Exploring Sakurajima – Japan’s Most Active and Beautiful Volcano

Sakurajima, located in the Kagoshima Prefecture of Japan, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. With a rich history of volcanic activity dating back over 22,000 years, this stunning volcanic island has played a significant role in shaping the landscape and culture of the region.

The history of Sakurajima

The earliest recorded eruption of Sakurajima occurred in 708 AD; it has been erupting continuously since 1955. Over the centuries, the island has experienced both explosive and effusive eruptions, resulting in the formation of a unique landscape characterized by ash, lava, and pyroclastic deposits.

One of the most notable eruptions of Sakurajima occurred in 1914 when the volcano erupted with such force that it caused widespread damage to the surrounding area. The ash and debris from the eruption fell as far as 600 kilometres away, and the resulting pyroclastic flows destroyed several villages and caused numerous fatalities. This eruption also transformed the island into a peninsula by connecting it to the main island of Kyushu.

Today, visitors to Sakurajima can explore the island’s volcanic history at the Sakurajima Volcano Museum. The museum offers a fascinating insight into the geology and history of the volcano, with exhibits showcasing volcanic rocks, ash, and other materials.

For those looking for a more adventurous experience, it is also possible to hike to the summit of Sakurajima. The hike offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, and a chance to see the volcanic activity up close. However, it is important to note that the volcano is still active, so it is not always accessible.

Things to do on Sakurajima

Most things on the island have to do with the thing that takes up the majority of the space: the volcano. There are many viewpoints around the island for viewing both Sakurajima and the nearby city of Kagoshima on the mainland. Additionally, there are several volcanic formations, such as the volcanic rock coastlines as well as a volcanic black sand beach.

There are also remnants of buildings and monuments on the island affected by the recent volcanic eruptions. One example is the buried Torii gate. Usually standing approximately 3 metres high, this one only comes up to an average-sized person’s waist. It sits under more than 2 metres of ash and dust, meaning you can touch the top.

How to get to Sakurajima

The easiest way to get to Sakurajima is to go to Kagoshima and take the ferry. From Tokyo and Osaka, you can either fly to Kagoshima Airport or take a Shinkansen (bullet train). If you take the train, you will most likely need to change once.

Once you arrive in Kagoshima, make your way to the Sakurajima ferry. This is both a pedestrian ferry and a car ferry. If you are taking a car, you will pay on the Sakurajima side (i.e. after taking the ferry). A normal-sized car with 4 occupants currently (as of March 2023) costs ¥2,550. An adult passenger (without a car) costs ¥300.

Once you are on the island, you can rent bikes from a rental shop across from the ferry terminal for ¥300 per bike per hour. A bike tour of Sakurajima will take approximately 5 hours to complete for most people (without stops).

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