Kagoshima, Japan

Kagoshima City is located on Kyushu Island along the southern tip of Japan. The greatest legacy of Kagoshima-shi is collapsing the Tokugawa shogunate who ruled from 1603 until 1868 while restoring imperial rule and spearheading Japan’s modernization. Along with its historic landmarks are a bustling shopping district, several museums, a serene and scenic waterfront and Japan’s warmest climate.

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1 Kagoshima Port in Kagoshima, Japan

As your ship sails through Kinko Bay, you are greeted by two sights. On one side are the plumbs of smoke rising from Mount Sakurajima, an active stratovolcano. On the other is the approaching skyline of Kagoshima City with a population of 600,000. Enjoy exploring the very walkable capital city of Kagoshima Prefecture.

Chuokoshinmachi, Kagoshima-shi, 890-0076, Japan
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2 Dolphin Port in Kagoshima, Japan

If shopping and eating with a seaside view sounds like the perfect combination, then head towards Dolphin Port. The stores of this mall are arranged along a two-tier, open wooden walkway. Enjoy the scenery while window shopping. Sushi fans should check out Mekkemon Restaurant where your favorite Japanese fish will beckon you as the dishes roll by on a conveyor belt.

5-4 Honkōshinmachi, Kagoshima 892-0814, Japan
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3 Waterfront Park in Kagoshima, Japan

Defining Kagoshima Port (not where your cruise ship will berth) are the South and North Wharf Terminals and Waterfront Park. This lovely, palm-lined greenspace and promenade hug the coastline and a canal. It is idyllic for sitting in the sun or a casual stroll. Along the way you can visit Dolphin Port and the aquarium. Waterfront Park’s best feature is scenic serenity.

5 - 4 Honkōshinmachi, Kagoshima 892-0814, Japan
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4 Kagoshima City Aquarium in Kagoshima, Japan

Kagoshima City is justifiably proud and protective of the marine life thriving in the adjacent seas. In 1997, the city opened the Kagoshima Aquarium. Its seven floors feature a diversity of plants and 30,000 creatures. The best showcase at Io World Kagoshima Suizokukan is the Kuroshio Great Water Tank. Schools of fish swim within this 400,000 gallon exhibit along with a whale shark, the world’s largest fish. The aquarium also hosts three daily dolphin shows.

3-1 Honkoshinmachi, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0814, Japan
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5 Dolphin Waterway Next to Sakurajima Ferry Terminal in Kagoshima, Japan

Kinko Bay defines the shores of Kagoshima. Within the 650 foot depth are native pods of Indo-Pacific plus short-beaked common dolphins. You may be lucky enough to see their graceful acrobatics in the open water. Or you can observe them from the walkway at Waterfront Park. They are often frolicking in the Dolphin Waterway adjacent to the aquarium and the Sakurajima Ferry Terminal in the background. What a delight to watch!

3-1 Honkoshinmachi, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0814, Japan
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6 Sakurajima Ferry Terminal in Kagoshima, Japan

Climb aboard the Sakurajima Ferry for the 13 minute ride between the ports of Kagoshima and Sakurajima. Although the scenery of Kinko Bay is delightful along the way, the visual highlight is Mount Sakurajima. This majestic stratovolcano has an elevation of 3,665 feet. Sakurajima most dramatic eruption was in 1914 although it regularly belches smoke and ash. Then stay awhile to observe the active craters, visit Shizenkyoryu Park (all about dinosaurs) and experience the au naturel hot spring baths at Magma Onsen.

4-1 Honkōshinmachi, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0814, Japan
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7 Yamakataya Department Store in Kagoshima, Japan

Kagoshima’s biggest, best and oldest department store is Yamakataya. Locally based, it was founded in 1917. This flagship store in center city offers everything from luxury brands to the basics. By the way, common among Japanese department stores are wonderful places to satisfy your appetite. The top floor is typically reserved for restaurants with a choice of cuisine and a city view. The basement has a food hall. Unlike American food courts with fast-food outlets, these offer fresh products grocery style, places to get a bento (a single serve, Japanese-style lunchbox) plus quick stop places serving local dishes.

