The home of samurai culture, which can be accessed with a non-stop trip
Kagoshima City is the central city of Kagoshima Prefecture, which is located at the southernmost part of Kyushu in Japan’s mainland. It can be directly accessed from Seoul, Shanghai, Taiwan, or Hong Kong on a non-stop flight in just 90 to 180 minutes. It can also be accessed easily from within Japan as there are flights from all across the country including 23 round trips a day from Haneda Airport. When taking a JR line, it takes less than 90 minutes to travel between Hakata (Fukuoka) and Kagoshima-Chuo Station on the Kyushu Shinkansen. It can be reached directly from Shin-Osaka in just a little over 4 hours.
When visiting by plane, you will be greeted by a spacious bright sky upon landing at Kagoshima Airport. Take a trip where you can almost feel as if you are with the samurais of Satsuma, which were filled with a valiant and enterprising spirit while also being able to love nature and beautiful things!
Sengan-en is where you can experience both the culture and aesthetics of the samurai
Located in the Iso area, which is about 30 minutes by bus from Kagoshima-Chuo Station and commands a view of the calm Kinko Bay and the grand Mt. Sakurajima, is Sengan-en (built in 1658 and also known as Iso Teien), which was the villa of the Shimadzu Clan, who had ruled Satsuma (the former name of Kagoshima) since the 12th century. It is also famous for its seasonal flowers such as the Taiwan cherry blossoms in mid-February and the Siberian irises in June.
The Goten, which overlooks the garden that was built to make Mt. Sakurajima look like a man-made garden mountain and Kinko Bay look like a pond, gives you a glimpse of how the daimyos of the past lived as it has rooms that were used by the lords of the successive generations.
Sengan-en was used as a guest house of the Shimadzu Family and Kagoshima City, and was visited by many people such as members of Japan’s Imperial Family, Prince Nicholas II of Russia, and Prince Edward VII of England.
On the grounds are six hundred types of wild plants, a device known as the “Takamasu”, which is used for controlling the level of the water in the pond, and a rare shrine dedicated to cats. The nearby Shoko-Shuseikan museum has traditional craft art such as Satsuma Kiriko glassware and Satsuma earthenware.
There are many events such as annual festivities associated with the Shimadzu Family and those filled with traditional culture held at Sengan-en. The photo is of a “Kyokusui no Utage” event (held every April) with the participants dressed in formal samurai clothes.
Tin Gate was the original main gate. Only the lords and their successors could pass through the center. Others had to pass through a small entrance on the left side.
Sengan-en has guided tours in languages including English and Chinese (reservations required) and a teahouse where visitors can enjoy green tea and Japanese sweets.
Sengan-en is a perfect place for experiencing Satsuma samurai culture with structures and gardens where traditional Japanese styles are in harmony with those from the nearby China and Ryukyus (current Okinawa Prefecture).
The decision of the wise lord who brought about the Industrial Revolution in Japan
Shuseikan, which is right by Sengan-en, was built by the twenty-eighth lord of the Shimadzu Clan, Nariakira Shimadzu (1809 – 1858), who was renowned as a wise lord. It is where the first modern industrial work in Japan took place.
Nariakira felt a sense of crisis towards Western expansion into Asia and believed that the development of industry that incorporated Western science and technology was necessary. Therefore, he promoted rapid modernization through developments of iron and glass making, medicine, fabrics, shipbuilding, steam engines, and so on. This area, where many remnants of this movement can still be found, is the birthplace of Japan’s Industrial Revolution.
Shuseikan was destroyed by fire once but was rebuilt in 1865 as a machine factory with Dutch machine tools that did work such as metal processing and the repairing of ships. Engineers were also invited over from England as the first spinning mill in Japan was built. It is said that a hundred weaving machines were in operation during the height of its prosperity.
The samurais of Satsuma filled with the spirit of enterprise as they willfully chose to face difficult situations eventually played a central role in the Meiji Restoration (around 1868), which significantly changed Japan with political rule being shifted from the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Government.
The Shuseikan project, which a domain lord took over himself, was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2015 as the Former Shuseikan and a Site of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution. It is also highly praised around the world.
