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12 Best Things to do in Kagoshima Japan as a Solo Traveller

Last Updated on November 27, 2020 by queenie mak

Kagoshima is the southernmost city on Kyushu Island in southern Japan. As the capital city of Kagoshima Prefecture, the thriving port city is known for Sakurajima, an active volcano, and the gateway to many remote islands in southern Japan including Okinawa.

Even though Kagoshima is not as well known as other major Japanese cities like Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, there are many things to do in Kagoshima, especially if you like nature and exploring places that are off the beaten path.

And as a solo traveller, it is possible to travel to and around Kagoshima on your own, and it is very safe to do so. I’ve compiled 12 best things to do in Kagoshima for touring the city on your own. Take a look!

Related Post – Kyushu itinerary 10 days: from Fukuoka to Kagoshima

Kagoshima is all about volcano, nature and ferries
Kagoshima is all about volcano, nature and ferries

What you need to know before visiting Kagoshima, Japan

Before you visit Kagoshima, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of information including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.

Here are additional travel tips that you may find useful for travelling to Kagoshima:

  • You can see all the Kagoshima attractions in 2 days
  • Walking is the best way to see Kagoshima within city centre
  • SUGOCA is the prepaid IC card for Kyushu. It is a rechargeable smartcard where you can take public transportation including bus, train and etc. It is especially useful if you take the tram.

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Train travel in Kagoshima
Train travel in Kagoshima

How to travel to Kagoshima, Japan

Flying into Kagoshima

Kagoshima Airport is 40km northeast of Kagoshima City. Many domestic flights fly into Kagoshima while several international flights from Seoul, Shanghai, Taiwan and Hong Kong are currently flying into Kagoshima Airport.

The easiest way to travel from Kagoshima Airport to the city is by taking the direct airport limousine bus into Kagoshima City.

Taking a train to Kagoshima

If you are travelling by train, you may be coming from the north of Kagoshima from cities likes Fukuoka or Kumamoto. You can either take the regular JR train or Shinkansen (bullet train).

And you can use Japan Rail Pass and JR Kyushu Rail Passes for your journey to Kagoshima. Check Hyperdia for schedules and fares. Below are a few sample routes:

Train from Kumamoto to Kagoshima

  • JR Train: from Kumamoto Station to Kagoshima Chuo Station
    • Time: 4 hours 30 minutes + (with 2 train transfers)
    • Cost: from ¥4,380 (covered by JR Pass)
  • Shinkansen: from Kumamoto Station to Kagoshima Chuo Station
    • Time: 57 minutes
    • Cost: from ¥6,870 (covered by JR Pass except for Nozomi and Mizuho trains)

Taking a highway bus to Kagoshima

Even though the train system is quite good in Kagoshima, travel time can be long and cost could be high. Consider taking a highway bus within Kyushu as the bus network connects many big cities and small towns on Kyushu Island.

Highway bus from Kumamoto to Kagoshima

Related Post – Japan in one month: from Tokyo to Hiroshima

Kagoshima Chuo Station
Kagoshima Chuo Station

How to get around Kagoshima

You can see most Kagoshima attractions by walking or by taking the tram (¥170 flat fare). SUGOCA is the prepaid IC card for Kyushu and you can use this (or other IC cards like Pasmo, Suica, ICOCA) for the tram.

For other attractions, you will have to take a ferry (to Sakurajima and other islands) and a tourist bus (Kagoshima City View Bus or Machi Meguri Bus to Sengan-en Garden).

Sakurajima: the symbol of Kagoshima
Sakurajima: the symbol of Kagoshima

Where to stay in Kagoshima

There are plenty of excellent budget and mid-range accommodations for solo travellers in Kagoshima. These accommodations are either private rooms or an entire apartment in centrally located areas of Kagoshima (near Kagoshima Chuo Station and in Tenmonkan area).

