JR Kumamoto Station → Take the Kyushu Shinkansen (1 hr) to JR Kagoshima Chuo Station → Kagoshima City Tour (Sakurajima, Sengan-en Garden, etc.) → Take the Limited Express Ibusuki no Tamatebako (1 hr) from JR Kagoshima Chuo Station to Ibusuki Station → Tour Cape Nagasakibana → Ibusuki accommodations.
• You can get maps and travel information at JR stations.
• If you take the time to visit Sengan-en Garden (which also offers great views of Sakurajima), you can buy a ¥1,600 ticket to tour the garden and the secondary residence of the former ruling Shimadzu clan, concluding with a serving of authentic green tea. The residence tours run on a fixed schedule, so please confirm the time in advance.
• Bicycle rental is available near JR Nishi-Oyama Station. A bicycle can be a great way to get around the Ibusuki area.
Sakurajima is volcanic peninsula (formerly an island) located just 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) from Kagoshima City in southern Kyushu. It's 1,117 meters (3,665 ft) above sea level, 50 kilometers (31 mi) in circumference, and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. If you'd like to see it from above, you can get a decent view of the mountain from the Shiroyama Observatory.
Access: The ferry terminal is a 10-minute walk from JR Kagoshima Station or a 5-minute walk from Suizokukan-guchi tram stop; the ferry takes 15 minutes to get to Sakurajima
Sakurajima Island View Bus Tour
This is an excursion bus that travels a loop around the slope of Sakurajima. A day pass will let you visit a range of tourist attractions on the volcano, with some stops to buy the highly regarded local produce as well. You can buy a pass at bus and tour agencies in town.
14. Cape Nagasakibana
Urashima Taro saves the life of a turtle, only to discover that the turtle is actually Toyotama-hime (also called Otohime), the daughter of the Emperor of the Sea. Taro is warmly invited to visit the undersea Palace of the Dragon, where Toyotama-hime gives him a mysterious box, or tamatebako. However, upon his return, Taro mistakenly opens the box and is turned into a white-haired old man—because 300 years have passed while he was away, and the box contained his old age.
Cape Nagasakibana, the southernmost point of Kagoshima's Satsuma Peninsula, is said to be the birthplace of the legend of Urashima Taro, and Ryugu Shrine is dedicated to Toyotama-hime. It's said that the shrine is good for promoting social harmony and business success, and you can write a wish on one of the shells available at the shrine in the hope of having it come true.
Address: 1578-8 Yamakawa Okachiyo-ga-mizu, Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Prefecture
Access: 10 minutes by taxi from JR Nishi-Oyama Station
Nagasakibana Parking Garden
Also on Nagasakibana is this flora and fauna park, which is densely populated with tropical plants and a variety of animals. You can interact with many of the animals and enjoy shows with flamingos, parrots and more.
Address: 1571-1 Yamakawa Okachiyo-ga-mizu, Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Prefecture
Access: 6 minutes' walk from Ryugu Shrine
15. Ibusuki Onsen
Yamakawa Sand Steam Onsen Sayuri
Yamakawa Sand Steam Onsen Sayuri is a so-called "sand hot spring." The sand is heated by natural hot spring water running underground. If you bury your body in the sand, the heat and pressure offer great relaxation and improved circulation. The sand hot spring is located in a wonderful scenic area where you have a sweeping view of Mount Kaimon-dake and the Osumi Peninsula.
Address: 3339-3 Fukumoto, Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Prefecture
Access: Take the bus 10 minutes from Nagasakibana bus stop to Fushimekuchi bus stop (1 hour between buses)
Healthy Land Tamatebako Onsen
The principal feature of Healthy Land is the superb view from its open-air hot spring, or rotenburo. The Japanese-style open-air bath overlooks Mount Kaimon-dake, known as Satsuma Fuji due to its distinctive shape, while the Western-style open-air bath faces Takeyama and the ocean.
Address: 3292 Yamakawa Fukumoto, Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Prefecture
Access: 2 minutes on foot from Yamakawa Sand Steam Onsen Sayuri
Ibusuki accommodations → Take the Ibusuki Makurazaki Line (1 hr by express train) to Kagoshima Chuo Station → Explore the Tenmonkan area → Airport bus (70 min) to Kagoshima Airport.
Extra: Chiran Samurai District
If you have time, you can take a side trip to Chiran. Chiran is a small town in the middle of the Satsuma Peninsula, known as the "Little Kyoto of Satsuma." According to historical records, there were almost 500 samurai residences, or bukeyashiki, in the town by the late Edo Period (1603-1868). The remote location of the area has allowed much of the architecture to remain intact. The elegant, nostalgic samurai district is marked by a cleanly appointed, 700-meter (0.4 mi) stone wall, and many of the houses' gardens are open to visitors for a small fee.
Access: Take the Ibusuki Makurazaki Line from Ibusuki Station (25 min by express train) and get off at Kiire Station, then take the bus (30 min) to Bukeyashiki Iriguchi-mae; you can then take a direct bus from Chiran to Kagoshima
Dining Recommendations (Kagoshima Prefecture)
Tenmonkan Mujaki: Polar Bear Shaved Ice
The original idea for "Polar Bear" (shirokuma) shaved ice came from shop founder Takeshi Kubo in 1949. Fruit chunks, beans, raisins and little sweets are placed atop a helping of shaved ice covered in condensed milk. While these were originally arranged to look like a polar bear's face, now "Polar Bear" simply refers to any one of the many types of shave ice desserts available at Tenmonkan Mujaki. The shop can be found in the Tenmonkan area, just three minutes’ walk from the Tenmonkan tram stop.
Address: 5-8 Sennichi-cho, Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture
Nanshukan: Kurobuta (Berkshire Pork) Shabu-shabu
Berkshire pork, known in Japan as kurobuta (literally, "black pig"), is the signature dish of Kagoshima. Rich in amino acids, the pork practically melts in your mouth, and the meat is tender and sweet. A great option is kurobuta shabu-shabu, a kind of hot pot. Try it at Nanshukan, which is close to the Tenmonkan area, and can be accessed from Izuro station on the city tram.
Address: 19-17 Higahisengoku-cho, Kagoshima City, Kagoshima Prefecture