The southernmost city of Japan’s four home islands, Kagoshima sits in the shadow of Mount Sakurajima, the country’s most active volcano. Mount Sakurajima has erupted and grown significantly in the last 200 years. The volcano dominates the approach into the natural harbour, and clouds mixed with smoke at its summit as a minor eruption greeted National Geographic Resolution. It provided a suitably dramatic backdrop for the day’s activities.
Some guests visited the volcano, taking a ferry across the harbour and landing on its lava-formed coastline. The Arimura Lava Observatory offered guests a chance to wander around the lava fields at the island’s base.
Other guests headed inland to the town of Chiran, first to visit the well-preserved samurai quarter with its impressive collection of restored and preserved houses – most of which are still homes today. The second destination was a little more somber: the Chiran Peace Museum dedicated to the Kamikaze pilots who attempted to defend their homeland during the closing stages of the Second World War. Built on Chiran Airfield, the museum tells the stories of many pilots who flew from the town during the Battle of Okinawa. In total, 1036 pilots died during suicidal missions to Okinawa in 1945; 439 flew from Chiran.
The afternoon provided an opportunity to visit Sengan-en Gardens. Established around the grounds of the residences of the powerful Shimazu Clan during Feudal Era Japan, the garden is now one of Kyushu’s most famous. Winding paths and meandering streams drifted past Japanese architecture and tea rooms, providing a peaceful end to the day’s activities.