Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sakurajima / Active Volcano / Hot Spring Wonderland

Add Sakurajima (桜島, Cherry Island) to your list of Japanese locations to visit. One of the thirty-or-so hot springs that have made my list of the top ten hot springs is on Sakurajima. (Really, maintaining a list of 10 superlative hot springs is just impossible.) Sakurajima used to be an island of Kagoshima Prefecture. In 1914, a huge eruption and massive lava flows created a land bridge to the ex-island, effectively turning it into a tiny peninsular. The volcano, today, is still active, assuring a steady supply of hot spring water for gorgeous onsens with ocean views, fertile soil for growing the world's largest daikons (larger than soccer balls), and regular volcano alerts for a more stimulating trip.

Beautiful Woman Experiencing Peace in Hot Spring

Some hot springs have connections with ancient Japanese religious practices. The Furusato Kanko Hotel on the island of Sakurajima, Kagoshima, has a shrine with a hot spring on the premises.  Males and females bathe together, but nudity is forbidden. All bathers must wear special white cotton robes, or yukata. White signifies purity in the Shinto religionAt the base of a cliff is a tree of great age, and hot water gushes out from between its huge roots. In front of the tree is a red torii, or shrine gate. The edge of the bath is just meters from the clear blue sea of Kagoshima Bay. Fishing boats slowly pass by, birds fly overhead, and the entire experience purifies the soul and body.
Couple Bathing in Holy Hot Spring
Volcanic eruptions occur constantly. Ash, rocks, and smoke often spew from the maw of the volcano. If you travel there, pay attention to the locations of the emergency shelters that the government has built all over Sakurajima. The ash has positive points. The soil is so fertile that vegetables and fruits grown on the island are surprisingly large. Kagoshima reportedly has a higher per capita ownership of clothes dryers than anywhere else in Japan, which must please the manufacturers of clothes dryers. Of course, the cherry trees are also quite cheery.

Sakurajima Daikons are Larger than My Own Swollen Head

Much of Sakurajima is a national park. There is a tremendous amount of free space in the mountains and along the coasts. On one visit to Sakurajima, we drove until we found pleasant locations and camped without paying any fees. Fishing, swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking are some of the fun activities for you to enjoy.

Click to see a live cam of Sakurajima.

This link will lead to a map showing the hotel where the photographs of the hot spring were taken.