Rich in blessings from the mountains! 7 recommended places in Southern Kyushu for you to visit this autumn Vol. 1
On Kyushu Island, which is located in the south of the Japanese archipelago, Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures are warm in climate and rich in nature because of their southern location. Among other areas in these prefectures, the area around Mount Kirishima, which was designated as the first national park in Japan, is blessed with nature’s bounty born from the volcanos. With a warmer climate than that of the main island from autumn to winter, the area is comfortable to stay in. You can enjoy beautiful scenery of various kinds as well as delicious food in the area.
Located not far from Kagoshima Airport, the area is easily accessible from both Tokyo and Osaka. From the airport, it is recommended to rent a car and travel around.
Mount Kirishima, the center of the area, is a still active volcano group. The main peak is Mount Takachiho, which is 1,574 meters above sea level.
Since there are lots of natural hot spring sources, you will come across scenes of onsen towns with steam rising up.
1. Mizonokuchi Cave (Soo City)A natural cave created by a volcanic eruption about 29,000 years ago, along with the following erosion over a long period of time. Turn around from inside the cave, and you will see a bright red torii gate through the entrance, just like a framed photo. As this area is filled with a hallowed air, it is now a popular “power spot.”
2. Hachiman Dai-jigoku (Yusui-cho Town)Among many onsen places around Mount Kirishima, this is the best place to feel the power of the volcano. The landscape with steam gushing out from the ground is popularly described as “jigoku” (“hell”). Be careful when you try to touch gushing hot spring water. Kurinodake onsen, which is located next to Hachiman Dai-jigoku, is a place where you can not only immerse yourself in onsen but also enjoy a steamed whole chicken and steamed black eggs cooked by the onsen steam.
Nearby there is “Kirishima Open Air Museum,” where the world-famous Yayoi Kusama’s art works are exhibited. You may want to visit it on your trip to the area.
3. South Hill Stable (Miyakonojo City)Enjoy horseback riding at a ranch with a cowboy movie-like atmosphere! Going through grassland, forests, and roads on a horse while seeing the natural surroundings of Kirishima, you will surely feel refreshed. There are courses which take 20 to 60 minutes, with staff members providing easy instructions. So, even if you are a beginner, you won’t have to worry. If you are an experienced rider, a 2-hour course going along the forest paths of Mount Kirishima may be suitable. The period from autumn to winter, when you can feel a cool breeze and enjoy colorful leaves, is the recommended season for horseback riding in this area.
As the horses are very docile, you won’t have to worry. And it is interesting to see that each horse has its own unique character.
4. Oura Shuzo Brewery (Miyakonojo City)Kyushu is widely known as a big shochu producing area. Oura Shuzo, a well-established shochu distillery with a history of more than 100 years, has been sticking to the traditional manual production without the use of machines and keeping a traditional distilling style using huge pots. During the shochu production season, from September to December, a shochu-making class and distillery tour are offered (in the morning on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, which may be changed according to circumstances).
As a “hands-on” experience, I joined in the production process for preparing koji, the key to the shochu production! First, I mixed steaming-hot rice well and then cooled it down.
This is the process to placing koji mold onto rice. The preparation of koji is an important point that decides the quality of shochu. I was trying to do my best, imitating the serious-looking attitude of the staff members.
As the koji would be actually used for shochu production, I really had to focus on what I was doing. And this time, the koji mold was successfully transferred to the rice!
There are lots more other recommended spots in this area! The rest will be coming up soon as well.
*The information herein is as of June 2019.