The Sakura Sakura Onsen in Kagoshima

Because Kagoshima is located in the heart of the Western Japan volcanic belt, it has an abundance of onsen. So much so that even the local sento (銭湯 public baths), which is usually regular water in Japan, uses onsen in Kagoshima. My friend’s husband, who grew up in Kagoshima, apparently thought that all the sentos in Japan used onsen until he came to Tokyo for college and learned different.

After stopping by the garden cafe, we went to Sakura Sakura Onsen (さくらさくら温泉). Their onsen is a mild-acid sulfur spring and is said to be effective for treatment of neuralgia, stiff shoulders, exhaustion, rheumatism, sprain, and external wounds. So…pretty much everything!

But what they are really famous for is their mud pack. First off, I should probably warn you that the smell is foul. So so foul. It’s a mixture of rotten eggs and mold…but you know what I mean if you’ve ever gotten a whiff of sulfur. Although smelling it from afar and having the sulfur drenched mud on your whole body is a different thing all together. But no worries! Once we started lathering the mud on our bodies, the smell was so bad that my nose just stopped smelling anything at all. Problem solved.

The next step is to let the mud on your face and body dry. (Side note: it takes a while to dry if you spread the mud on too thick so it’s better to keep it on the thin side.) There were a few other people besides my friend in the roten-buro (露天風呂 outdoor bath) area, standing around waiting for the mud to dry, and we were all laughing at each other over how silly we looked. And of course every other word out of our mouths were “Kusai! (smelly!),” because it really was.

Once the mud dries, all you have to do is wash it off with the onsen shower and voila! You may still stink of sulfur but your skin will be shiny and smooth like a newborn baby! Of course, you don’t have to do this mud pack at all. It’s not mandatory and you can just enjoy the onsen and roten-buro outside. But it’s fun and silly so I would definitely recommend the experience, if you don’t mind being a little stinky for a few days after.

On our way back, we saw a waterfall and stopped by to admire it. Maruo Falls (丸尾の滝) may look like any old waterfall. But in fact it’s quite rare because it is a hot waterfall. That’s right. The water flows from the onsen source of Sakura Sakura Onsen! Also, we were there during the daytime but the waterfall is apparently lit up at night, so you can enjoy the steamy view in the dark!
Here are some photos of the onsen and waterfall:
2324-7 Kirishima-takuchi
Kirishima-shi, Kagoshima JAPAN
鹿児島県霧島市霧島田口2324-7
TEL: 0995-57-1227
HOURS: 10:00am-8:00pm
ONSEN: Adults 700 yen, Kids 350 yen
MARUO FALLS (丸尾の滝)
Makizono-cho Takachiho
Kirishima-shi, Kagoshima JAPAN
鹿児島県霧島市牧園町高千穂

The Garden Cafe in Kagoshima

I fell completely in love with this cafe.
Wind No Mori is located on the property of a lovely couple, Mr. and Mrs. Nagase, who opens their home as an outdoor cafe on the weekends. And what a cafe it is.
Everything from the entrance sign, park benches, and garden deck were all handmade. Mr. Nagase even showed us the DIY pizza oven he made outside (which I forgot to take a photo of). Their property is vast and you can tell that they really enjoy their time there. I loved all the country home details.
The three of us chose a pretty blue picnic table to lounge while we had our cakes, coffee, and tea. Everything is self-serve here, so after giving our orders, we sat around the main house chatting with the owners while they got everything together. We were also introduced to their very shy but adorable dog!
Once everything was ready, we took it all back to our picnic table and enjoyed every last crumb and sip! Yum!
Here are some photos of the quaint garden cafe:
GARDEN CAFE – WIND NO MORI (ウィンドの森)
1576-4 Kirishima-taguchi
Kirishima-shi, Kagoshima JAPAN

鹿児島県霧島市霧島田口1576-4
TEL: 0995-57-3721
HOURS: 10:00am-4:00pm (open Saturdays & Sundays)
CAKE & DRINK SET: 500 yen

