Visiting the Land of Fire: Kirishima

I left the Miyazaki coast early in the morning with a long day of travel ahead. I was heading to Kirishima, a relatively small city in terms of buildings and population, but it includes numerous volcanoes, hot springs towns, shrines and nature within its borders. Sitting on the edge between Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures, it has earned itself the nickname “Land of Fire” among many tourism pamphlets of the area.

I am someone who loves travelling by local buses and trains, rather than renting a car, because this gives me opportunities to meet many locals during the journey and see the day-to-day life of the areas I’m visiting. And so after a very scenic train ride (I should’ve learned by now that photos taken from trains in movement rarely come out that good, but alas, I keep trying), I hopped onto an old bus at Miyakonojo and sat down for the hourlong ride into the mountains.

Someone gave me some sweets!

The bus seemed to have had a problem with the rain from the day before and had a bucket catching drops from a leak by the door, many rags and umbrellas hanging all over and a towel on the floor for us to wipe our shoes upon entry. The door was so tiny I could hardly fit through and they didn’t have a screen with the prices or bus stops like other buses around Japan, instead just a piece of paper for us to check. There were no stop buttons either, so we had to tell the bus driver when we were getting off so he would stop. The bus made so many creaking noises and shook during the entire ride, it felt like it was going to brake down any second! But we made it without any incidents and soon I had made it to the famous Kirishima shrine.

They were doing an exposition of burgundy daisy type chrysanthemums at the shrine.

The mountains of Kirishima are important in Japanese mythology. Ninigi no Mikoto, grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu, descended from heaven on nearby Mt.Takachiho-no-mine, married a local princess and together established the lineage of Japanese Emperors.
Kirishima shrine is dedicated to Ninigi no Mikoto and, after being destroyed many times by volcanic eruptions at a different location, was finally moved to the current spot in 1715 where it has survived to this day.

I was surprised by how crowded Kirishima Shrine was, I guess its background does inspire the visit of many Japanese tourists! There were also a couple girls celebrating shichi-go-san and, besides the rain, I think I visited on a good day to see the autumn leaves.

I stopped for some lunch at a small restaurant I’d been recommended.

Kirishima is more than just its shrine though. It also has a beautiful secret gorge down by the river with an easy walking trail. Its most scenic spot is a wall of curious rock formations created during a volcanic eruption.

 

He’s accumulated quite a fortune!

Waiting for the bus that would take me to my inn for the night, I discovered a nice little cafe with a foot bath. I’d already snacked enough though and didn’t really have the time to go inside. Perhaps on a second visit?

 

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