Japan’s landscapes carry a gentle aura often associated with its polite society. However, by nature every card has a flip side. In contrast with the softness of sakura petals, and the lively colours of autumn, the wildness and ferocity of Japan manifests in the untameable volcano that is Sakurajima.

Table of Contents

  1. All about Sakurajima
  2. Meeting Prehistoric creatures at Sakurajima
  3. Planning a Hike on Sakurajima
  4. Onsen and Hotels around Sakurajima

All about Sakurajima

Geography

Sakurajiima (桜島, meaning “Cherry Blossom Island”)is the most active volcano in Japan. With a height of 1,117 meters and circumference of 50km, it stands tall in the middle of Kagoshima Bay (also known as Kinko Bay) as the symbol and pride of Kagoshima (鹿児島). Incidentally, Kagoshima Bay was actually created by Sakurajima’s eruption about 30,000 years ago. 

Further eruptions took place from thereon at a record of 17 huge eruptions to date. A landmark eruption occurred in 1914, wherein the once singular island transformed into a peninsula connected to Osumi Peninsula (大隅半島) through an overwhelming flow of lava. That’s a whole lot of lava mind you. 

Even so, still unsated, Sakurajima erupts almost constantly ever since. It releases thousands of small explosions yearly, spilling ash around the mountains. Amazingly, even with the unpredictable coming of a massive eruption, life continues on with around 600,000 people living near the active volcano. Imagine having ash coughed up on you on a regular basis. But that’s their reality.

Is it Safe to Visit?

Yes, there are emergency procedures and shelters set-up in the event of an eruption.

In any case, the volcano is monitored constantly. It is highly unlikely that a huge eruption will occur without any telltale signs. If you are still concerned, check out Japan Meteorological Agency’s homepage for volcanic activity announcements. 

Access and Getting Around Sakurajima

Getting to Sakurajima

Sakurajima can be reached via ferry.

Access to the ferry terminal (Sakurajima Port) includes:

  • 10 minute walk from JR Kagoshima Station
  • 5 minute walk from Suizokukan-guchi Tram Stop
  • City View, Nangoku Bus, Kagoshima Kotsu Bus Stops (Kagoshima Aquarium, Suizokukan-mae or Sakurajima Sanbashi) 

The ferries operate around the clock at a reasonable fare of 200 yen for adults and 100 yen for children. The trip takes only 15 minutes! 

It is also possible to ferry private vehicles across, subject to a different fare rate. 

Getting Around Sakurajima

Whether it is by public transport or a private vehicle, travel around Sakurajima is convenient.

The easiest mode of transport is by car. Car (and bicycle) rentals are available in Sakurajima City or Kagoshima Airport. It would take an hour to drive around Sakurajima’s coast.

For non-driving travellers, the Sakurajima Island View Bus loops around the island bringing visitors to the Island’s major attractions. The fare rate is subject to distance, but a one day pass is easily affordable at only 500 yen!

For a stress free experience, opt for a sightseeing bus tour or a guided tour.

Best Time to Visit

Sakurajima is a great place to visit any time of the year, but for an extra special holiday try to visit at these times. There’ll be a huge crowd, but it’ll be worth it!

Spring

Home to hundreds of sakura trees, Sakurajima is a good spot for cherry-blossom viewing. Visit in late March or early April to catch a glimpse. 

Summer

For an extra special trip, check out Kagoshima’s Official Tourism Website for scheduled events, especially during summers. Think fireworks! 

For a limited time in summer, the commuter ferry between Kagoshima and Sakurajima transforms into the Sakurajima Summer Pleasure Ferry Cruise (桜島納涼観光船). Starting from 7pm - 9pm, the cruise offers a sunset view with Kagoshima Bay and Sakurajima Island as its background. The main event is the fireworks show that starts mid-cruise. 

Other summer events include the Sakurajima Hinoshima Festival (桜島火の島祭り) held at the foot of the volcano. 

Meeting Prehistoric Creatures at Sakurajima

A mere 15 minutes walk from Sakurajima Port is Sakurajima Dinosaur Park (桜島自然恐竜公園). As its name implies, the park has a number of playground equipment in the form of dinosaurs. It is a great place for families with children to visit. Kids love it! 

The park is also home to various flower trees and shrubs that bloom throughout the four seasons. Visit in spring for a breathtaking view of the blooming of over 400 cherry blossom trees.  

Planning a Hike on Sakurajima

Sakurajima Visitor Center

An information centre cum mini museum to learn more about Sakurajima, from its volcanic activity and history of eruptions to the various life forms on the island. Located right beside the ferry terminal, it is the first stop on the journey around Sakurajima. 

Not sure where to start your hike? Ask here. 

Do not forget to visit their souvenir shop for limited edition goods! 

Nagisa Lava Trail

This roughly 3 Kilometers long walking trail of craggy blackened rocks along the coast was formed by lava flow from the 1914 eruption. The trail connects to Karasujima Observatory that offers a sight at the Sakurajima volcano and Kagoshima Bay. 

Yunohira Observation Point

One of Sakurajima’s main observation points, Yunohira Observation Point offers the closest look to Sakurajima’s crater at a distance of 2.5 kilometers away. It offers a particularly beautiful sunset and night view. Beginner hikers should proceed with caution however as this is the highest observatory. 

Onsen and Hotels around Sakurajima

Yogan Nagisa Park Foot Bath

Exhausted after a whole day of hiking?

Rejuvenate yourself in one of Japan’s largest foot spas (100 meters long!) located only 5 minutes away from Sakurajima Port. The hot water is sourced from a natural hot spring 1,000 meters underground. 

Bring a towel or get one as a souvenir from Sakurajima Visitor Center nearby.  

Rainbow Sakurajima’s Magma Onsen

Or maybe you would like to get clean? 

Wash off the sweat (and volcanic ash) from the day’s activities, and really get a good soaking. Adjacent to Yogan Nagisa Park Foot Bath is Rainbow Sakurajima, a government operated onsen resort. Magma Onsen is part of this facility but has daytrip options to the public. For shy visitors, private baths or family baths are also available. 

In Conclusion

Are you planning a getaway from your daily routine? Sick of the common vacation spots?

Here’s your chance to challenge Sakurajima. Brag to your friends that you’ve seen AND hiked an active volcano! 

Want to read more about volcanoes all over Japan? Check out our article: Guide to the Fiery Volcanoes of Japan

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