  • Hotel Mystays Kagoshima Tenmonkan Annex ($) – Renovated in 2018, the new and improved 3-star hotel offers affordable guest rooms in the heart of Kagoshima City.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Dormy Inn Kagoshima Natural Hot Spring ($) – Stay at the 3-star Japanese chain hotel where you can get a clean room for an affordable price. Similar to other Dormy Inn hotels throughout Japan, you can use the hot spring facilities as a guest of the hotel.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kagoshima ($$) – The 4-star modern hotel is located right across from Kagoshima Chuo Station.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda
  • remm Kagoshima ($$) -A minimalist contemporary hotel with Japanese-inspired interiors in the Tenmokan area of Kagoshima City.
    • Check prices & reviews: Agoda

Airbnb accommodation

  • Cost: an average of ¥4,200 per day
  • There are over 100+ Airbnb listings in Kagoshima to choose from.
  • I stayed in a clean private apartment with a bunk bed, full kitchen and full bathroom. The apartment has everything I needed including a washing machine and is a 15-minute walk to either Kagoshima Chuo Station and Tenmonkan area. Highly recommended!
  • Before you book your Airbnb accommodation, always read reviews and all the fine print before booking.
  • And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.

Related Post – Everything you need to know about booking Airbnb

Top things to do in Kagoshima, Japan

Kagoshima is all about nature, volcano, and historical settings. And it is an excellent city for exploring southern Kyushu Islands. Still wondering what to do in Kagoshima? Check out my list of Kagoshima sightseeing hotspots and create your ultimate Kagoshima itinerary!

To learn more about each Kagoshima attractions, click on the individual pin on the interactive map.

1. Hiking and sightseeing at Sakurajima

Sakurajima is the symbol of Kagoshima. It used to be an island in Kagoshima Bay but the volcano erupted in 1914 and connected the active volcano to the Osumi Peninsula.

With an elevation of 1117 meters and a circumference of 50 kilometres, the “island” has many things to do including hiking on various hiking trails, dipping in onsens (hot springs) and foot baths.

Sakurajima is best explored by car but that might not be ideal for solo travellers. However, you can still see a lot by walking, rental bikes, and sightseeing buses.

After a short ferry ride from Kagoshima Port, follow the signs and look for Nagisa Lava Trail, an easy 3km walking trail from the ferry terminal. And dip your feet in Nagisa Park Foot Bath and enjoy the soothing warm water.

Also, get a one day pass for ¥500 and hop on the Sakurajima Island View Bus. The bus loops around the volcano and stops at attractions like Karasujima Observatory, Akamizu Observatory and Yunohira Observatory.

Visiting Sakurajima is a must for any Kagoshima sightseeing itinerary. Don’t miss this wonderful island!

How to get to Sakurajima

  • Ferry: from Kagoshima Port to Sakurajima Ferry Terminal
    • Time: 15 minutes (every 15 minutes)
    • Cost: ¥200

2. Visit the zen Sengan-en Garden

Sengan-en Garden is a large traditional Japanese-style landscape garden along the coast just north of Kagoshima. Similar to most places in Kagoshima, you can see Sakurajima as the backdrop.

The garden was constructed in 1658 as the second residence to the Shimazu family, who ruled Satsuma (Kagoshima’s name until the 19th century).

For ¥1,500, you can see the expansive garden, the residence villa, a variety of plants and trees including cherry trees, leisure hiking trails, eat at one of the two restaurants and visit a Shoko Shuseikan Museum.

How to get to Sengan-en Garden

  • Bus: from Kagoshima Chuo Station to Sengan-en Mae bus stop
    • Kagoshima City View Bus (50 minutes, ¥190)
    • Machi Meguri Bus (35 minutes, ¥170)
Tsurumaru Castle
Tsurumaru Castle

3. See whats left of Tsurumaru Castle Ruins

Tsurumaru Castle, or also known as Kagoshima Castle, was built in 1604 and stood for 260 years until a fire burned down most of the castle.

Today, only the ruins are left including a moat, stone walls and stone bridge. And you can see the bullet holes in the stonewalls from the Satsuma Rebellion, the final civil war in Japan.

