Kagoshima is a historical city watched over by the looming bulk of Sakurajima (桜島), an active volcano that regularly dumps ash over the city and erupts a bit every now and then to remind people it’s still there. The home of near-mythical samurai hero Saigo Takamori (see History), it’s full of sites related to the Satsuma Rebellion.
JAL and ANA offer flights into Kagoshima from several major cities in Japan. Kagoshima Airport is also the starting point for many flights to Okinawa and the surrounding islands. Low cost carriers Fuji Dream, Jetstar, Peach, Skymark and Solaseed fly into Kagoshima, and the airport is also served by flights from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.
Kagoshima’s Airport is one hour away from Kagoshima’s main train station by Bus (¥1200). There are buses from the companies Iwasaki and Nangoku-Kotsu every 10 minutes going from and to the city center, most or all of them stopping at the main train station and the Tenmonkan shopping street. If a few of them stop at the port, it is 15 minutes away by foot from the stops of Tenmonkan, Kinseichō and the city hall.
Kagoshima is the southernmost city on Japan’s extensive bullet train network. Services terminate at Kagoshima’s main rail station, Kagoshima-Chuō (鹿児島中央).
Kyushu Shinkansen trains run several times per hour from Hakata Station in Fukuoka, taking as little as 80 minutes at a cost of ¥10,170. If you have a Japan Rail Pass you can use Kyushu Shinkansen services at no charge, with the exception of Mizuho trains.
Sakura and Mizuho trains connect Kagoshima with stations north and east on the San’yo Shinkansen network. Using the Sakura, Hiroshima is 2 hr 40 min away (¥17,200), Okayama 3 hr 20 min (¥19,830) and Osaka 4 hr 10 min (¥21,300).
From Tokyo, it is possible to travel the full distance of the Tokaido, San’yo and Kyushu shinkansen lines in 7 hours using a combination of Nozomi and Kyushu Shinkansen trains. Japan Rail Pass holders can make a day trip in 8 hours using a combination of Hikari and Sakura/Tsubame services.
Note that Kagoshima has two central stations, Kagoshima (鹿児島駅) and Kagoshima-Chuō (鹿児島中央駅). The former is the older station slightly to the north of the city centre, and you’re unlikely to use it. The much larger Kagoshima-Chuō station is likely where you’ll be travelling to and from. Don’t confuse them!
Because all sleeper trains from Tokyo and Kansai to Kyushu have been discontinued, traveling overnight to Kagoshima strictly by train could be a little difficult. Thankfully, trips are easier to make now that the Kyushu Shinkansen is fully operational.
From Tokyo, it is still possible to take an overnight train, the 10PM Sunrise Seto/Sunrise Izumo, to Okayama where you can connect to a bullet train the next morning to continue the journey. With a Japan Rail Pass, a connection to a Sakura at Okayama will get you to Kagoshima at around 10:45AM. Without a Rail Pass you can connect in Okayama to a Mizuho that gets to Kagoshima by 9:50AM.
Rail Pass holders can opt for carpeted spaces on the overnight train where you sleep on the floor – as these are classified as “reserved seats”, they are free to reserve with the pass. Otherwise, accommodation charges of approximately ¥10,000-17,000 must be paid. Bullet trains west of Okayama are covered by the pass as long as you stick with the Sakura or Hikari services.
If you are unable to secure a space on the overnight train, another option – especially for those using a Japan Rail Pass – is to split up the journey, stopping at an intermediate destination en route in order to sleep somewhere. The cost incurred will only be for the hotel room; the Rail Pass covers your transportation.
This two-part method carries a couple of advantages. You will more than likely find good accommodations very close to a main train station in a smaller city, compared to a big city such as Tokyo, and it will more than likely be cheaper than hotels found in Tokyo. You could use the money you save to forward some of your luggage using a luggage delivery service and take an overnight bag with you, which will make the journey easier.
From Tokyo, you could depart in the late afternoon or early evening on the bullet train and sleep over at a hotel in Himeji or Okayama. In the morning, grab one of the first bullet train departures in the same direction to continue your trip. For example, if you were to overnight in Himeji, you can take a direct Hikari service (3 hours 45 minutes) and stay in a hotel close to Himeji station for around ¥3,000-5,000 per person. In the morning, the 6:55AM Sakura departure will get you to Kagoshima by 10:45AM.