Kyushu is arguably one of Japan’s most underrated prefectures. Full of culture, history, tradition, good food and excellent roads; a trip around this beautiful part of the country is best spent at the wheel of a vehicle.
There are many flights from all over Japan into Kagoshima Airport, including a nice early 06:35 flight from Tokyo Haneda into Kagoshima. The flight takes approximately 2 hours and there is a very conveniently placed car rental store just outside the airport.
The airport itself, whilst located relatively close to the centre of Kagoshima, is not best positioned for exploring the local area. In your car you can drive (or take a boat, like we did) onto the famous Sakurajima volcano. This is a very active volcano, with eruptions almost weekly; so be careful when you decide to visit here. The most beautiful thing about Sakurajima is the fact that you can drive allt the way around it. There are beautifully crafted winding roads all the way around the mountain. Whilst you can not approach the volcano at a close distance – for very good reason – you can enjoy the scenary of the area and the beautiful lake from your car.
A short drive from Sakurajima should see you end up at Shiroyama Park, a very interesting tourist spot located in Kagoshima city (899-4316; telephone: 0995-46-1561). With good car parking and excellent facilities, make a morning/afternoon of it here. They have a delicious Tonkotsu Ramen shop here – delightful! There are also some interesting Japanese gardens and vegetable plants here, whilst the trees of fruit are particularly pretty.
From Kagoshima, it’s time to head into Miyazaki, the next prefecture to the East. Driving from prefecture to prefecture takes time, the best possible trip into Miyazaki takes around two hours from Kagoshima. Thankfully, the roads are comfortable and easy to drive.
Our first recommended spot on the roads is Udo-jingu (887-0101; telephone: 0987-29-1001), a gorgeous shrine located on the coast of Miyazaki.
This shrine is particularly famous for those who are not married, with many couples going here to pray for their future together. What is particularly nice is the beautiful scenery of the waves crashing against the rocks just next to the shrine.
A short drive up the coast will bring you to Aoshima in approximately 45 minutes. Aoshima is worth a visit. Despite being difficult to find a parking space – you might end up parking in a local’s garage if it’s busy, and paying 500 yen for the privilege – the walk across the sea to the island is stunning. With the traditional Japanese red gate (torii), this makes a good stop for a picture. On the island itself is an ornate shrine. From parking your car to reaching the island can take about 10 minutes – so leave enough time.
After you’ve finished at Aoshima; one option is to head into central Miyazaki. A short drive indeed, the city has a very nice shrine (Miyazaki jingu) and also many famous restaurants. The local cuisine here in Chicken Nanban, very similar to American fried chicken but much more healthy, one recommended spot for this food is “Ogura Honten”, the very first Nanban restaurant in the area (telephone: 0985-22-2296).