Even though there isn’t a whole lot to see, I think it is still worth seeing the ruins and what is left from the fire.

While you are on the castle ground, look for Reimeikan Museum. It is a small history museum that displays arts and crafts highlighting local history and culture.

4. See a panoramic view of Kagoshima from Shiroyama Observatory

On a clear day, hike up Mt Shiroyama and look for Shiroyama Park at the top. It is a historical spot where the final battle of the Satsuma Rebellion took place in 1887. There is a walking trail leading up the mountain and around the park.

And take in the best scenic view of downtown Kagoshima, Kagoshima Bay and Sakurajima from Shiroyama Observatory. The view is particularly beautiful during the day as you can see the whole city from above. And the view is quite spectacular at night as well.

Bring a snack or drink and enjoy the scenery from the park. It is a really nice spot for a break.

5. See artwork by local and international artists at Kagoshima City Museum of Art

Opened in 1985, Kagoshima City Museum of Art features various artwork by local and international artists around the world.

From impressionist to abstract modern art, the museum has an impressive array of artworks by Matisse, Renoir, Picasso, Dali, Kandinsky and many more.

And the museum features local artists from Kagoshima where traditional Satsuma pottery, woodblock prints and other artwork depicting Sakurajima.

6. Visit Kagoshima City Museum of Meiji Restoration

Kagoshima City Museum of Meiji Restoration is a small museum displaying local history and culture. Even though the museums have extensive information on the history of Kagoshima, most of the displays are in Japanese.

But you can enjoy the limited English content and also the walking trails with cherry trees and a reconstructed samurai house.

7. Take a tour around Kagoshima Fish Market

Kagoshima Fish Market is the 7th oldest fish market in Japan. Organized by seven local hotels in Kagoshima, the fish market tour has become one of the best activities in Kagoshima.

The tour runs every Saturday between 6:45 – 8:00 am from March to November. It costs ¥2,000 and reservation is required. They will let you borrow their rubber boots for free so your feet don’t get wet.

During the fish market tour, you will see all the variety of fish found in the waters around Kagoshima.

After seeing the tuna auction at the fish market, try fresh fish breakfast at the canteen (not included in tour price). A typical breakfast consists of a plate of fish sashimi (caught the same day), rice and miso soup.

Try a Kagoshima specialty at Kagoshima Furusato Food Village
Try a Kagoshima specialty at Kagoshima Furusato Food Village

8. Try Kagoshima cuisine at Kagoshima Furusato Food Village

Kagoshima Furusato Food Village has many food stalls under one roof. The entrance has a directory showing you all the things you can eat in the food village.

Wondering what to eat in Kagoshima? Try some of these local specialties at Kagoshima Furusato Food Village or anywhere in town:

  • Kagoshima Ramen – ramen made with a mild tonkotsu broth (pork bone broth) and thick noodles
  • Kagoshima Kurobuta Pork – black pork in tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet), butaman (steamed bun with pork), or in Kagoshima Ramen
  • Kuroushi Beef – pan-fried black beef served in slices or eaten as a regular steak
  • Grilled meat plate made with lava – small pieces of beef, pork, and chicken grilled on a lava plate
  • Torisashi – chicken sashimi
  • Satsuma Age – deep-fried fish cakes
  • Kame No Te – aka ’turtle hand’, a barnacle that has small fleshy meat like crab
  • Tobiuo – flying fish eaten as sashimi, salted as himono (cured fish), or fried
  • Kibinago – small herring fish served raw as sashimi with vinegar soybean paste
  • Satsuma-Imo – sweet potato
  • Satsuma Shochu – a liquor similar to vodka, usually mixed with water 
Tenmonkan arcade is busy during day and night
Tenmonkan arcade is busy during day and night

9. Shop at the local street market at Tenmonkan

In Kagoshima, Tenmonkan is a shopping district that spans several blocks of the city. And it has an old-style covered shopping street or local street market called shotengai, where you can find many boutique shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs.

The covered arcade is the best spot to shop for souvenirs and try some of Kagoshima’s unique cuisine.

