Mount Sakurajima is the most active volcano in Japan! Take in beautiful views as it erupts daily, and see why it is the symbol of Kagoshima!
Have you ever wanted to experience the wonders of a volcano, without being threatened by actual destruction? Natural disasters have always been one of those phenomenons that draws me in. When Matt planned out a trip to see Mount Sakurajima, the most active volcano in Japan (not to be confused with Mt. Aso, the largest), I was all in!
This volcano used to be its own island until a major eruption in 1914. Japan has high silica content in the magma, which causes more explosive eruptions. The explosive eruption of 1914 was powerful, but it was the massive (and months-long) lava flows that were unusual. For days lava spilled from the volcano engulfing many of the small islands around it and eventually connecting it to the mainland.
Today you are able to drive around the volcano. You can only get as close as 2 km to the active site, but there are different points set up as observation points for you to enjoy the views. The constant activity of Mount Sakurajima make this volcano a particularly rich source of information, and an object of close study; because of its proximity to Kagoshima, it is closely monitored.
The frequent eruptions and close monitoring are what make this volcano so safe to visit. Prior to major eruptions, activity stops and there is plenty of warning for those in the area. Pay attention to warnings here before you go.
Arimura Lava Observation area
Located near the lava flow from the 1914 eruption, you are able to take a small walk up to an observation area where you can see much of the vegetation that is growing on top of the lava flow.
In the parking area there are bathrooms, but also several vendors are set up to sell local trinkets. The kids were so excited to buy pumice after they watched an educational video about volcanoes on our way there. When we got home they experimented with it and found that it does indeed float in water! Only ¥10, too (ten cents)!
Many Hot Springs
This area is known for its natural hot springs, so choose your onsen and take a dip! National Lodgings Rainbow Sakurajima has a bath that is 100m underground. You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to use it!
There are rest stops in the area that have foot baths. This was my favorite view point of Mount Sakurajima. These long baths are heated perfectly and a nice way to relax. The particular foot bath that we stopped at was on the mainland, Tarumizu Yuttarikan rest area. It gave a great perspective of the volcano – just far enough to take it all in!
Living in Harmony with a Volcano
The people in Kagoshima and the surrounding area have learned to live in harmony with Mount Sakurajima. They are used to the ash that falls. We were lucky enough to witness one of its minor eruptions as the steam turned from white to dark gray! By the time we reached the lava observation area they were just finishing sweeping and cleaning up. It’s a daily occurrence!
The residents know they need to wash their hair twice to make sure they get the ash out. They also know it is alive and can cause incredible destruction; they take their evacuation drills seriously, and kids even wear helmets on their walks to and from school! It’s not uncommon to find shelters in the area.
I’ll admit, I was beginning to worry about what we would have for lunch. There wasn’t a lot around. We found a quaint little cafe in Kirishima. It was delicious! We were so hungry that when the food came out we didn’t even think to take a picture. It was a set menu with a few options to choose from. They served us a Thai noodle dish and lasagna, then brought us each a dessert! Highly recommended!
Plan your trip:
We stayed in Miyakonojo for a couple of nights while we were in the area visiting numerous sites. We stayed at the Vessel Hotel (convenient, clean and affordable).