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Kagoshima

Right down at the tip of Kyushu - the southernmost of Japan's four main islands - is the pleasant port town of Kagoshima. Kyushu's climate and the more mercurial temperament of its people has led to it being called the Mediterranean of Japan. If that is the case then Kagoshima is most certainly Naples, with a buzzing Japanese cafe culture and Sakurajima volcano - one of the most active on the Pacific 'ring of fire'. It has quietened down since a big eruption in 1914, but still belches smoke and ash daily. It is an impressive sight in itself and its island can be easily visited by ferry for views down into the crater. To see it in all its glory from the city, we recommend visiting Sengan'en Garden and taking a wander around the pretty Japanese-style landscape garden. Kagoshima Prefectural Museum of Culture (Reimeikan) is also worth a visit when staying in the area for it is home to an array of local artefacts of folklore, craft-works and arts.

Nature lovers will also appreciate the beautiful highlands, volcanic lakes, hidden historic shrines and remote ‘onsen’ (Japanese hot spring baths) scattered around in national parks near here; our favourite has to be Kirishima-Yaku National Park. Just south of the city along a scenic coastline, seekers of revitalising minerals can bury themselves in sand on the beach at Ibusuki – you may well recognise photographs of locals doing this unusual activity beneath colourful umbrellas as this has become a rather iconic image! Further south lies the subtropical, almost magical, island of Yakushima: heaven for those after complete and utter tranquillity, this remote spot has been awarded UNESCO Heritage Site status and offers scenic walking trails that crisscross through atmospheric moss, lush vegetation and ‘yakisugi’ 1,000-year-old cedar tree forests. To experience this lost world, we advise you to stay in the Sankara spa property that is a first-rate hotel offering modern comforts and striking views.

Much of the cuisine served in Kagoshima is unique to the region due to its isolated location so we recommend tasting these rare delicacies while visiting. Local dishes include herring fish sashimi, breaded pork in miso sauce and special type of ‘shocho’ liquor.

Thanks to the bullet train, the 1,400 km back to Tokyo can be done in less than seven hours, or there are connecting homeward flights from Kagoshima Airport if you are tempted by a quicker journey.

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