was approximately 595,000 people.
Kagoshima is a historical city watched over by the looming hulk of Sakurajima (桜島). This active volcano has eruptions over 850 times per year with the more bombastic types of eruption only accounting for about 15 of that number. The home of near-mythical samurai hero Saigo Takamori (see History), it's full of sites related to the Satsuma Rebellion.
Kagoshima's Airport (KOJ) is one hour away from Kagoshima's main train station by Bus (¥1300). JAL and ANA offer flights into Kagoshima from several major cities in Japan. Kagoshima Airport has flights to Okinawa, and is also the starting point for many flights to the surrounding smaller islands.
Kagoshima is the southernmost city on Japan's extensive bullet train network. Services terminate at Kagoshima's main rail station, Kagoshima-Chuō (鹿児島中央).
Kyushu Shinkansen trains run several times per hour from Hakata Station in Fukuoka, taking as little as 75 minutes at a cost of ¥10,110 (adult, unreserved seat). If you have a Japan Rail Pass you can use Kyushu Shinkansen services at no charge, except Mizuho trains. For those without one, consider buying the JR Kyushu Rail Pass , the cost for 3 days is ¥16,000 and will cover all usage of JR trains in Kyushu including the shinkansen. Even if you are just making a round trip from Fukuoka to Kagoshima by shinkansen, the Kyushu Rail Pass will save you (¥4000). For those flying in and then using trains, there is also the 3-day Kyushu Rail Pass Southern Kyushu version (good for trains south of Kumamoto City and Nobeoka) for just ¥8000.
Sakura and Mizuho trains connect Kagoshima with stations north and east on the Sanyo Shinkansen network. Using the Sakura, Hiroshima is 2 hr 40 min away (¥17470 adult, unreserved), Okayama 3 hr 20 min (¥20230, adult, unreserved) and Osaka 4 hr 10 min (¥21780 adult, unreserved).
From Tokyo, it is possible to travel the full distance of the Tokaido, Sanyo and Kyushu shinkansen lines in 7 hours using a combination of Nozomi and Kyushu Shinkansen trains. As Nozomi and Mizuho trains cannot be used with the Japan Rail Pass, foreigners with a Japan Rail Pass can make a day trip in 8 hours using a combination of Hikari plus Sakura or Tsubame services. But given the fact that most travelers have limited time, and you can fly on cheap foreign tourist airfares from ANA's Experience Japan Fare and JAL's Explorer Fare for ¥11,000 one way on a 2-hour flight, flying usually makes more sense for such long distances unless you are touring your way down to Kyushu.
Note that Kagoshima has two central stations, Kagoshima (鹿児島駅) and Kagoshima-Chuō (鹿児島中央駅). The former is the older station slightly to the north of the city center, and you're unlikely to use it. The much larger Kagoshima-Chuō station is likely where you'll be traveling to and from. Don't confuse them!
Because all sleeper trains from Tokyo and Kansai to Kyushu have been discontinued, traveling overnight to Kagoshima strictly by train could be a little difficult. Thankfully, trips are easier to make now that the Kyushu Shinkansen is fully operational.
From Tokyo, it is still possible to take an overnight train, the 10 PM Sunrise Seto/Sunrise Izumo, to Okayama where you can connect to a bullet train the next morning to continue the journey. With a Japan Rail Pass, a connection to a Sakura at Okayama will get you to Kagoshima at around 10:50 AM. Without a Rail Pass you can connect in Okayama to a Mizuho that gets to Kagoshima by 9:45 AM.
Rail Pass holders must pay the lodging charge on the Tokyo-Okayama segment; the rest of the trip by Hikari and Sakura is covered under the pass. Lodging charges currently range from ¥9450 for a B solo to ¥10500 for a B single, to ¥16500 for an A single deluxe. If you really want to travel on the cheap side, ¥3660 gets you your own floor space... literally, you sleep on the floor.
Overnight by train with rest stop
Perhaps the best overnight train option - especially those using a Japan Rail Pass - is to split up the journey, stopping at an intermediate destination en-route in order to sleep somewhere. The cost incurred will only be for the hotel room; the Rail Pass covers your transportation. This is a good way to travel overnight, especially if you are able to find cheap accomodations, such as a business hotel. Yes, it may be a little hectic, and it might require some research, but this method carries two significant advantages: location and money. You will more than likely find good accomodations very close to a main train station in a smaller city, compared to a big city such as Tokyo, and it will more than likely be cheaper than hotels found in big cities. You could use the money you save to forward some of your luggage to Kagoshima using a Kurineko luggage delivery service and take an overnight bag with you, which will make the journey easier.
As of March 2012, here is one way you could go about this from Tokyo: at 7 PM, leave for Himeji by taking the Hikari train and changing to a Kodama service at Shin-Osaka station. Once in Himeji (arriving around 11 PM) you can take a rest at Himeji's Toyoko Inn which costs as low as ¥5230 for a single room or ¥2990 double occupancy. At 6:54 AM the next morning, board the first bullet train of the day, a Sakura service, and you will get to Kagoshima at around 10:50 AM. This trip takes longer than taking the overnight train and bullet train connection as described above, but it is cheaper; you only have to pay for the hotel room, complete with your own toilet and shower.
Various overnight bus services are available to Kagoshima from Osaka and Kobe (~¥10000 one way; ~¥21000 round-trip). Tickets for Osaka and Kyoto can be bought from Willer Express's English site  for around ¥7800 each way. Daytime and nighttime buses also run from Fukuoka (yen 5400 one way; 4 hours) and Oita. There are day buses from Kumamoto for about ¥3600; 3 1/2 hours.
Kagoshima is one of Japan's most busy ferry terminals, with a multitude of ferries connecting mainland Japan to its southern islands. For the Okinawan archipelago there are several routes towards Naha which stop on different islands along the way. Operators include Matrix Line  and A Line ferry  - expect the full journey towards Naha to take around 25 hours, although you can stop halfway through in the Amami Islands. Towards the world heritage site of Yakushima and the island of Tanegashima near Kyushu you can opt for either Orita Kisen  (4 hrs, yen 4000) or the Toppy  hydrofoils completing the journey in just under 2 hours (yen 7000). Finally, for the Tokara Islands, the municipality  operates 2 weekly ferries plying the route in around 7 hours (¥6000).
Streetcars are a convenient way to get around Kagoshima city. Both lines 1 and 2 can be boarded at the Kagoshima station; only line 1 runs by Kagoshima-chuo. Board the tram from the back door, and pay the ¥170 per ride fee when exiting the front door. If you don't have exact change, the fare machine can make change, but it is polite to get your change during the ride, so as to not hold people up when at your final stop. Pasmo cannot be used either. For those going all over, there is a day pass that can save money. Streetcar signage varies by the age of the streetcar; some have electronic signs that indicate the stop, but many do not. Streetcar information and a route map are available from www.synapse.ne.jp.
The ferry between the volcanic island of Sakurajima and Kagoshima harbor operates frequently and around the clock. The boat ride will take about fifteen minutes.
Given Kagoshima's relatively small size and straightforward layout, buses (¥150) are less confusing than in larger Japanese cities.
If you plan to make Kagoshima a base for multiple trips, or make Kagoshima a stop on a trip throughout Kyushu, then a 5-day Kyushu rail pass may be the best option. If you are traveling from Tokyo or farther via train, then a 7-day Japan Rail pass is about the same price as a one-way shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kagoshima. Both of these passes have extensive limitations; be sure to review terms and make sure the cost is justified.
Mt. Sakurajima covered by clouds, seen from Yunohira Lookout
- Sakurajima - Kagoshima's temperamental (and active) volcano can be reached by 24/7/365 ferry in a matter of minutes. Face your fear and get up close and personal - just don't wear too much white, as the ash will leave you looking slightly grey. With over 850 eruptions per year (the vast majority of which are ash) you are guaranteed to see one while you are there. The best place to rent a bicycle is the Visitor's Center which has carbon fiber/aluminum composite bikes. Yunohira Lookout is a two hours hike or 15 minutes drive from Sakurajima harbor and gives you a good view both to Kagoshima harbor and Sakurajima volcano. For those not driving, there is a one hour fast paced bus tour that goes to several lookout points, including Yunohira. There are also a couple of other lookout points, where you can take a closer look at the volcano. Because Sakurajima is essentially an active volcano, remember that tourists are forbidden to go within 2 km of the crater. As there is constant ash in the air, an eye irritant: DO NOT WEAR CONTACTS.
- Shiroyama Park - A small mountain park, accessible by bus or walking up. Shiroyama Observatory is a free viewpoint with a beautiful view to the city and Sakurajima when the weather is clear. The park is also the site of the final battle of the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877. The local hero Saigo Takamori is said to have made his last stand at Saigo Cave, located within the park.