3-1 Kinseicho, Kagoshima-shi, 892-8601, Japan
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8 Tenmonkan Shopping Arcade in Kagoshima, Japan

While in Kagoshima, the must-visit place for serious shoppers is Tenmonkan Shopping Arcade. This complex is enormous … about six by eight blocks and covered by an elegant glass canopy. Regardless if you are looking for high-end items, terrific bargains or a souvenir of your trip to Japan, you will find it here.

2 Kinseichō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0828, Japan
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9 Kagoshima City Hall in Kagoshima, Japan

Kagoshima Prefecture is located in the southernmost tip of Japan on Kyushu Island. Only about a third of its 1.6 million people live in the capital, yet Kagoshima is the center of its economy and culture. Government administration for the city and surrounding municipality has been conducted at this city hall since 1937. Of greater interest is the history of this site. In 1877, the imperial forces were headquartered here at a rice granary previously operated by the Satsuma Domain. When the Satsuma army tried to retake it, their defeat marked the end of the Satsuma Rebellion and the samurai while securing the rule of the Meiji Restoration that controlled Japan until 1912.

11-1 Yamashitachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0816, Japan
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10 William Willis and Kanehiro Takaki Statues in Kagoshima, Japan

There are seven pairs of sculptures around Kagoshima of historical people who helped shape the city, region and country. The collection is called the Tokishirube Statues. On the right is English physician William Willis. In the late 19th century, he was a principal of the local medical school, founded Akakura Hospital and helped spread British medical practices across Japan. On the left is one of his former students, Kanehiro Takaki. After eradicating beriberi disease, he founded Igaku Semmon Gakka in 1903. This was Japan’s first private medical college and the predecessor of Jikei University School of Medicine.

14 Yamashitachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0816, Japan
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11 Kagoshima Prefectural Exchange Center in Kagoshima, Japan

Although Kagoshima is an attractive city, it does not have an abundance of handsome modern architecture. One beautiful exception is the Kagoshima Prefectural Exchange Center. Inside is the Kagoshima International Association. Since it was founded in 1987, its mission has been to cultivate international cooperative projects, sponsor a library of materials in other languages plus promote and manage foreign student exchange programs. Kagoshima has sister city relationships with Naples in Italy, Perth in Australia and Miami.

14 Yamashitachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0816, Japan
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12 Former Kagoshima Prefectural Office in Kagoshima, Japan

The Former Kagoshima Prefectural stands in sharp contrast to the modern façade of its neighbor, the Kagoshima Prefectural Exchange Center. This Western-style, Neoclassical design was created by Sone Tatsuzō in 1925. Also spelled Tatsuzo Stone, he was one of the most accomplished Japanese architects of the late Meiji period. This structure is now the Prefectural Government Memorial Hall.

14 Yamashitachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0816, Japan
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13 Footbridge to Tsurumaru Castle Ruins in Kagoshima, Japan

Shimazu Tadatsune (1576 – 1638) was a feudal lord (daimyo) of the Satsuma Domain, a region encompassing much of today’s Kagoshima Prefecture. In 1602, he voluntarily professed his loyalty to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate and rulers of Japan until 1868. As a result, Shimazu Tadatsune was allowed to remain the head of the Shimazu clan. He managed his fiefdom (hon) from the Tsurumaru Castle after it was finished in 1604. Also called Kagoshima Castle, it remained the center of local political power until it was burned in 1874 and then seized by the imperial army at the end of the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877. All that remains today is the moat beneath this footbridge and a few stone walls. Most interesting are the bullet holes from the Battle of Shiroyama.