The Day in Kagoshima

After our amazing trip to Yakushima, we came back to Kagoshima and I got to spend the whole weekend with S and her husband before heading back to reality (aka Tokyo). 
Kagoshima is a really beautiful prefecture surrounded by many volcanic mountains (most of which aren’t active anymore). This means that they also have many onsen (温泉), or hot springs, to enjoy. Kagoshima is famous for many things including Sakura-jima (桜島), the still active volcano, and Kuro-buta (黒豚), the Kagoshima black pig (which I’ve never eaten because I’m vegetarian…but I hear it’s really good!).
They also seem to be very proud of the rich history they have, such as the Satsuma-han (薩摩藩), and you will see statues of various scenes from history all around the city. You can even listen to a recorded explanation of each scene. If you’re into history, you’ll love it.
The city of Kagoshima also has a very convenient tram system. One of the things I noticed was that every tram station had grass growing on the tramway. Apparently this is one of the city’s countermeasures for the urban heat-island effect which they started in 2006. And according to data regarding these areas, not only has the temperature gone down but so has the noise level. Isn’t that great?
I have a few more Kagoshima posts coming up, but until then, here are some photos of our day hanging out in the city! x
The beautiful tram station in front of the JR Kagoshima-chuo Station.
The statues of a scene in Kagoshima history…my friend said they are life-size statues!
Heading to the organic chikyu-batake cafe for lunch!
I got the delicious korokke set, which also included a salad bar.
We had a choice of regular, brown, or black rice to go with our set menu.
The tempura set looked delicious, too. You can see we were pretty happy with our lunch!
Kagoshima is also known for their Shiro-kuma shaved ice. Yum!
S and her husband are always fun to hang out with…love them both!
The prestigious Hotel Shiroyama has a fantastic view of Sakura-jima.
It also has a great view of the city below…and it’s all free! 😀

CHIKYU-BATAKE CAFE (地球畑カフェ 草原をわたる船)
3-17-1 Shimo-arata
Kagoshima-shi, Kagoshima JAPAN
鹿児島県鹿児島市下荒田3丁目17番1号
TEL: 099-201-7000
HOURS: 11:00am-10:00pm (closed Tuesdays)

HOTEL SHIROYAMA
41-1 Shinshoin-cho
Kagoshima-shi, Kagoshima JAPAN
鹿児島県鹿児島市新照院町41番1号
TEL: 099-224-2211

The View From Taiko-iwa in Yakushima

I could have sat there for hours.
This boulder with the fantastic view is called Taiko-iwa (太鼓岩), which means ‘large drum boulder’ in Japanese, and was part of our hike through Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡). But because S and I ended up taking so many photos here, I decided it deserved a post of its own.
Yakushima is an island largely composed of granite. It rose from the sea millions of years ago when the granite magma penetrated the Eurasian tectonic plate. I learned (i.e. eavesdropped on a tour guide walking behind us) that Yakushima is still rising about 1 millimeter per year. Isn’t that amazing?
Because of this, Yakushima’s mountains have granite boulders everywhere, although it may be hard to really tell because the forest covers ninety percent of the island. During our hike, we saw boulders of all sizes and shapes throughout Shiratani Unsuikyo, most of which were covered in moss. But Taiko-iwa is one of the more famous boulders for its view of the mountain range in Yakushima’s central region, also known as Oku-dake range (奥岳).
Taiko-iwa itself is 1,050 meters (approx. 3,400 feet) above sea level. From there you can see Miyanoura-dake (宮之浦岳), which is not only the tallest peak on this island at 1,936 meters (over 6,000 feet), but also the tallest mountain in the entire Kyushu region. The following six tallest mountains on Yakushima are also all higher than the tallest mountain on Kyushu mainland.
Am I the only one surprised that Yakushima has so many tall mountains, seeing as it’s not an island of volcanic origin? So interesting!
Oh and I almost forgot to mention this again…Miwa reminded me that much of Yakushima’s landscape was used in various scenes from the Studio Ghibli movie Mononoke-hime (もののけ姫), also known as Princess Mononoke. You can see the location of the famous “Damare kozo! (黙れ小僧!)” scene with Moro (the big white wolf) and Ashitaka (the boy) is based on Taiko-iwa.
Well, this post certainly ended up being a lot longer than I originally planned.
I wouldn’t change a thing about our hike that day but one thing I have to remember for next time I’m in Yakushima is to get a wide angle lens for my camera. I currently only have a pancake lens and the photos below don’t even compare to how vast and breathtaking our view from Taiko-iwa was. You know how a pancake lens zooms in on the whole picture.
But then again, these photos may be just enough for you to want to go see for yourself! x
Take a look:
Our amazing view of Oku-dake from Taiko-iwa.
The slit you see through the forest is Anbo River (安房川).
S and I taking in the grand view on the side of Taiko-iwa.
It’s really not a hard hike at all so everyone should stop by Taiko-iwa for the view!
We didn’t bring anything but Taiko-iwa is also a great spot to rest and eat your obento.
The obligatory shoe photo…I don’t know why but someone suggested we do this 😀
The fall was quite steep from Taiko-iwa, if you were wondering. Yikes.
Your phone signal is within range at Taiko-iwa, just in case of an emergency.
S and I taking a little break before heading back down the path.
I was too scared but S obviously had no qualms standing on the edge.
So happy to have taken in the fabulous view at Taiko-iwa!

The Cafe Jurin in Yakushima

On our first day in Yakushima, we stopped by this quaint cafe for lunch.
Cafe Jurin is located close to Yakushima Airport and we both fell for the outdoor seating behind the old building. The interior was mostly made of sugi wood and 
826-31 Koseda Yakushima-cho Kumage-gun, Kagoshima JAPAN
鹿児島県熊毛郡屋久島町小瀬田826-31
TEL: 0997-43-5454
HOURS: 10;00am-5:00pm
CLOSED: Mondays

The Shiratani Unsuikyo Hike in Yakushima

Our trek through Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡) in Yakushima was magical.

