Roam the tropical fairytale landscape of Japan’s south
nowhere in Japan are these elemental forces more keenly felt than in Kagoshima Prefecture. At the country’s southern tip, this horseshoe-shaped prefecture is home to both geological and ecological wonders. From active volcanoes and natural hot springs to tropical islands and ancient fairytale forests, this is Japan at its most untamed. For adventurous travelers, Kagoshima is a thrilling playground of vertiginous vistas and immense forests, while for the more casual explorer, it is a place of luxury spa hotels, white-sand beaches and a wide range of outdoor activities suitable for all fitness levels.
IN THE SHADOW of Kagoshima’s many volcanoes, local residents have adapted to life alongside these titanic forces of nature, regarding them with equal parts respect, awe, and gratitude for their sometimes unexpected blessings. HIKE Kirishima’s active volcanoes that belch smoke and lava onto their blackened slopes. MARVEL at the impressive Sakurajima volcano, one of the most active in the world and learn its fascinating history.
GET LOST on the fairytale island of Yakushima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Natural Beauty. Its craggy hills are home to picturesque moss forests and to the legendary yakusugi cedar trees, Japan's oldest living trees that grow for many thousands of years. The best way to experience the island's impressive nature firsthand is to grab a daypack, lace your boots, and hit the trail. As you wander Yakushima's primeval forests, don't be surprised to come face to face with the island's native deer or macaque species.
Get lost in Kagoshima’s mystical landscapes any time of the year.
FAR TO THE SOUTH, Amami Island offers a secluded tropical retreat with sandy beaches, unhurried island culture, and excellent snorkeling
and scuba diving. Discover Amami's distinctive culture and try your hand at the traditional craft of mud-dyeing or sample the island's fresh produce, from seafood you can fish yourself to local specialty dishes.
VOLCANOES DISCOVERY TOUR
Witness the raw power and majestic scenery of Kagoshima's volcanoes
hurning beneath the earth’s surface and occasionally erupting in fiery outpourings of magma and ash, Kagoshima’s many active volcanoes continue to sculpt the landscape and the local culture. Learn about these powerful forces from an expert volcanologist, eat local fruits and vegetables grown in ash-enriched soils, and climb to the summit of a nearby volcano for some of the region’s most breathtaking scenery.
Arrive at Kagoshima airport.
Within Kagoshima’s vast inner bay sits the highly active volcano of Sakurajima. Meet with a local volcanologist to learn about this powerful volcano and see firsthand its effects on the local surroundings and way of life. Walk along lava flows where bizarre formations of magma from historic eruptions stand frozen in time and view Sakurajima’s craggy face from a viewing platform - as close as you can get due to the mountain’s near daily eruptions. Armed with your new knowledge of volcanoes, finish the day at your comfortable accommodation in the Kirishima area, soaking in a natural hot spring bath heated by - you guessed it - volcanic activity deep underground.
After a leisurely breakfast at your accommodation, move further inland toward Mt. Karakuni. The summit of this active volcano is your goal for the day. After meeting your local guide at the mountain’s base, make your way through gently sloping wooded areas and past volcanic steam vents, their jet-engine roar audible for miles. As the trees thin and the landscape becomes decidedly rockier, the view opens to reveal a vast caldera lake, seemingly perfectly round and full of shimmering blue water. After circumnavigating the caldera’s rim, you’ll begin your descent, stopping at a hut along the way for a delicious, hot lunch cooked on a camp stove by your guide. Return to Kagoshima City for your final night and enjoy a memorable hot pot dinner.
Depart from Kagoshima airport.
•Discover Kagoshima's fascinating volcanic scenery and history on a tour of the Sajurajima area.
•Relax in one of Kagoshima's many natural onsen hot springs.
•Hike to the top of an active volcano to discover stunning views and learn about the area's unique nature.
FAIRYTALES ISLAND TOUR
Journey deep into the forests of Yakushima and walk among cedar giants
If dramatic landscapes inspire dramatic stories, then the island of Yakushima is surely the backdrop for many an epic tale. Indeed, this fantastical island seventy miles south of Kagoshima has inspired storytellers throughout the ages, from ancient myths to modern animated films. Step inside this fairytale world to encounter misty forests, friendly animals, and cedar trees that are thousands of years old.
Arrive at Kagoshima Airport.
Start your trip in Kagoshima and discover the iconic volcano of Sakurajima volcano that towers over the city. Spend the day with a local volcanologist to learn how every aspect of life in the area is affected by this powerful natural force, from the local topography to the foods grown and harvested here. A relaxing night at your hotel allows you to prepare for the adventure to come.
In the morning, set of off for the island of Yakushima. Thrusting up from the ocean to heights of over 6,000 feet, Yakushima’s steeply sloping hills are covered in thick forest canopies concealing the beautiful and slightly mysterious landscapes beneath. After meeting your local guide, trek into the Shiratani Unsui Valley, famed as the visual inspiration for the beloved Studio Ghibli film Princess Mononoke.
Rejoin your guide for a full day of touring the island, from winding forest roads to towering waterfalls. The day’s main attraction, however, is an off-trail hike deep into the heart of the forest to discover an abandoned WWII encampment untouched for over 70 years. If you’re lucky, you may even encounter some of the island’s native 'residents'- sika deer and Japanese macaques.
After exploring this remarkable landscape, return to Kagoshima to board a flight or train to your next destination.
•Experience the unique nature that inspired the Studio Ghibli film Princess Mononoke and discover some of Japan's oldest trees.
•Unwind at a luxury spa set against the dramatic backdrop of Yakushima's soaring mountaintops.
TROPICAL ISLAND TOUR
Lose yourself among the turquoise waters and tropical beaches of Amami Island
While Kagoshima’s mighty volcanoes are perhaps the prefecture’s most well-known feature, the tropical islands lying just south of the mainland should not be overlooked. With sun-baked beaches, crystal clear waters teeming with tropical fish, and a relaxed, languid charm that can only be found in paradise, the Amami Islands are the undiscovered gem of the East China Sea.
Arrive at Kagoshima Airport
Spend the day in Kagoshima learning about the region’s volcanoes with a local expert and gaining crucial context to understand the area’s geological and cultural history. From the safety of a viewing deck, you’ll observe the imposing Sakurajima, one of the world’s most active volcanoes with near daily minor eruptions and ever-present smoke.
After a morning flight from Kagoshima to Amami Oshima Island, it’s time for some serious rest and relaxation as your tropical island escape begins in earnest. Make a quick stop at the Tanaka Isson Memorial Art Museum, exhibiting works by the eponymous artist whose brush strokes expertly and beautifully capture the feel of the tropics. Spend a laid-back afternoon learning a local textile dyeing technique utilizing pigments drawn from local muds before using your newfound knowledge to dye a shirt of your own. Finish the day at your comfortable, beachside accommodation and watch the sun set into the sea, preferably with a cold drink in hand.
Your second day on the island is left completely open to spend at your leisure. Rent a bicycle and explore the local towns, grab a mask and fins to snorkel among tropical fish, or lie on the beach and do nothing at all. Unwind and enjoy the tropical surroundings at your own pace because, as they say, the greatest luxury in life is (free) time.
Spend the morning enjoying the island sunshine before catching an afternoon flight back to Kagoshima for departure to your next destination.
•Relax on the white sand beaches of Amami Island.
•Taste delicious fresh seafood and experience fishing it yourself with some local fishermen.
•Get your hands dirty during a traditional mud dyeing experience.
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