Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park, Between Volcanoes and Beaches
Hiking, bird-watching, and taking a hot sand bath: a wide variety of activities can be enjoyed in this park in the south of Kyushu Island.
Covering an area of 36,000 hectares, straddling Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures down to Yakushima Island, Kirishima-Kinkowan park is the first in Japan to have been named a national park, receiving this status in 1934.
This leisure destination will delight both hiking enthusiasts, with its chains of volcanoes and lakes (there are 23 volcanoes and 15 craters that have been transformed into bodies of water) and visitors looking for some peace and relaxation, as the south of the park has some stunning beaches and onsen.
Camp by the side of a lake
In the north of the park lies Mount Shinmoe, an active volcano; climbing the summit of Mount Karakuni, the highest point in the park at 1700 metres, which has multiple hiking trails, visitors are given a clear view of the wisps of smoke escaping from the Mount Shinmoe crater.
The northern area of the national park also has multiple lakes situated in craters. Onamiike Crater Lake is one example. It houses various species of birds all through the year, which makes it an observation point particularly favoured by ornithology enthusiasts. Located at the foot of Mount Karakuri, walking around the lake takes a little under 90 minutes and visitors can go kayaking or camp on the banks. According to legend, the lake takes its name from a little girl nicknamed Onami, the human incarnation of the dragon who lived in the depths of the water.
Idyllic beaches and sand baths
In the south of Kirishima-Kinkowan park lies Kinkowan Bay, created following a volcanic eruption that occurred 29,000 years ago. One of the emblematic features of this bay is Sakurajima volcano, known to the Japanese for its slopes that are covered in azaleas when spring comes, but that can sometimes be difficult to access as the volcano is still active and erupts regularly.
The bay is also popular due to its white sandy beaches, like Shigetomi, from where visitors can get a perfect view of Sakurajima volcano. The best-known beach in the park, however, is still the tip of the Satsuma Peninsula. At Ibusuki Onsen, travellers flock to enjoy a hot sand bath. The water in the volcanic region is rich in sulphur, the benefits of which are capitalised on in the numerous onsen situated all around the bay.
More information about the Kirishima-Kinkowan national park can be found on the Japanese Ministry of the Environment’s website.
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