- Tsurumaru Castle - Once the castle of the Shimazu clan who governed the Satsuma domain till the Meiji Restoration, it was destroyed during the Satsuma Rebellion. The only parts remaining today are the wall and the moat. Since it's around so many sights and monument around Kagoshima, it's a nice sight to see and it contains the Reimeikan (see below).
- Kagoshima Prefectural Museum of Culture (Reimeikan) - Beautiful museum with nice expositions retracing the origin and evolution of the first habitants of the southern Kyushu area till the Meiji Restoration. Generic information is available in English but for more details about the different pieces contained in the exhibitions, a Japanese reading friend should be brought to fully enjoy all the information available. 9-6, ¥400, closed Mon (if holiday, the next day), the 25th of each month if not a weekend, and Dec 31st-Jan 2nd.
- Sengan'en Garden - A gorgeous Japanese landscape garden that is one of the best in Japan. Open 9-5, ¥1000 (¥1500 for also the residence).
- Kagoshima City Aquarium (Io World). Situated at the port area. Has seven floors and features manta rays, dolphins, electric eels, sea otters, crabs, and a huge whale shark. Open 9:30-6, ¥1500.
- Nanshu Park - Includes a shrine, grave of Saigo Takamori, and small museum on his life and death (9-5, closed Mon).
- Yoshino Park - Offers beautiful flower gardens, cherry blossoms, and a spectacular view over Kinko Bay and Sakurajima.
- Kyu-Shimazushi Tamazatotei Garden - Offers a charming villa with nice pond garden, including artistic rock arrangements and in summer, blooming water lilies. Open 9-5, closed Tue.
- The Hisatsu Line ((Kagoshima-Chou to Kumamoto)), . one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan through impressive mountain scenery and river valleys. This line is divided in three sections, namely: Kagoshima - Yoshimatsu (Hayato-No-Kaze ltd. exp.), Yoshimatsu - Hitoyoshi (Isaburu Shinpei ltd. exp.), Hitoyoshi - Kumamoto (SL Hitoyoshi ltd. exp. steam train). All trains connect with one another (with 40 minute stops at transfer stations). During your trip, the train stops at small stations for around 5-10 minutes where you can look around, buy food or souvenirs. The train also stops at scenic viewing points on the line. The SL Hitoyoshi steam train only runs on weekends, and only once per day, thus, trips over the Hisatsu line should therefore be planned according to the SL Hitoyoshi schedule. All three trains are covered by the JR Pass and thus free, but reservations are required. These scenic trains are especially popular during the autumn, and spaces are limited, so it is advised you reserve seats as soon as you arrive on Narita Airport. edit
- Cycling around Sakurajima, Sakurajima. To cycle one round is around 39km, and takes about 4hours with some uphill. You will be able to see most sights along the way, most notably the Showa crater on the west side of the island. It is highly recommended to rent from the Visitor's Center, they have the best bikes. 2000Y/3hr. edit
- Sea kayak at Sakurajima, Rainbow Sakurajima Hotel. Besides the listing on the official Sakurajima brochure (NPO museum), Rainbow Hotel also organizes sea kayaking. 1 hour of kayaking takes you 500m to 1km (depending on your speed) along the Yogan Nagisu Trek by the coast, coming back the same way. 3,500yen for 1 hour, including entrance to hotel onsen. edit
Tenmonkan shopping arcade has a plethora of shops, where you can satisfy your consuming needs.
- Satsumaimo-no-Yakata, Tel: +81 (0)99-239-4865. Several hundred types of sweet potato products.
- Jelly Beans, Tel 099-216-8800. The only specialist English bookstore in the prefecture, with a nice second hand section as well. Take the No 1 Streetcar to Shinyashiki and hop off, you shouldn't have too many problems from there; just follow the signs. The shop is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, but if you call in advance and let them know you are coming they will try their best to open it up especially for you on Sundays and Mondays! The store is open 10am - 7pm
- See Kagoshima prefecture for listings of regional dishes.
Looking down a side street at Kagoshima nightlife
Kagoshima is known throughout Japan for its sweet potato shochu
, or imo-jochu
(芋焼酎). While shochu is often compared to vodka, it first goes through a fermentation process. In Kagoshima, almost all restaurants have imo-jochu
, and some have hundreds of different brands. Even the Shinkansen platforms at Kagoshima-chuo station have a bar/shop with 100+ varieties of shochu.