10. Enjoy a sand bath in Ibusuki in the Satsuma Peninsula

Take a day trip to Ibusuki, an onsen (hot spring) town 50km south of Kagoshima in the Satsuma Peninsula. The town is famous for hot springs as the area is filled with geothermal activity.

Try Saraku Sand Bath Hall, a large hot spring facility with indoor baths, steam room and natural sand that is heated by natural steam from below the ground.

For ¥1,100, you can enjoy the sand bath where you are buried in the sand for 10 to 20 minutes. Then you wash off and use the hot spring baths.

How to travel from Kagoshima to Ibusuki

  • JR Train: from Kagoshima Chuo Station to Ibusuki Station (JR Ibusuki Makurazaki Line)
Ferry fares for Kagoshima to Yakushima Island
Ferry fares for Kagoshima to Yakushima Island

11. See ancient Japanese cedar trees on Yakushima Island

Yakushima Island is a subtropical island off the southern coast of Kyushu. The island is known for its extensive cedar forest. The island has Japan’s oldest living trees and some areas are declared as Natural World Heritage Sites.

Visit the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine, a lush natural green park. And hike along some of the best hiking trails along the ravine and see Jomonsugi, Japan’s oldest giant cedar tree. It is said the cedar tree is between 2,000 to 7,000 years old.

Besides hiking through the cedar forest, the island has other activities such as snorkelling, and scuba diving. And you can search for waterfalls, and enjoy some downtime at an onsen.

As there is plenty of rainfall around the year, it is advised to bring waterproof jackets and shoes for your hikes throughout the island.

Moreover, it is best to explore the island over several days and travel around by car as the local public buses are infrequent.

How to travel from Kagoshima to Yakushima Island

  • High-speed jetfoil boat: from Kagoshima Port to Miyanoura Port of Yakushima Island
Kagoshima port services many ferries for various destinations including Okinawa
Kagoshima port services many ferries for various destinations including Okinawa

12. Depart for Okinawa Island

Okinawa Prefecture is the southernmost prefecture in Japan. The prefecture has 160 islands and the largest is Okinawa Island.

People visit Okinawa for the clear crystal blue water, white sand beaches, coral reefs and subtropical climate. And not to mention all the things you can do in Okinawa including diving, surfing, whale watching, and island hopping.

Okinawa is accessible via flights and ferries from Kagoshima.

The ferry option is cheaper but longer. It has communal sleeping areas, private berths in shared cabins, small shops selling snacks, and a canteen.

How to travel from Kagoshima to Okinawa

  • Ferry: A-Line Ferry and Marix Ferry
    • Schedule: Kagoshima Port (6 pm) to Motobu (4:40 pm the following day) or Naha (7 pm the following day)
    • Time: 23 to 25 hours (only 1 per day)
    • Cost: ¥15,000 (without bed), ¥30,000 (first class)
    • A-Line Ferry and Marix Ferry are the only two ferries operating this route but the website is in Japanese. You can buy your ticket at Kagoshima port.

What will you do when you visit Kagoshima?

I’ve listed all the best things to do in Kagoshima on my travel blog to inspire your next trip to the city. Between touring around the city to all the nature southern Kyushu has to offer, I am sure you will have fun in Kagoshima, Japan.

Let me know in the comments if tried out any of these ideas!

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 18+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

2 Comments

  • Kyle Kopanyshyn
    November 28, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Awesome blog post Queenie Mak!
    Thank you for all the great info. I am going to Kagoshima next month (Dec 2020) and then taking a ferry to Okinawa. Your post saved me a lot of running around the Internet for good info.
    I have this post bookmarked on my phone, ipad and laptop and reference it all the time.

    Stay safe,

    Kyle

    Reply
    • queenie mak
      November 29, 2020 at 1:44 pm

      Hi Kyle, thanks so much for your comment! Totally jealous that you will be in Kagoshima next month. I was there during autumn and loved it. Hope you enjoy Okinawa as well. And stay safe too! 🙂

      Reply

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