Let’s enjoy Kagoshima! Vol.3 Kingdom of Onsen

A natural hot spring foot bath welcomes you at the airport

Footbath

Kagoshima Airport has a natural hot spring foot bath, the only one of its kind at any airport in Japan. Soak your feet in the foot bath before heading out for sightseeing, and you will feel invigorated after your tiring flight.

Footbath

There are approximately 270 hot spring sources in Kagoshima City, the most among all the prefectural capitals (the seat of prefectural government) in Japan. The most popular foot bath of all, famous for its great view and convenient location (only a 10 minute walk from Tenmonkan, the busiest downtown area in southern Kyushu) is the footbath at “Dolphin Port”, a shopping complex with traditional craft shops, as well as restaurants that use only local ingredients. Enjoy the beautiful scenic views of Sakurajima Island and Kinko Bay while relaxing in an all natural onsen foot bath.

Footbath

In the southern part of Kagoshima City, there are two foot baths at Hirakawa Zoological Park. You can enjoy bathing your feet in the Indian Forest Zone while gazing at Indian elephants, or giraffes and zebras at the African Garden. Hirakawa Zoological Park uses a hot spring that gushes out from about 1500m underground for their animals. Even the pool of the popular capybaras is a natural hot spring, where you can see them happily bathing.

Open-air bath
Open-air bath where you can enjoy a grand view (Hotel Shiroyama)

Kagoshima City has plenty of facilities where you can relax and enjoy high-quality hot spring baths. Many accommodation facilities have natural hot springs certified by the Japan Spa Association, a large number of which have baths with exquisite views, or private open-air baths. What makes Kagoshima unique, is the majority of over 70 sento (public baths, 390yen) in the city use natural hot spring water, and there are also some with private open-air baths (about 1200-2000 yen/hour). It is also unique in that the hot spring water of many onsen is good for drinking. You can see information regarding spring quality, equipment, and private open-air baths on their respective websites.

Dig your own hot spring on Sakurajima Island

Unique onsen experience

If you want to have a unique onsen experience, we recommend Sakurajima Island.

On Sakurajima Island, there is a place that is rare even in Japan. By digging a hole as shallow as a few dozen centimeters on the sandy beach, the waters of the hot spring begin to gush forth.

Onsen Bori set (Onsen digging set)
“Onsen Bori set” (500 yen), or onsen digging set, comes with a scoop, a towel, and a guidebook. This is available for purchase at the Sakurajima Visitor Center, a 10 minute walk from Sakurajima Port.
Onsen digging in Sakurajima

You can try onsen digging on Sakurajima at any time. However, since the dates and times that you can dig are dependant on the tide and weather, confirm in advance when applying for the Sakurajima Museum tour (3500 yen). You can also obtain an Onsen Bori set if you select this tour. It will feel great listening to the sound of waves as you soak your feet in the warm foot bath you made with your own hands, as you sip on a refreshing drink. It will be an unforgettable memory.

Cruising

Sakurajima Island offers a variety of experience-based programs, including fishing and cruising, but we recommend a half-day tour in which you can enjoy both onsen digging and kayaking. You can bask in the natural beauty of Sakurajima Island as you soak your hands in the warm sea water of Kaichu Onsen, while gazing at sea animals and watching lava as it flows into the ocean.

Yogan Nagisa Park
Evening view
The evening view seen from the foot bath of Yogan Nagisa Park is also beautiful

The ferry takes you to Sakurajima Island from the terminal in the center of Kagoshima City in 15 minutes, leaving every 15-20 minutes, 24 hours a day. The free foot bath in Yogan Nagisa Park, a 5 minute walk from Sakurajima Island, is open until sunset, so you can stop by when you visit. With a length of 100 meters, it is one of the biggest outdoor foot baths in Japan, so you can fully enjoy the spaciousness.

Sandbath and hot spring which rejuvenates your mind and body

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Ibusuki no Tamatebako
Ibusuki no Tamatebako
“Ibusuki no Tamatebako” has a fashionable exterior and wooden interior designs

You can go to some of the famous onsen sites using public transportation from Kagoshima City. One of them is Ibusuki Onsen, about a 50 minute ride from Kagoshima-Chuo Station on “Ibusuki no Tamatebako”, a limited express sightseeing train.

“Sunamushi Onsen”, or sand bath, has been medically verified to have positive warming and detoxifying effects on the body.

As its name originates from “湯豊宿(Yuhosuki)”, meaning “an inn with plenty of hot spring water” in Japanese, Ibusuki Onsen has been known as a therapeutic hot spring for over 300 years. They have many famous hot springs, including “Tonosama Yu”, which feudal lords of the Satsuma Domain (previous name of Kagoshima) have visited in the past.

The most famous is “Sunamushi Onsen”, or sand bath, which is rarely seen throughout the world. You lie on the sandy beach, covering yourself with sand heated from the hot spring gushing just beneath you. Visitors wear a special yukata, so women can also enjoy the sand onsen in comfort. In the city, you can also experience “Sunamushi Onsen” in two public facilities and hotels including Ibusuki Hakusuikan (820-1080 yen).

Ibusuki is proud of their high-quality hot spring water that is beneficial for your skin

The hostess of Ibusuki Hakusuikan
Narumi Shimotakehara, the landlady of Ibusuki Hakusuikan

“Ibusuki welcomes many visitors from overseas, and the number of visitors who return is increasing. As one of our guests has said, ‘What a peaceful place!’ Ibusuki is a peaceful onsen resort facing the ocean with plenty of high-quality hot spring baths. Our “omotenashi” is to pay attention to every detail, ensuring our guests can leave feeling fulfilled and peaceful. Our hot spring water contains plenty of metasilicic acid, a natural moisturizing ingredient. It will leave your skin feeling beautifully revitalized and smooth!”

Satsuma Denshokan
“Satsuma Denshokan”, located next to Ibusuki Hakusuikan, is an art museum (admission fee of 1500 yen) with exhibits showcasing famous items from Satsuma, as well as those related to the Satsuma Domain. You can visit even if you do not stay at Hakusuikan.

Enjoy hot springs situated in the highlands, home to ancient Japanese myths

Kirishima Onsenkyo with clouds of steam
Kirishima Onsenkyo with clouds of steam

In Kirishima City, located northeast of Kagoshima City, there is the Kirishima mountain range, known as the homeland of Japanese myths. “Kirishima Onsenkyo” features hot springs gushing out of the mountains as high as 1500-1700m. “Kirishima Jingu Onsenkyo” spreads out in front of the gate of the ancient shrine “Kirishima Jingu Shrine”, with a history stretching back to the 6th century. Both are well known onsen resorts that have been used since ancient times. It takes about 40-50 minutes by JR limited express train from Kagoshima-Chuo Station to both locations. There is also a direct bus from Kagoshima Airport. Both Kirishima Onsenkyo and Kirishima Jingu Onsenkyo have many onsen inns with a variety of open-air baths, from ones where you can fully enjoy Mother Nature to ones where you can look out over Sakurajima Island in the distance. Of course, they also have facilities with private open-air baths.

Kirishima Jinja Shrine
Kirishima Jinja Shrine, where leading characters of the Japanese creation myth are enshrined
Hot spring waterfall

Maruo Waterfall, seen along the street toward Kirishima Jingu Shrine is a “hot spring waterfall”, where the water from two nearby hot springs fall. The sight of droplets reflecting the colors of autumn foliage and clouds of steam emerging from the waterfall in winter is a must-see. It looks even more fantastic at night when it is lit up.

Kirishima Open-Air Museum

If you are interested in art, travel a bit further to visit “Kirishima Open-Air Museum”, a full-scale outdoor art museum located in the highlands about 700m above sea level. 20 works of distinguished artists from Japan and around the world are being exhibited, and you can interact with them while taking a stroll through the museum.

Tenmonkan Illumination
“Tenmonkan Illumination”, an event in winter to be held for the first time (2015)

In January 2016, “Tenmonkan Millionation”, where a “space of light” is created with numerous lights, is going to be held for about a month in Tenmonkan, making it a good opportunity to visit Kagoshima. If you want to fully enjoy your time in Kagoshima, we recommend including this event in your plan. Or perhaps, you can combine this event with a visit to one of many natural hot springs and famous places, such as the Sengan-en Garden (Iso-teien Garden) loved by the feudal lords of the Satsuma Domain, or by sampling the local gourmet foods of Kagoshima!