Kagoshima, a cycling journey to the Japanese southern pearl
Written by admin
On 31 May 2024

Written by Yue Zhou

Let’s discover the unparalleled beauty of Kagoshima, a hidden gem in southern Japan, through an immersive cycling experience.

Running through the historic, picturesque views of the Sakurajima volcano and the serene Kinko Bay by wheels, Imayoshi, who is an amateur cyclist, told us about his way of exploring Kagoshima.

On a cloudy morning in southern Japan, the humid air mixes with the sea breeze and the wind blows slowly across Hiroshi Imayoshi’s face. He stands near the harbour of Sakurajima, waiting for the weather to clear for a ride.

Dressed in a sleek, form-fitting cycling jersey of cobalt blue and jet black, Imayoshi, a lone cyclist, emerges at Sakurajima, Kagoshima. The jersey’s vibrant hues echo the colours of the clear sky and crystal blue sea, mirroring the natural beauty of Kinko Bay.

The skyscrapers and modern cities never vary. Kagoshima is the pearl in the southern part of Kyushu Island in Japan.

Thousands of tourists visit Japan for its rich historical culture and futuristic modern cities. Tokyo and Osaka are always their final destinations in Japan.

Kagoshima’s urban landscape seamlessly blends with the natural surroundings. The city, with its efficient transportation systems and historical sites, exudes a charm that reflects both cultural heritage and modern vibrancy.

The picturesque scene of Kagoshima resembles a dragon’s mouth holding a pearl, with Sakurajima Island at its centre. Sakurajima, one of the country’s most active volcanoes, often emits plumes of smoke visible from the city centre.

Hiroshi Imayoshi, 52, a former English teacher at a private school, started cycling twice a week after quitting his job.

“Kagoshima has the best bay and the clear sightseeing routes for people to enjoy from Kirishima to Sakurajima. You can either enjoy the mountain breeze or sea breeze at the same time,” Imayoshi says.

He is meticulous about every detail when riding, which speaks to his professionalism and passion for cycling. His streamlined and glossy helmet sits snugly on his head of windswept hair, with some strands peeking out. A pair of dark glasses over his eyes cannot hide his relaxation and joy when cycling.

“My bike, which I chose from Trek, is my loyal companion. It has three speed levels and two safety brakes, bringing me excitement and a safe ride,” he says.

Cycling in Kagoshima is like pedaling through history. The city’s historical significance is evident in every corner, from the iconic Sakurajima to the historical Kirishima Jingu Shrine.

Start your journey with a city view or ride around Kinko Bay where you can enjoy a grand and panoramic view of the Sakurajima volcano.

Sakurajima Volcano, an active volcano, has shaped the landscape and local culture, making it a unique cycling destination.

One of the most popular routes is the Kagoshima Bay Trail. The scenic path starts from inner Kinko Bay and circles around Sakurajima. The route runs through four cities: Tarumizu, Kirishima, Aira and Kagoshima, offering views of Kinko Bay and Sakurajima from different angles.

The total length is around 114.6 kilometres, with several stops along the way, ranging from modern cities to the tranquillity of the woods and mountains. Crossing the mountains broadens your view with beautiful sea scenes.

Cycling around the inner diamond of Sakurajima Volcano provides commanding views of both Satsuma Island and Ōsumi Island.

The route passes Senganen Garden, a traditional garden and stately home built in the 19th century by the Shimazu family. The ideal use of ‘borrowed scenery’ in Japanese culture incorporates Sakurajima Island and Kinko Bay as part of the garden’s background.

A couple in their 60s from Kumamoto, Yamato, say: “We found on the ‘Discover Kagoshima’ page that there is an adventurous cycling route where we can explore tourist spots and Kinko Bay scenery.”

For a more challenging ride, the Kirishima and Aira route might be ideal. It starts at Kagoshima Airport and follows an eight-shaped route through mountainous landscapes, warming your body and soul with peaks, and ending with the healing of hot springs.

Nothing beats a steaming ‘Onsen’ bath after a day of cycling. Apart from being a cycling paradise, Kagoshima is an SPA haven. A hot bath can always relieve the tiredness of a whole day’s ride.

Kirishima Onsen lies on the lower slopes of the Kirishima Mountains, with a distant view over Kagoshima Bay. It is one of the most famous hot spring resorts, known for its sulfuric, high-quality hot spring water and outstanding bath facilities.

If you are keen to cycle in Kagoshima, do not worry about bringing your own bike. The Kagoshima Government provides green city bikes for tourists and residents.

Chie Takayama and her two children enjoyed a bike ride with the rental bikes. “Cycling is our leisure outdoor activity on weekdays. My kids like to ride with me, and it creates a better family bond”, Chie says.

The bike rental stations spread across the city and beyond, making day trips around Kagoshima easier.

The Kagorin City Bikes are located at 25 different spots around Kagoshima City, with almost 200 bikes ready for pick-up and drop-off.

From CHUO station to the famous heritage spot Senganen Garden, tourists can opt for cycling as long as they wish, and switch to other modes of transport when they’ve had enough.

For those wishing to venture further, the Hisatsu Orange Railway allows travellers to take their bikes on board without dismantling them.

Kagoshima is more than just a ride; it is an immersive experience. Riders can explore a wide range of planned cycling itineraries designed by the Kagoshima Cycle Tourism Promotion Council.

As the sun sets, Kagoshima’s landscape transforms into a canvas of warm hues. The sky blazes with shades of orange, pink and purple, casting a magical glow over Sakurajima and the bay. The silhouette of the volcano against the twilight sky is a sight of profound beauty, symbolising the harmony of natural beauty and serene splendour.

Sweating, Imayoshi finishes his ride with a bowl of Samurai Ramen to celebrate his journey in Kagoshima.

“I feel refreshed” he says, wiping his mouth.

Samurai‘s ‘Bushido Spirit’ is the mark of Kagoshima and its traditions. The Samurai Ramen is in memory of their ‘Last Samurai’, Saigo Takamori, who is the pivotal role in Meiji Restoration.

Although Imayoshi seems expansive and cordial, when he is cycling, he has a solitary character and an impenetrable heart, much like a Samurai.

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