Stories to Experience—National Parks of Japan

Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park

Chart an adventure from ever-changing Sakurajima to the mysteries of Kirishima

Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, one of Japan’s first national parks, is located in the south of Kyushu island. The park has a wide range of natural attractions — an active volcano in its own bay, beautiful coastlines and beaches, and mysterious forests.

Kinkowan Bay is made up of a series of vast undersea volcanic calderas, craters formed when a volcano collapses, which were created by a number of huge eruptions countless millennia ago. At its center is a new active volcano, Sakurajima. Originally on its own island, an eruption of the volcano linked it to the mainland. Sakurajima is in a state or perpetual change caused by low-level eruption. The gentle rise of ash that drifts over its peaks may fluctuate, but for the people who live on its slopes, it is simply part of their day-to-day life. Periodic magma flows are slowly reclaimed by vegetation, which itself changes with time. You can tell how long ago an eruption occurred by the types of plants that dominate.

Expand Your Senses in a Vibrant Natural Setting

Kinkowan Bay is full of life. Dolphins appear above the water before diving down to the bubbling fumaroles below created by volcanic forces. This radiating heat extends to the park’s southern beaches, where locals have engaged in sand bathing for centuries. On the beach, you can lie down and be covered in a cocoon of heated sand and relax as the gently lapping waters of the shoreline soothe your spirit. In the bay, you can see views of Sakurajima from the outdoor baths at hot springs, footbaths and hiking trails. 

The fertile, nutrient-rich lands created by volcanic conditions produce enormous daikon radishes and provide feed for the region’s world-class beef, pork, and chicken, while the pristine waters abound with fish, which can be eaten as sashimi or cooked in a variety of ways.

Venture to the Southern Coast

For those wanting to stray from the beaten path, you can follow the sweeping shoreline south. At the southernmost reaches of the park is Cape Sata, known for its breathtaking cliffs. Walk the picturesque route to the remote observatory and enjoy panoramic views of the historic lighthouse and seas beyond.

Explore the Forest of the Mountainous North

Alternatively, you can head north up to Kirishima, a mountainous, misty region home to countless legends. The entrance to this area is Kirishima-jingu Shrine, a site of immense spiritual significance that invites you to make your own pilgrimage. The large shrine and expansive grounds are famous for their seven mysteries, which you are invited to seek out for yourself as you explore, as well as nature trails that take you to peaceful forest glades well-suited to contemplation.

From this gateway, you can enter the Kirishima mountain range, where mists mix with rising steam from the bubbling hot springs. Taste local food steamed by volcanic jets and stay at one of the many secluded mountain hot spring retreats considered Japan’s original nature resorts.

Discover a Highland Resort in the Volcanic Peaks

In the heart of Kirishima, you will find yourself in the highlands of Ebino Kogen, a sweeping plain flanked by volcanoes. While Japan’s southern island of Kyushu generally enjoys higher than average temperatures, you can see snow at these heights until early spring, and the cooler temperatures provide a welcome break from the intense summer heat. This mountain resort is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and there are extensive hiking routes you can embark on year round that range from gentle trails to bracing trekking routes scaling volcanic peaks.

This vibrant, intense landscape is also known as Japan’s first honeymoon route, but whatever your motivation for visiting, you are sure to fall in love with its unique charm.

Discover the wild beauty of Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, and let these fantastic lands take you on your own adventure.