7 Shiroyamachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0853, Japan
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14 Reimeikan History Museum in Kagoshima, Japan

History enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy visiting the Reimeikan History Museum. It opened on the grounds of the ruined Tsurumaru Castle in 1983. Exhibits explain the region’s people, culture, folklore and arts from pre-historic times, through the Middle Ages and during the Shimazu clan’s rule in the Edo period. You will also learn how the city thrived during the Meiji Restoration, suffered during WWII and rebounded into the 21st century.

7 Shiroyamachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0853, Japan
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15 Tenshō-in Statue at Tsurumaru Castle in Kagoshima, Japan

On the grounds of the Tsurumaru Castle and adjacent to the Reimeikan History Museum is this statue of Tenshō-in. She was born in Kagoshima in 1836. When she was adopted by Shimazu Nariakira, one of the most powerful lords of the Edo period, she was given the name Atsu-hime. In that same year – 1853 – she was sent to Edo (renamed Tokyo in 1868) as a political move and became the third wife of Tokugawa Iesada, the 13th shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. Part of the legacy of Princess Atsu was helping to negotiate the unconditional surrender of the Edo Castle (now Imperial Palace) after the Battle of Kōshū-Katsunuma in 1868.

7 Shiroyamachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0853, Japan
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16 Kagoshima City Museum of Art in Kagoshima, Japan

Kagoshima City Museum of Art exhibits traditional and modern works by local artists plus select pieces from famous painters like Monet, Renoir, Picasso and Warhol. There are about 2,000 pieces in the collection. You will be impressed from the moment you walk beneath the large glass dome. People familiar with the unconventional realism style of French sculptor Auguste Rodin will recognize the bronze “Eustache de Saint Pierre” in front. This cast was one of the figures in “The Burghers of Calais” ensemble finished in 1889. It depicts the capitulation of Calais to England in 1347 when the town leaders were forced to surrender wearing nooses around their necks.

4-36 Shiroyamacho, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0853, Japan
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17 Modern Literature and Fairy Tale Museums in Kagoshima, Japan

One of several attractions to explore by walking along the History and Culture Road (Nakanohiratori Street) are the Modern Literature and Fairy Tale Museums. The former displays the works and tells the biographies of 28 famous authors associated with Kagoshima who lived after the Edo period. Adjacent, in a round tower characteristic of a castle, is the Maerchen Museum. This derivative of the German word for fairy tale is the perfect moniker for displaying stories by the Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carroll and other children’s classics including some from Japan and China. Kids have a wonderful time in this colorful and interactive environment.

5-1 Shiroyamacho, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0853, Japan
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18 Saigō Takamori Statue in Kagoshima, Japan

From the 12th through the 19th centuries, a class of military elite associated with clans dominated political and social power across Japan. These samurai or bushi were fierce warriors with a strict code of honor. Saigō Takamori was a samurai and native of Kagoshima. He instigated and led the Boshin War against the Tokugawa shogunate, a dynasty that ruled Japan during the Edo period (1603 – 1868). His victory and capture of Edo Castle (now the Imperial Palace in Tokyo) cemented the Emperor’s return to power at the start of the Meiji Restoration. Ironically, the new imperial government feared and wanted to eliminate the samurai. In response, Saigō Takamori led the Satsuma Rebellion against the Empire of Japan in 1877. They were defeated. When Takamori was wounded, he committed suicide (seppuku) rather than accept dishonor. Saigō Takamori is called the last great samurai.

4-36 Kagoshima-ken, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0853, Japan
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19 Houzan Hall in Kagoshima, Japan

Houzan Hall is the city’s main venue for the performing arts. Also called the Kagoshima Prefectural Culture Center, it regularly stages concerts, orchestras, operas and ballets from touring companies and well as by local performers.

