December 10th. Ibusuki to Sakurajima.
A good, quiet night so I can recommend Yamagawaminato Iokaido for an overnight stay. Quite a lot of activity on this Sunday morning, as people arrive to stock up on Katsuobushi. There is even a small bus tour, stopping to make purchases before 9am. We depart and make it back the 15 minute drive to Tamatebako Onsen. We are the first to arrive, still a few minutes early for a 9.30 opening.
The entrance building is a modern, unimpressive, concrete structure which belies the experience within. Well, not the washing area which is small, only 8 washing stations, functional and rather cold as the door to the rotenburo is permanently, propped open. Most people do not come to this onsen to wash and shave, though soap and shampoo are provided.
It is the outside bath that makes the place. A very spacious bath, overlooking a vast expanse of sea, so that, as you relax, the line between the onsen and the bay, all but disappears. It is as if you are wallowing in a hot ocean.
Of course, sunset affords wonders and at night, stars and fishing boats add to the pleasure but anytime this place is splendid. The men’s and women’s sides are alternated and although one side affords a view of Kaimondake the other is dominated by a, very close and spectacular, massive looming above you. Either option is a joy.
As I soak, early on this Sunday morning, this magnificent bath is shared with no more than 3 others. Fabulous!
＊Tamatebako onsen ; 510 yen / adult
From Tamatebako we make for Nagasakibana. This is a rocky outcrop of lava into the sea with a small lighthouse, a shrine and a lot of exceptionally tacky gift shops. The rust stained, concrete buildings falling into disrepair; the elderly shopkeepers wrapped in hanten, huddled round oil stoves waiting for customers for the rubbish on display, like the stuffed turtles, which feature prominently – this being the origin of the story of Urashima Taro – all contribute to a real, late Showa Japan experience.
I would avoid this spot unless you are into the time slip sensation.
Next, we visit a park of some sort with a camp-ground nestling under Kaimondake but we leave quickly.
Heading for Kagoshima we stop for lunch at Ibusuki michi-no-eki. D. is impressed by the obento on sale, which were inspired by the local highschool students, even after she had eaten one. The bakery is not bad either. This, plus the sea views and modern toilets, makes it an excellent place to stay. Another trip perhaps?
Kagoshima and Sakurajima Ferry
On to Kagoshima where we hit heavy traffic matched by the rain. We note long, and I mean long, queues of cars waiting to enter shopping centre car parks. We get caught in this and are unable to find a space in a vast Aeon parking area, so we leave and patronize a smaller supermarket without problem.
Thus, supplied we head for the Sakurajima ferry. We arrive and are surprised to find that we can drive straight on to the ferry and are underway within a few minutes. As we board the ferry, the rain clears and the volcano stands stark against a sudden blue sky.
From the ferry we drive up to Yunohira observation point on the volcanoes flank. From here, there is a clear view of Sakurajima on one side and Kagoshima city, across the water, on the other side. Worth a visit.
The Arimura lava field is another interesting place to walk around if the fumes from Sakurajima are blowing the other way.
＊Sakurajima Ferry ; 160 yen / adult, 1600 yen / car (~5m.)
After the Observation point, we go for a walk along the water’s edge just by the ferry port. This seems a good walk but it would be a 4.6km. round trip and it is getting dark, so we make do with part of the way and them drive to our michi-no-eki for the night. Tarumizu michi-no-eki is long and thin, stretched out along the sea. Parking near the toilet is limited. If this is not a priority for you, there is parking with a sea view. This michi-no-eki has an onsen, but we didn’t try it.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.