When people talk about Japan being a volcanic country, this is exactly the sort of place they’re talking about. This vast national park is spread wide over the prefectures of Kagoshima and Miyazaki, and contains some of the most dramatic volcanic scenery in the country.
This means active volcanoes billowing smoke, crater lakes filled with rich blue waters, and craggy rock faces formed over centuries of molten rock. But that Mordor-like description doesn’t completely do the place justice; Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park is actually a lush and vibrant ecosystem blanketed in green.
Around the mountaintop crater lakes, their peaks blasted off by eruptions in years gone by, you’ll find birdwatchers waiting to spot rare species. At the foot of the mountains, bathers relax in fantastic onsen hot spring baths. On the active volcanoes, thrill-seeking sightseers peer over the edges into the flame and smoke.
The dramatic sights which this park offers have inspired stories for millennia, including some of the most fundamental myths of Japanese culture. In the Kirishima area of the park sits Mt. Takachiho-no-Mine, said to be where the grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu was sent to bring rice plants and prosperity to the land. You’ll find a shrine dedicated to the story here, named Kirishima-jingu.
Whether you come to pay your respects to this mythological ancestor of the emperor, or just for some outstanding hiking through memorable scenery, Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park is one of the best sightseeing spots in Kagoshima.