Whenever we have a long weekend, we try to take every opportunity to explore Kyushu. This time we decided to venture south to Kagoshima. We were blessed with a surprise visit from our friend Seth and couldn’t wait to show him around this little part of the world. Since Seth is from Hawaii, he already was familiar with a few aspects of Asian culture from the many settlers and travellers in Honolulu and this experience showed him where some of that influence comes from. We all were excited to venture south and see something new.
Our first stop was in Hyuga. Jon could not let Seth leave japan without trying the most delicious okonomiyaki from his favorite little shop. After lunch, we continued south to Kirishima where we visited a shrine, found a campground, soaked in the fancy Ebino Kogen Hot Spring and ate dinner at a little restaurant in the Kirishima Onsen Village. In the morning, we hiked Mt. Takachiho. It was a fairly short hike, a bit painful and very rewarding. The view was worth the sore feet and calves. We felt like we were trekking on Mars!
A few Ebino Kogen tips:
- There are two open campsites in the area. One at one end of Kirishima Onsen Village (where the food is) and one at the other end. They are about 30 minutes from each other. If you choose to stay at えびの高原キャンプ村 near the Ebino Hotel and Ebino Hot Spring, it takes about 30 minutes to drive to the nearest convenient store or restaurant in Kirishima Onsen Village but they do give you discounted passes into the Ebino Hot Spring. If you stay at 霧島高原国民休養地, it is within a few minutes drive or walk to food and it has a small indoor onsen. The latter is best if you have limited transportation but both are great.
- Wear CLOSED-TOED shoes that are suited for lava rock, uneven ground and with lots of traction. Kaya decided to leave her boots behind and trek with her new hiking sandals… OUCH.
- If you hike Mt. Takachiho and get to the top of the first peak, keep walking along the rim until you see a sign to the actual summit. It will be a little discouraging but once you start, it is really not bad. And it is totally worth it! Plus, the second climb is mostly steps making it a little easier to reach the top.
- If you hike Mt. Karakuni, make sure to go when the view is clear of fog. Nothing is worse than getting to the top after a long hike and unable to see anything but fog.
After our hike, we continued south. We planned to spend the day and camp at the Sarugajo Gorge and drive through Sakurajima island the next day, but after finding out that the campground and the roads were closed to Sakurajima due to the typhoon, we had to change our plans. Instead, we drove around the bay and took the short ferry ride to Sakurajima from the other side. The island treated us to a park full of life-sized dinosaurs and a free foot soak overlooking the ocean. When we returned to Kagoshima City, we took Seth to his first 100-yen train sushi restaurant and found a campground outside of the city to rest our tired bodies.
Driving further south, we headed for Makurazaki where we met our fellow JETs from Kagoshima and Miyazaki for a joint event. We took a boat from a fishing pier to what seemed to be our own private beach and spent the afternoon snorkeling, floating with jellyfish (yikes), and grilling meat and veggies. It was a blast and felt like we were literally shipwrecked or on Survivor! We finished the night at a free campground overlooking the ocean, slurped big bowls of tsuyu ramen (the area’s specialty fish-broth ramen) and a nice soak in the nearby onsen.
We finally headed back up north after saying goodbye to Seth at the bus station in Kagoshima. But first we took some time to explore the city and get some lunch in an area that resembled the cobbled streets of Europe. With so many foreign options, naturally we had to take advantage of the opportunity and ordered two pizzas. We fell in love with Kagoshima City and hope we can return someday!
Even though we enjoy climbing mountains and exploring the big cities, returning to Nobeoka after a long weekend reminds us of how grateful we are for our little home. As much as we like the options that a large city offers, we are constantly reminded of all the special things about our little Japanese town. We are blessed to live in Nobeoka in our tiny apartment surrounded by beautiful rivers, warm beaches and the kindest people.
Check out a few more photos from the trip! Click to enlarge.