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Monday, April 28, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 31 Rest Day In Kagoshima

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 31
Rest Day in Kagoshima
Wednesday July 31st, 2013

As I had never been to Kagoshima before I decided to take the day off from walking the pilgrimage route and check out some of the sights around the city as well as take a trip over to Sakurajima.

Sakurajima, Kagoshima, Japan

It was also a chance to get some laundry done. There was some fast moving cloud around but it promised to be a mostly sunny day. Just a minute away from my hotel was a stop for the Kagoshima City View Bus, a cheap tourist bus that visits many of the tourist spots around the town. I took it out to the north and started out at Sengan-en, the gardens at the site of the Shimazu Lord's villa.

It was the gardens designed by Sesshu in Masuda that first piqued my interest in Japanese gardens and now I do my best to visit any that I pass near to. Sengan-en is very large, with many different gardens and sites within it. I was particularly taken with the Kyokusui Garden where parties were held and poems composed in the time it takes a sake cup to float down the stream.

The Cat Shrine was also intriguing though nowadays a site leaning more to the kawaii aesthetic that blights so much modern Japanese culture. Next to the gardens was a small museum showcasing the early technological imports from Britain that Satsuma embraced. Nearby the more interesting building built to house the British engineers who installed the machinery.

Cat Shrine, Sengan-en, Kagoshima, Kyushu

I have come to enjoy these type of buildings, built in what at first appears to be European or American colonial style, but which on closer examination reveal Japanese elements.

From here I cut down to the small coast road and head towards the ferry terminal, stopping in at a couple of shrines. I pass a small white sanded beach with a lifeguard tower, but only a handful of bathers. After visiting another shrine I come upon a surprise, three stone bridges from the Edo Period reconstructed in a park.

Quite large and substantial, they would seem to be more western in design than the more commonly seen Chinese style. When I reach the ferry terminal I don't have to wait long for a ferry, they are very frequent. To tell the truth there is not actually a lot to see on Sakurajima. I visit the one small shrine of note, but otherwise there are a few onsens, which hold no great appeal for me, and a visitor center.

I guess the attraction of Sakurajima is the island itself, though technically no longer an island, and the active volcanoes that disappointingly are not spewing smoke and steam today. I am in time to catch a little mini tour bus which does a loop around the western side of the island. It stops at the Yunohira Observation Point partway up the mountainside and from here there are much closer views of the jagged peaks.

Back at the ferry port it's mid afternoon so I head back over to the mainland and wander through the city center towards my hotel.

My final stop is the St Xavier Church, a modern building built near the site of an older one commemorating the first visit by Xavier to Japanese soil in 1549. I had tried to visit early this morning while waiting for the bus but there was a funeral going on. Now its deserted and with the late afternoon sun streaming in through the large stained glass it is really quite beautiful.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 30

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