5-3 Yamashitacho, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0816, Japan
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20 Komatsu Tatewaki Statue in Kagoshima, Japan

During the mid-19th century, Shimazu Tadayoshi, the daimyo of the regional Satsuma han, began active maritime trade with the Chôshû domain. The later controlled Nagato and Suô provinces (present day Yamaguchi Prefecture south of Hiroshima). The relationship prospered until Chôshû accidently shot a Satsuma ship mistaking it for an imperial vessel. Komatsu Tatewaki – this man wearing traditional samurai attire in front of Houzan Hall – negotiated a truce called the Sat-Cho Alliance in 1860. Part of the terms included a secret pact to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan’s ruling dynasty. Tadayoshi was later a diplomat in the early years of the Meiji Restoration.

5-3 Yamashitacho, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0816, Japan
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21 Kagoshima Prefectural Museum in Kagoshima, Japan

The Kagoshima Prefectural Museum has natural history exhibits in geology, geography and animal science with a focus on the local region. The most interesting is the dinosaur skeletons and other fossils plus a model of nearby active volcano Sakurajima. There is also a planetarium on the fourth floor.

1 Shiroyamachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0853, Japan
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22 Former Prefectural Archeological Museum in Kagoshima, Japan

This stone building along the History and Culture Road was built in 1883, six years before the city was renamed Kagoshima. Originally constructed as a pavilion, it has housed a promotion board and a museum but now appears abandoned. Hopefully, this handsome yet dilapidated structure will be renovated and repurposed.

1 Shiroyamachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0853, Japan
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23 Torii and Bird-shaped Tree at Terukuni Shrine in Kagoshima, Japan

This giant white concrete torii is the entrance to Terukuni Shrine honoring Shimazu Nariakira. It is also symbolic of his grand achievements in the local region and his influence on Japan’s modernization during the subsequent Meiji Resoration. This type of gateway is typical of a Shinto shrine in Japan except they are usually wooden and painted vermillion (red). The name torii means bird perch or bird abode. This explains the beautiful sculpted tree (topiary) of a bird with wide wings.

19 Terukunicho, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0841, Japan
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24 Heiden at Terukuni Shrine in Kagoshima, Japan

When Shimazu Nariakira, a daimyo of the local Shimazu clan, died in nearby Tsurumaru Castle in 1858, the revered leader was deified as a kami (Shinto deity) and renamed Terukuni-daimyōjin by Japan’s emperor. Terukuni jinja was then established in his honor. Terukuni Shrine has been rebuilt twice after it was heavily damaged during the Satsuma Rebellion (1877) and World War II. In addition to this hall of worship (heiden), there are several other buildings in the complex including a museum about the nearly four centuries of the Satsuma Domain.

19 Terukunicho, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0841, Japan
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25 Shimazu Nariakira Statue at Terukuni Shrine in Kagoshima, Japan

Although Shimazu Nariakira was only the 28th Lord of the Satsuma Domain from 1851 – 1858, he had an enormous impact on the region’s culture and industrialization. His fascination with everything Western led to his creating a shipyard, a manufacturing plant (Shuseikan) for textiles, iron and cannons, adopting foreigner’s military techniques and Morse code, creating a school for Western science and technology plus introducing cameras to Japan. His mentorship shaped two great Japanese men: Saigō Takamori and Ōkubo Toshimichi. The former overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate and instigated the Satsuma Rebellion. Ōkubo was a leader of the early Meiji Restoration and architect for modernizing Japan.

19 Terukunicho, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0841, Japan
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26 Yoshii Tomozane and Ijichi Shôji Statues in Kagoshima, Japan

In Chuo Park (Central Park) is another pair of sculptures in the Tokishirube series protraying key figures from the late 19th century. Yoshii Tomozane was instrumental in overthrowing Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867. This led to the return of imperial rule the following year. Ten years later, Ijichi Shôji – who was the head of military instruction for the Satsuma hu, a regional domain ruled by a daimyo (military lord) – was the strategist for the failed Satsuma Rebellion. This defeat solidified the emperor’s dominance, ended Japan’s isolation and set the course for modernization during the Meiji period.

4-1 Yamashitachō, Kagoshima-shi, 892-0816, Japan
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