Sakurajima is one of the most active volcanos in the world and absolutely worth a visit. You will be offered stunning views of the Kagoshima bay, the South Chinese sea and last but not least the volcano itself.
Sakurajima is located in the South Chinese sea facing the city Kagoshima in the most south western part of Kyushu. Until the devastating eruption of 1914 Sakurajima was actually an island. The eruption of 1914, the largest in Japan in the 20th century, spewed so much lava that the island got connected at one side to the Osumi peninsula. Access of Sakurajima
Sakurajima can be reached by ferryboat from Kagoshima (the crossing takes 15 minutes). Kagoshima is a large city and has it’s own nearby airport and is also the terminal of the Kyushu Shinkansen. The city’s ferry-port (see the photo here below) is served frequently by bus and tram, departing in front of the Kagoshima main train station Chuo. The City of Kagoshima Transport bureau has an excellent English website which gives all necessary information. If like most tourists you only have a half day to visit Sakurajima then my tip is to take the Sakurajima regular sightseeing bus. This bus leaves also in front of the Chuo station. The 3 hour sightseeing tour will bring you by ferry to the Sakurajima peninsula and stops at the main touristic spots. There is a bus in the morning and the afternoon.
Only if you have a full day and can prepare the visit well in advance it is worth either renting a car or bicycle in the ferry-port and then making the ferry crossing by yourself.
A road of about 45 km encircles the peninsula , which is actually also the base of the 1100 meter high volcano. If you take the bus tour then they will make a stop at the 373 meter high Yunohiro observation point . The highest and nearest point you are allowed to approach the volcano. The north crater visible on the picture here below is about 2,5 km away.
A wide angle picture, also taken from the 373 meter high viewing point, shows the entire volcano with at the left side the north crater, in the centre the middle crater and to the right the south crater. Before leaving the observation centre don’t forget to make a photo of the magnificent 3D model displayed. It allows to assess the sheer magnitude of the volcano. The red dot is the 373 meter viewpoint. Wikipedia has an entire page dedicated to the Sakurajima volcano with lots of links, interesting facts and data. From the Yunohiro viewing point the bus descends to the coastline and takes you past small harbours and lovely bays to the Arimura Observation Point. This observation point gives a spectacular view onto Sakurajima’s Southern craters. Here you are standing on an elevation of 75 meter that is actually the lava field formed by the famous 1914 eruption. I took the picture on 9 november 2009, one of the days the volcano became more active and in the late afternoon suddenly started to spew thick clouds of ashes.
Indeed after years with almost no activity at all, throughout 2009 the volcano was again very active. Then on 1 december 2009, only 3 weeks after the above pictures were taken, there was a very heavy eruption. Out of the crater came huge clouds projecting dust and ashes kilometres high. The explosion was captured live and can be seen on youtube (1 december 2009 Sakurajima) Especially at sunset the active volcano yields beautiful pictures and attracts many tourists admiring the power of nature. At the same time the volcanic ash causes a lot of extra work for the local people having to clean the layer of volcanic dust from their bicycles, cars and the street.