You're probably familiar with the usual travel itinerary - Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto. This time I wanted to try something different. We grabbed a 14 days Japan Rail Pass (while the prices were still affordable, luckily!) and I picked the spot most south, but still reachable via Shinkansen. And there it is, Kagoshima, down way, way south.
Kagoshima is well known for Kurobuta, black pork. So of course I had to try their ramen - really delicious! The tram there is really tiny, at crowded times you'll have to squish into it. A walk through the city always reveals some fun things - loving the decorations at that Gyoza store. They even had a Gyoza vending machine, but we didn't try it.
(I love sharks, bunnies, seals and chickens, so be prepared to see random cute animals)
Kagoshima is located at a volcanic area, and so they have many onsens, footbaths and even a place where you can take hot sand baths. Since we were staying there for 3 days, I booked a hotel with it's own onsen. Diligently reading up on all the Onsen rules (don't forget to do that, if you plan to use an Onsen!) I headed to the top floor. They had the usual wash/shower area, one indoor and one outdoor bath, a cold bath and even a sauna. The cold winter air felt just perfect to sit outside with your legs in the hot water. Onsen tend to be way too hot for me, so after a while I flee onto the edge of the pool. When you're done with your bath, they even provide little free snacks like ice cream. That's the life!
Conquer Sakurajima's island
The bay area has an aquarium - which we skipped - but there's also a ferry heading over to Kagoshimas most striking natural feature: Mountain Sakurajima. It's actually a very much active volcano, one of the most active in Japan. Apparently we were very lucky, because Sakurajima rarely shows snow on it's top.
It was a clear, but cold and windy day. There's a little shrine on the island, as well as a big Onsen resort. The beach has it's own free and pretty large foot bath.
When we went there, a tiny festival was happening, but due to the cold weather, sadly no people came. They only had 2 or 3 small food stands, the tents were empty. I couldn't resist and buy a snack from one of the food stands, tended by an old man. He was really happy and we tried talking for a bit, telling him where we're from. My Japanese is terrible, but I love these little moments when you can connect with other people!
Afterwards we enjoyed the hot foot bath, under the watchful eyes of many stray cats.
The food struggle
You know the feeling when you get hungry, but you've already had Ramen yesterday, so you'd like to pick something different, and the restaurants you passed just don't really connect with you, and
the guy you're with is like "meh I don't care what we eat" and so you wander around for almost an hour? Well, not one of my best decision making days, I guess (but at least the walking burnt
some of those Ramen calories).
So when the hangry finally kicks in, you just decide to go with the next place. Yakitori, doesn't sound so bad. The first warning bells should have rung when we went in and there was only 1 table occupied, by 3 young men. It later turns out they all worked there. It also turns out, as one guy tried to explain, this is an all-you-can-drink place. So, pay your hourly fee, have some snacks, and drink as much as you like. Well. I ordered our Yakitori and Gyoza, and they were... half decent at best (more like a 3/10). There aren't a lot of alcoholic beverages I drink, so the selfservice bar wasn't that attractive to me. Well. We ate and got up to leave, but since some time already passed it turned out we've just spent a ridiculously high amount of money for a tiny bit of Yakitori and Gyoza. Shit.
But well, those are the experience you make when you wanna be brave and try out new things, right...? Whoops.
Neither me nor my friend are very religious and just rarely keeping to traditions. Japan though has one funny and rather new tradition for Christmas: Get Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Christmas Cake. Apparently the KFC logo reminds them of Santa, and thus fried chicken is consumed for X-mas. Hahah.
Kagoshima station even had a little Christmas market, with a German welcome-sign. Not missing all of our traditions, then.
For the next day, I booked a 6 hour tour through Kagoshima.
First we visited Sengan-en, the gardens and houses where the former Shimazu clan resided. Mikiko-san did an amazing job with this tour, providing interesting insights and experiences you'd otherwise just not get as a tourist.
Especially the story about a massive rock in the hills that got a message carved in (with some of the workers, sadly, dying). The hilarious part? Well, you'll have to go there, make the tour and find out for yourself, hehe.
Sengan-en is beautiful and definitely worth a visit, and the view of Sakurajima is stunning, perfectly integrated into the garden view.
We also tried delicious Ichigo Daifuku, learned how bonito looks before it's shredded, and what Japanese marriage traditions were like. At the end of the tour we visited some Izakayas to try many delicious dishes. With the help of Mikiko-san, it was so much easier to try new things and have a good time.
I can highly recommend booking a tour with her, we enjoyed it a lot. You can be curious, ask everything you want to know and even add wishes or (food)preferences to the tour.
Next we head back to Osaka to meet up with two of our friends who just arrived.
What did you think? Leave a comment! ♥️