Japan's best-kept secret

Kagoshima is also Japan’s second region for green tea production, boasting not only quantity but also award-winning quality green tea. Here is the green tea field in Minamikyushu.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau

When you decide to travel to Japan, what would be the first place that comes to mind?

Well-known destinations like Osaka, Tokyo, Hokkaido and Kyoto will probably be on top of your list, because you have heard and learnt so much about them.

But what travellers may not be aware of is that there are many other places in the Land of the Rising Sun that offer a host of enchanting delights.

Kagoshima, located at the south of Japan on the island of Kyushu, is rich in history, and offers a unique culture and unadulterated nature.

Spanning across 600km from north to south, the prefecture boasts a lineup of natural attractions such as Mount Sakurajima, an active stratovolcano that stands majestically with a peak rising 1,117m above sea level and Yakushima Island, which has more than 1,900 kinds of flora, over 40 mountains, and numerous "Yakusugi" Japanese cedar trees.

Yakushima was declared Japan's first natural World Heritage Site in 1993 after being approved by Unesco.

Frost on the trees in Kirishima in winter. Photo: Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau

Japan is known for its hot springs, better known as onsen, and at Ibusuki, there is a natural sand bath which is truly one of a kind where you can bury yourself up to the neck with naturally heated sand, said to help improve blood circulation and aid detoxification.

The Amami Islands, situated in the sub-tropical zones at the south of the Kagoshima mainland, is home to crystal clear seas and pristine forests.

In autumn, head to the Kirishima-jingu Shrine where fiery-red leaves stretch from the shrine to the inner precincts, forming a must-capture romantic scenario.

Besides its expansive natural landscape, Kagoshima is also one of Japan's leading agricultural and livestock producers including the Kurobuta pork, Kuroushi Wagyu beef and Katsuo-bushi Bonito Flakes.

It is also Japan's second region for green tea production, boasting award-winning quality green tea.

Parlo Tours held a workshop to highlight Kagoshima to travel agents, which was presented by Kagoshima Prefectural Government ASEAN regional director Kennard Xu.

"Visitors would think that Tokyo is all that Japan has to offer.

"But when I was staying in Kagoshima for six years, it dawned on me that it is actually quite different," explained Xu.

Mount Sakurajima as seen from Senganen Garden. Photo: Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau

He believes that there are quite a few hidden gems yet to be discovered by visitors.

Among the prefectures on Kyushu, Fukuoka has the most foreign visitors as of 2015; and this is followed by Kumamoto, Oita, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Saga.

Hence, Parlo Tours has created an eight-day/six-night trip to Kyushu island with the aim of introducing Kagoshima and its charms to Malaysians.

Visitors will have the chance to experience the wonders of Fukuoka, Yufuin, Beppu, Takachiho, Miyazaki as well as Kirishima, Mt Sakurajima and Ibusuki where a number of activities have been planned out for the trip.

The Ohko-no-Taki Falls on Yakushima Island. Photo: Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau

"We have been selling travel packages to Japan and since we have a close relationship with the prefecture, they wanted us to promote this destination.

"Even though we are already into the second half of the year, we hope to have at least 500 Malaysians visiting Kagoshima by the end of this year," Parlo Tours Sdn Bhd Operations director Carol Sum said.

Since there is no direct flight to Kagoshima, travellers will need to take a transit flight through Singapore Airlines as the travel agency believes this to be the best choice.

Priced at around RM7,000 (S$2,336), the package includes flight and accommodation.

For details, visit www.kagoshima-kankou.com/for/ or www.parlotours.com.my

(From right) Xu, Sum, Kagoshima Prefectural Government Tourism Division assistant manager Kotaro Mihara, Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau Promotion Department (Overseas) director Shigenobu Kawakubo, assistant manager Kimura Kunihiko and Promotion Department (Domestic) manager Satsuki Watanabe discussing the charms of what Kagoshima has to offer. Photo: Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau