My favourite moment of our long weekend away to Kagoshima was sitting in a Lawson’s cafe (convenience store) overlooking Mount Sakurajima, which is a large active volcano. Talk turned to volcanoes and fiery deaths. Dan picked up his phone and typed ‘most active volcano in Japan’. The answer: Sakurajima. He looks at me, slightly pale, and says “Well, that’s not good. It’s right THERE!” It took that moment (and the giggles that followed) for us to realise the reality of our nice weekend away; it was one in pursuit of volcanic activity.
Turns out we got to enjoy volcanic activity smells only, as rancid sulpher filled the air. Still, it was an extraordinary visit to Sakurajima island, which is dominated by the towering volcano. On Sunday, with the weather clear, we took a ferry (a very common means of transport for us these days!) to the island. On arrival we realised that we had no means or plan of how to actually travel round. Fortunately, Dan has a Japanese driving licence, so a few confused conversations later, we took off in our hire car.
First stop, we drove to a viewing platform part way up the volcano. You could see for miles across the whole city and up towards the volcano summit. After this we drove to a lava boulder field. This was pretty spectacular! You got a real sense of the force of nature as you could wonder among the lava boulders, ghosts of past eruptions. The sand was a rich black and only a few plants are able to grow in this hostile place.
We then drove a little further around the volcano to a famous torii shrine gate, which is mostly buried thanks to a large, and unexpected, eruption in 1914. Initially the locals dug the gate out again, but then decided to re-bury it so it could stand as a memorial of the eruption and those it killed. It certainly is a stark reminder. I have stood under many torii shrine gates gazing up at history, but never have I looked down over one. We actually found there was more than one buried gate, later discovering a second in a so called ‘power spot’. Both gates gave us the chance to marvel in wonder at the volcano and the dramatic scenery surrounding us.
We didn’t fit in a full black sand bath, which the resorts by the volcano are famous for. Still, it was a cold day and we managed to find the time for a foot spa. The only issue is that was a foot spa outside, and so ensued a confused state for us both, as out feet were scolded whilst the top of our bodies remained very cold. It was an experience…
I would highly recommend Sakurijima to those that have the chance to travel all the way to the end of Kyushu island! It was a dramatic and powerful experience.