Satsuma Kiriko glassware and Satsuma earthenware are famous for their elaborateness and beauty
The Satsuma spirit also lies in the traditional craft arts of Kagoshima City. The crystal glass craft products of Satsuma Kiriko glassware, which the Satsuma Family was involved in to make products that could be shipped overseas, is one such art form.
Nariakira built a laboratory for colored glass inside Kagoshima Castle and was able to produce colors such as crimson, indigo, purple, and green. The deep red here was the first to be developed in Japan and was praised as “the crimson glass of Satsuma”.
Satsuma Kiriko glassware has been fading for over a hundred years since Nariakira passed away, but Satsuma glass art, which is descended from the Shimadzu Clan, revived it in 1985 in the Iso area, which is associated with the art form. It is characterized by and adored by fans overseas for the uniquely engraved patterns on transparent glass stacked with colored glass as well as the gradations of the colors.
Satsuma earthenware, which was started about four hundred years ago by the seventeenth lord of the Shimadzu Clan, Yoshihiro Shimadzu (1535 – 1619), consists of both “white Satsuma” and “black Satsuma”. White Satsuma has fine crazing on a milky white surface with detailed illustrations of objects such as animals and plants painted in various colors including red, blue, green, and gold. It was first exhibited at the 1867 Paris World’s Fair and was acclaimed for its artistic quality.
Black Satsuma is earthenware made for the common people. It is characterized by its deep black luster produced by the iron-rich volcanic soil and its rustic features. On the left center of the photo is a cup for warming shochu known as Kuro-joka. On the right side is a conical cup known as Sorakyu, which cannot be placed on a table. It is said to have been named so after the terms “sora” (here you go) and “kyu” (bottoms up) before all of the shochu is drunk.
“Rokugatsudo” summer lantern festivals with fantastic lights
There are many festivals that are deeply associated with the Shimadzu Family in Kagoshima City. The Rokugatsudo lantern festivals, which are said to originate from the nineteenth lord of the Shimadzu Clan, Mitsuhisa Shimadzu (1616 – 1695) are summer festivals that are held in June in the old calendar (July in the Gregorian calendar) at shrines and temples in Kagoshima Prefecture. The lights of the lanterns with colorful and brilliant paintings on them are fantastic. They are held almost every night in Kagoshima City all throughout July. Please be sure to visit one if you plan on going to Kagoshima City during this season as there are also busy stalls that are set up at night.
Recommended model courses that easily let you experience the land of the samurais
Terminal in front of Kagoshima-Chuo Station
Kagoshima-Chuo Station. The rooftop Ferris wheel commands a panoramic view of the city.
Museum of the Meiji Restoration
Various exhibitions using high-tech instruments such as robots to show in an easy to understand way the roles that the samurais of Satsuma (Kagoshima) played in the history of the Satsuma domain and the Meiji Restoration. There is also a replicated room of Tenshoin (Princess Atsu) (1836 – 1883), who was the adopted daughter of Nariakira Shimadzu and the wife of the thirteenth Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Monument commemorating Xavier’s stay in Kagoshima
A monument commemorating the Spanish missionary Francis Xavier, who visited Japan in 1549. Kagoshima is also the first place in Japan where Christianity arrived.
Shiroyama Observation Deck
Located on a small mountain at an altitude of 107 meters, overlooking sights such as Mt. Sakurajima and Kinko Bay. Also a recommended spot for night views.
The hottest entertainment district in southern Kyushu, lined with cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, boutiques, and more. Named after Meijikan (also known as Tenmonkan), which was a facility built in 1779 for astronomical observations.
The City View Bus is a good way to travel when sightseeing in Kagoshima City. The one-day Welcome Cute ticket (1,000 yen) for visitors from abroad is a money-saving and convenient pass that lets you on busses, streetcars, and a ferry to Mt. Sakurajima.
Kagoshima City has monuments of samurais everywhere you go with many sights such as the Road of the history and culture with its stone walls and beautiful flowers. Freely use your Welcome Cute and take this chance to explore.
The theme for the next issue that will be released on August 25 is food. Wait for its abundance of information on delicious meals!