Photo: Lake viewing hike at Kirishima Mountain Range
Kirishima Kinkowan National Park is located throughout Kagoshima and part of southern Miyazaki. In total, it is about 366km2 and is split into three major areas.
With the Kirishima Mountain Range in the north, Kinko Bay & Sakurajima Volcano in the middle, and Ibusuki & Cape Sata to the south, this national park offers a rare balance of ocean, forests, and mountains. There are unique activities to do in each area, so if you are planning to visit Kagoshima, it is highly recommended to spend at least one day in each location.
Kirishima Mountain Range
This beautiful mystic mountainous area is the home of the Japanese mythological story of Tenson, as the location the deity descended to earth. The heavenly spear he brought still stands stuck into the top of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine. The mountain range contains more than 20 volcanoes, both dormant and active, with a series of crater lakes that make for some great hiking trails. 2 of the volcanoes (Mt. Shinmoedake, Mt. Io) are still visibly active with frequent eruptions. The scenery changes with each season and can be enjoyed throughout the year. While this area is fully enjoyed by active outdoor lovers through hiking, there are still things to be done, such as visiting the Kirishima Jingu Shrine, that require less physical activity. Kirishima is also well known for its onsen hot springs, which are perfect to recover after a day of hiking.
Also known as Kagoshima Bay, this inlet was formed when the Aira Caldera imploded and sea water filled the remaining hole around 30,000 years ago. The bay is most notable for Sakurajima, the large active volcano that towers over the bay and Kagoshima City. Being such an active volcanic area and also having depths of over 200 meters has created a unique ecosystem with many rare kinds of sea life that can only be found in the bay.
Sakurajima is just a 15 minute ferry ride from Kagoshima City and offers some fun activities such as digging your own natural hot spring foot bath or picking the world’s largest radish called Sakurajima Daikon. Around the bay, some other places worth visiting are the Shigetomi Beach & Nature Museum, as well as Wakamikobana, a 1 km bayside walkway where volcanic gas bubbles can be observed rising up out of the water.
Ibusuki & Cape Sata
These are located on the southern tips of the two peninsulas of Kagoshima. On the Osumi Peninsula, Cape Sata is the southernmost tip of mainland Japan and Ogawa falls is a breathtaking waterfall hidden deep in the forest. On the Satsuma Peninsula, Ibusuki is home to the famous Ibusuki natural sand baths and Mt. Kaimon, which is known as the Satsuma Fuji for its resemblance of Mt. Fuji.
I personally recommend making a trip to Chiringashima Island. Chiringashima is located just off the coast of northern Ibusuki and can only be accessed by the walking across the sand bar bridge that appears while the tide is out. Ibusuki, like Kirishima, is a popular onsen area where most hotels offer hot spring baths.
All three areas are great with their own unique scenery, activities, and atmosphere. Be sure to visit them all to truly experience the Kirishima Kinkowan National Park
Author: Kagoshima Cameron