There is really no way I can explain to you how amazing this forest is. This was the highlight of our trip and as the sun was out and the birds were singing, S and I couldn’t have asked for a better day to hike there. After our breakfast by the river, we drove up to the entrance of Shiratani Unsuikyo. The drive up the mountain was long and winding (about 30 min.) but it gave us a fantastic view of the mountain range.

Once there, we got our gear together. Very amateur gear, I can tell you. This was only the second time I’d worn my hiking shoes (they made their debut on Mt. Fuji). But we were beyond excited and soon we set off into the forest!

Shiratani Unsuikyo, designated as a forest for recreational use in 1972, is a stunning mixture of lush plants, unique rocks, and woodland creatures. The forest is approximately 424 hectares (over 1,000 acres) of hikers paradise, located along the Shiratani Ravine at 600 to 1,000 meters (approx. 2,000-3,000 feet) above sea level. We saw so many types of subtropical evergreen plants, including Yakusugi (屋久杉), the ancient Japanese cedars that are over 1,000 years old. We skipped from rock to rock, crossing over the ravine several times. We also bumped into deer and monkeys that live in the forest. They were gracious hosts in letting us walk through their territory without a worry in the world (I’m looking at you, monkeys in Nikko).

Did I also mention that this forest is covered in moss? Lots and lots of moss! Of the approximately 1,600 species of moss of found in Japan, a whopping 600 of them can be found right here. Isn’t that amazing?

We ended up hiking through all the trails around Shiratani Unsuikyo for about five hours. I loved how some parts of the trail had stone or wood paths laid out, whereas other parts you just had to maneuver through the forest on your own, following the pink ribbon that you see tied to branches here and there (we may or may not have taken a wrong turn a couple times). Although there were many people hiking the same area, we were surprisingly alone for most of it. It’s really the most fabulous feeling being surrounded by so much nature.

S and I started off the hike stopping every other second to gasp over a certain view or to take a picture, or sometimes doing both simultaneously. But we soon discovered that we were not skilled enough camera-people to capture the entire beauty of this lush green forest and decided that we would just take it all in with our senses.

——————————————————————————————————————
Sight…lean back to admire the old towering Yakusugi tree.
Smell…breathe in the pristine air, oh so fresh.
Sound…echo of water trickling down the ravine.
Taste…the excitement around every corner of the trail.
Touch…brush our hands over the soft damp moss.
——————————————————————————————————————

Okay, I cheated a little on the ‘taste’…it’s not really a flavor, but it was no less true! Despite enjoying parts of the forest without our cameras, I still ended up with over 60 photos when I first narrowed them down. Every part of this forest was a postcard waiting to happen and it was almost humanly impossible to stop taking pictures. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about once you step foot in Shiratani Unsuikyo yourself.

But until you do, here are some photos:

Full of smiles after our amazing hike in Shiratani Unsuikyo 😀

The Breakfast by Miyanoura River in Yakushima

I think this quote may be true because I am always quite happy when away on vacations or short breaks, which is usually the only time I eat breakfast (unless pancakes at 2pm can still be considered breakfast). This was especially true on our second day in Yakushima.
Lodge Yaedake Sanso, where we stayed, was located right by Miyanoura River. Our lodge was actually the closest one to the river and our terrace had a great view of both the river and the mountain range. But despite the lovely table and chairs out on our terrace, we ambitiously decided to eat our breakfast down by the river.
We woke up bright and early and headed down to the river with our breakfast, which consisted of instant soup and several types of bread we bought at Hiro Bakery the day before. I especially loved the purple yam and sweet potato bread. So good and filling!
S and I discussed our plan for the day and raved over how good it felt to be outside while eating breakfast. We were at times talking in whispers because everything around us was so calm and quite. It almost felt rude to disturb the stillness.
That didn’t last once we discovered the hammock though! I’m a tiny bit obsessed with hammocks (I would hang one in my apartment if I could) and had to ooh and ahh over it. Then we both had to try it out. And then of course we had to take a picture of us both on it…that was a little tricky as I almost flipped us over! But darn it, if I had known about the hammock the night before, I probably would have slept in it all night!
As much as I would have liked to stay on the hammock, time was ticking. So with a last wistful look at the hammock, we checked-out of our lovely lodge and headed off to our hiking adventure in Shiratani Unsuikyo!
Here are some photos of breakfast:
HIRO BAKERY
1877-21 Anbo Yakushima-cho
Kumage-gun, Kagoshima JAPAN
鹿児島県熊毛郡屋久島町安房1877-21
TEL: 0997-46-2888
Hours: 7am-7pm