Izumi is a historic town in northern Kagoshima which was once populated by a large garrison of samurai guarding the border with the neighboring Higo domain.
Stroll around the historic buildings and immaculately preserved stone walls and feel as though you've been transported back to the time of the samurai.
Izumi is easily accessible from both Kagoshima and neighboring Kumamoto.
You can get there in just 15 minutes by bullet train from Kagoshima Chuo Station, or in an hour from Fukuoka. Alternatively, the Hisatsu Orange Railway provides a more scenic route to Izumi with a beautiful two-hour journey up the coastline.
A shuttle bus is available from Kagoshima Airport, which takes an hour and 30 minutes.
Along with the house and gardens of Sengan-en, and the samurai residences of Chiran in the south, Izumi is one of the best places to get a feel for Edo period Kagoshima. The houses in this area were built over 400 years ago to strengthen the borders of the Satsuma domain.
Many samurai were once stationed here, and the carefully constructed stone walls and remaining houses give us a rare glimpse into the everyday life of a feudal warrior. Around 150 buildings from the Edo period remain today, and exploring them can reveal some surprising secrets.
The Izumi Fumoto History Museum is a good place to start exploring this authentic Edo period samurai wonderland. You can see a wonderfully preserved collection of swords, armor, and scrolls passed down in the samurai families of Izumi.
An aerial overview of the town provides a great teaser for the route ahead and the exhibits really let you imagine how the samurai of Izumi lived.
The majority of the samurai houses in Izumi are still inhabited, and are occupied by the descendants of the samurai they were originally built for. A few of the houses are open to the public, and you will discover surprising features that reveal the warrior mentality of the samurai that lived there. One house even has an escape tunnel built into the hearth in case of attack.
The houses also have small but well-kept gardens, which have a more functional feel than the decorative gardens of Kagoshima's other samurai town Chiran, or the feudal lord's vast garden at Sengan-en.
One leisurely way to get around Izumi Fumoto Samurai Residences is via ox-cart. Make a reservation, hop on board, and enjoy a slow-paced tour of the houses while chatting with a knowledgeable guide about the lifestyle of the Izumi samurai. The ride lasts about 25 minutes.
If you feel a little out of place walking around a traditional Japanese town in your regular clothes, consider changing into a kimono to enhance the experience.
Kimono and tea experiences are held at Izumi Fumoto Samurai Residences, and with a prior reservation you can look and feel the part while wandering through the historic town. You can also keep the kimono and obi sash once the experience is over.