Top choice in Kagoshima

In 1658, the 19th Shimazu lord laid out his pleasure garden on this hilly, rambling bayside property of groves, hillside trails and one of Japan's most impressive pieces of 'borrowed scenery': the fuming peak of Sakurajima.

Allow 45 minutes for a leisurely stroll through the garden, and 30 minutes more for a self-guided tour of the 25-room Goten ('the house' on signage), the Shimazu clan's former villa. As sprawling as it is, the villa is now only one-third of its original size!

The grounds are filled with ceremonial gardens, photogenic shrines, and symbolic sculptures and rock formations, such as the jumping-lion lantern, arching toward Sakurajima. The garden's wealth of tropical trees grow exceptionally well in Kagoshima's balmy microclimate. The well-preserved Kyokusui Garden was once the site of poetry contests; participants floated a sake cup in a stream and had to compose a poem by the time it reached the end.

Shops around the garden sell jambo-mochi (pounded rice cakes on a stick) and kiriko (cut glass).

The adjacent Shōko Shūseikan museum once housed Japan's first factory, built in the 1850s. Exhibits relate to the Shimazu family and Japanese industrial history, with over 10,000 items and precious heirlooms, including scrolls, military goods, Satsuma-yaki pottery, and Japan's earliest cannons, steam engines and cut glass.

The garden is about 2km north of the city centre. Nearby is Iso-hama, the city's popular, kid-friendly swimming beach. An easy way to get to Sengan-en is by the hop-on, hop-off City View bus.

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1. Shōko Shūseikan

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Adjacent to Sengan-en, this 1850s building, a Unesco World Heritage site as Japan's first modern factory, has been converted into a museum. Historical…

3. Reimeikan

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The Reimeikan has extensive displays on Satsuma history and ancient sword-making. It's inside the site of Kagoshima's castle, Tsurumaru-jō (1602); the…

4. Kagoshima City Museum of Art

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The Kagoshima City Museum of Art has a small permanent collection of works by modern-day Kagoshima painters, as well as some 16th-century porcelains and…

5. Saigō Takamori Statue

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Kagoshima's most famous historical figure, Saigō Takamori has been called the 'last samurai' and was known as both a loyalist and a rebel. His statue is…

6. Nishi Hongan-ji Kagoshima Betsuin

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The current building of this large Buddhist temple near Tenmonkan dates from 1982 and was renovated in 2013. Inside, it's unlike most temples you may have…

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This landmark church, originally built in 1908 but rebuilt in 1999, honors the first Christian missionary to visit Japan.