TravelFilter: Travel options in southern Japan
January 4, 2008 1:50 PM   Subscribe

What is there for a married American couple to do in southern Japan / Kagoshima?

We will be traveling to southern Japan in 2009. We enjoy seeing sights, but don't like tour buses etc. Sunning on a beach, drinking and carousing at night, and some shopping otherwise would be great. For lodging, resorts or above-average hotels are preferred.

Anyone have any ideas?
posted by zephyrian to Travel & Transportation around Japan (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In the south, there are a number of excellent Ryokan - traditional Japanese country inns, in some regions often built around hot springs (those sometimes have a small additional fee to use the onsen, and many have very extensive spa facilities available). Most make or break their reputation on quality of service, food and the springs themselves, and you'll find the food far superior to anything served at western-style resorts. IMHO this is the only way to tour Japan, if you want to avoid the tour-bus crowd and really experience the country.

There are a number in Kagoshima. I've never visited that area but I have heard good things about a few. A friend stayed here and was very positive about it; i saw this one at the same site which looked interesting.

Around Kagoshima, I think most resorts are in and around Ibusuki, which is of course fabulous and has many such springs. Since the nicest Ryokan are here, they will be mostly pretty pricey.
posted by luriete at 3:05 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yakushima would be my recommendation. Haven't been there, but seems like a magical place.
posted by panamax at 4:14 PM on January 4, 2008

2nding going to an onsen - it can be an incredible experience. If you have tatoos you aren't allowed in, but if you get a (slightly more expensive) private room no one will ever know. You should look up onsen etiquette before you go (they'll try to explain it to you in Japanese - which may or may not be helpful to you).
posted by Craig at 4:35 PM on January 4, 2008

If you have tatoos you aren't allowed in

sure about this? The tatoo thing is to exclude yakuza types, so I don't think they'd care about two gaijin with a tramp stamp or tribal armband.
posted by panamax at 4:41 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: I can state that I have never had any trouble at onsen or o-furo (public bath centers), and I have a tattoo on my shoulder. The only time I was ever refused service anywhere in Japan (in over two years there) was in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, where the owner refused to serve me simply because I was a foreigner (I know it wasn't a language issue, since I speak conversational Japanese). Back to the question.

Yakushima is definitely recommended - and if you have any interest in the Japanese Space Program, the neighbouring island of Tanegashima has a base. Further south is the island of Amami-Oshima, which has a nice resort at the south end. South of that is Tokushima, where they have bull fights (of the bull wrestling another bull variety). Then there is Yoron island, which has a very good resort (I went to the one at Yoron, but only visited the one on Amami - notwithstanding that I lived on Amami for a year.

Back on the mainland island, Kagoshima city has some acceptable shopping districts, and Sakurajima, the volcano that continually spews ash onto the neighbouring city is a worthwhile day trip.

You don't indicate what time of year you will be there. Even though it is quite far south (the only more southern prefecture is Okinawa), it can be unpleasantly chilly in the winter, and don't forget the rainy season or the typhoon season, which bracket the hot humid summer.

Another thing you don't indicate is how long you'll be there, and if you will have the time to travel beyond Kagoshima, a Japan Rail Pass is an excellent investment. The shinkansen (bullet train) does not go to Kagoshima, but there is rapid service from Kago to the other cities on Kyushu (with Nagasaki, Beppu and Kumamoto having a lot to see and do). Miyazaki, the only prefecture in Kyushu that I didn't visit, has a Sea World type amusement park.

I recommend JNTO for their information about what festivals will be under way at the time of your visit - you can browse by location, too.

Have fun. It's been 13 years since I was there, so I'm sure much has changed, but the people are friendly, the food is good, and the sights can be marvelous.
posted by birdsquared at 5:03 PM on January 4, 2008

Wow, it's been 15 years since I lived in Kyushu. I was near Hitoyoshi in Kumamoto which is north of Kagoshima. There is a pretty nice boat trip you can take there down the river and visit some caves afterwards.

Fukuoka's pretty cool, but definitely Nagasaki. I liked visiting the islands off the west coast of kyushu. If you can get to a festival, do. Mount Aso in Kumamoto is kinda impressive. A town inside an ancient caldera.

Memories are a bit dim now, but yes, can be cold in winter with clear skies. Lots of rain in the monsoon season. Stay at a Love Hotel if you want.

Have fun.
posted by idb at 7:22 PM on January 4, 2008

Response by poster: Hi, submitter here again, thanks for the great comments. We will be traveling in late July; is that the hot/humid summertime? And, I expect we will be there for a week, if the area is interesting enough. We like to settle in to an area instead of hopping around.

Thanks again.
posted by zephyrian at 7:40 AM on January 7, 2008

I stumbled upon this post, so hopefully you're still interested in information (if you notice it). I lived/stayed in Kyushu for two summers, and I have a particular fondness for it and would like to return (maybe sometime not summer, however).

Kagoshima and all of Kyushu will be hot. And humid. It gets worse towards August (which I remember as the awfullest month, in terms of weather).

On my visit to Kagoshima, I think I got myself lost and went to an onsen unvisited by foreigners, and visited the botanical gardens. My sister went over to the volcano and went to the onsen there. There are some other things to do, but I'm not sure if it's a whole week's worth of entertainment, however.

Nagasaki is pretty far, but Miyazaki and Kumamoto (which my sister and I fondly called the Armpit of Japan, due to the sweltering August weather) are probably less than a couple hour's train ride away, and worth visiting, so I would look into those if you are feeling bored of Kagoshima. Kumamoto's even on the shinkansen line, for nice fast train times. Looking at the timetables, that trip would take a little over an hour each way.

Just as a side note, if you are interested, the current Taiga Drama (Atsu-hime) is set in the Kagoshima area, and the episodes so far have ended with a little bit of information about local historic sites pertaining to the series.
posted by that girl at 7:44 AM on March 5, 2008

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