In Kagoshima, the most common way to drink shochu is mixed with hot water, or oyu-wari. This releases the fragrance of the shochu, and also reduces the alcohol content to be on-par with wine. Because Kagoshima is the center of manufacture, many factories offer tours and have small shops for tasting and purchasing the locally made shochu.
If you're looking for inexpensive accommodation, the tourist information in the Kagoshima station can hand you a leaflet, where they have listed all the inexpensive options in Kagoshima. They can also check availability and book the accommodation for you.
- Nakazono Ryokan, 1-8 Yasuicho, ☎ 099-226-5125. Near the City Hall and close to the ferry terminals. Free WiFi. Free hot tea. Comfy couches. A pleasant place to stay and has a helpful manager. ¥4200. edit
- Sakurajima Youth Hostel, 189 Yokoyama, Sakurajima-cho. TEL +81 99 2932150. A place to stay on Sakurajima. You get what you pay for: bunks with thin futon on tatami in a dorm style room. Tired hostel but serviceable. On the first floor is a natural onsen: Women only or mixed. ¥2600, ¥3250 with breakfast. edit
- Moon GaramMasala Guest House, ☎ 09099523513. Also on Sakurajima, 5 minutes walk from the ferry terminal is this tiny guesthouse. Once you come out of the ferry terminal, go right and you will see a parking lot. Continue on, and you will see the arch for a shrine. Right after the shrine is another parking lot. Go inside this parking lot and you can see the guest house right beside a Pachinko. Sleep is only ¥1300 a night (there are two beds available, extra futons upon request), and you get what you'd expect for that price. Dinner is 500yen and breakfast 300yen. The toilet is outside in the parking lot, and the shower/bath is to be taken at the nearby onsen (390yen). Despite all of this, the Guest House has a wonderful, welcoming atmosphere. Bicycle rental is available for free, and if you're lucky the hosts might even offer to give you a tour around the island in their pick-up truck. If the host asks you if you'd like to come along to watch the sunset as he plays his electric Koto, be sure to go along for an experience not to be missed. edit
- Asahi Business Hotel, 中央町20－12, Chuō-machi 20-12 (2 minutes walk from Kagoshima-Chuō station). Small and old-fashioned rooms but include TV and shower. Singles ¥3800, twins ¥7000. edit
- Kagoshima Little Asia Guest House, . A 1-minute walk from Kagoshima-Chuo station (take the west exit (西口) towards the buses, and walk straight). Free internet, laundry (with detergent), guest kitchen, air-conditioning, and TV, ￥280 dinner, weekly and monthly rental available at discount. Both owners speak very good English. Has a consistent run of bad reviews on HostelWorld. Male/Female Dorm ￥1500, singles ￥2500, twins ￥2000 per person.. edit
- Green Guest House, (from Izuro tram station, walk towards Dolphin port and one street back, there is a main street Route 216 (that's the name), turn right and follow it past a bunch of gas stations, opposite 24hr Yoshino restaurant.), . Free internet, laundry (with detergent), guest kitchen, air-conditioning, and TV, ￥500 dinner with extra refill if needed. Free bike hire for 1 hour and ￥500 per 24hrs. Staff speak very good English. Separate Male/Female Dorm ￥1800, Mixed Dorm capsule or Japanese style ￥2300, Single room King size bed ￥2800 for one person or ￥4800 for two (couple or family) or Single room bunk bed ￥2000 per person and Private twin room Japanese style ￥2300 per person, minimum 2 and maximum 3.. edit
- Shiroyama Kanko Hotel, 41-1 Shinshoin-cho, ☎ 099-224-2211, . Sean Connery stayed at this hotel whilst filming James Bond film 'You Only Live Twice' edit
- Chiran - Home to the Chiran Tokku Peace Museum (about kamikaze pilots), and its authentic Samurai District (can be done in a daytrip with hourly buses).
- Kumamoto - Famous for the Suizenji Gardens, and castle (currently undergoing heavy repairs). Can be done in a daytrip using the Shinkansen.
- Minamata - The site of the horrible Minamata mercury pollution incident in the 1950's, now home to an educational museum. Easily accessible using the Shinkansen.
- Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park - A beatiful area of volcanic hiking, with several waterfalls and flower fields.
- Mishima Islands
- Ibusuki - Famous for the beautiful Mt. Kaimon, Flower Park Kagoshima, and beach hot sand baths.
- Kanoya - Famous for its food, gorgeous Kanoya Rose Garden, war history, and farmstays.