Last december, I went to Hita again to spend the New Year with my relatives. This time however, I first spent a couple days in Kagoshima area at the southwest, where I had wanted to go for a long time.
It takes 6 to 7 hours by train to reach the city of Kagoshima from Nagoya. This is mostly due to the lack of Shinkansen track for about half the distance between Fukuoka (north of Kyushu) and Kagoshima, requiring transfers with regular trains.
My plan was not to stay in Kagoshima but go to Sakurajima instead, an island with an active volcano, located only 15 minutes from the city by ferry. I was lucky: the hotel I was interested in still had a room for the night.
Let me clarify something before I continue: I am referring to Sakurajima as an island even though it is not (or not longer should I say) an island, since the lava flow connected Sakurajima to the mainland during the last major eruption in 1914.
Nevertheless, it is still an island in people's minds and the fact that the name has remained unchanged for almost a century clearly reflects it. In fact, the "jima" ending is a phonetic alteration of "shima", which writes 島 and means "island", therefore Sakurajima literally means "cherry blossom island". Had it been discovered recently, it would have probably been called Sakura-hantou, hantou (半島) meaning peninsula (literally, "half-island").
These considerations do not change the fact that nowadays, the volcano is still active and under strict surveillance. Not only several thousand people live on the island (!), but Kagoshima and its 600000 inhabitants are only a few kilometers away...
The crater almost continously emits fumes of steam, more or less visible from the peninsula depending on the day. It was rather "quiet" the day I went there, as the next picture shows:
Approaching the island:
My hotel was on the south coast, with a beautiful view:
But the real reason why I chose that hotel was its rotenburo (outside bath)...I am a real onsen lover and whenever I travel, I try to take advantage of those wonders of nature as much as possible. In that case, I only have two small complaints:
- the changing room, right next to the bath, is absolutely ugly (I guess they were trying to design a bunker). But it is easy to not notice it anymore once inside the bath, as the gaze is naturally drawn to the ocean...
- one has to wear a yukata because the bath is actually a shrine
Those tiny little details aside, it's a wonder: the bath is spacious, the view is fantastic, the place is quiet and the shrine adds a lot to the atmosphere:
The relaxation room:
I went to bed quite early to see the sunrise the next morning:
I then hopped into the rotenburo, had my breakfast, left the hotel and rented a bicycle to explore the island. Due to the volcanic activity, there are no hiking trails on Sakurajima and the "exploration" mainly consists in following the coast road, stopping at the observation spots. Here is the most famous one, in the heights:
Many lava trenches have been built to direct the lava flow to the sea in case the volcano erupts:
As well as shelters:
Another observation spot, at the southeast:
And as usual, some other shots to conclude: