There’s another reason we’re in Kagoshima; there is an active volcano next door! But that isn’t even the interesting part, as any avid gamer knows there are these white beets you pull out of the ground, some of them as big as your head, and throw at foes in Super Mario 2. As it turns out, these beets are for real, and they grow right there, at the side of the volcano! They’re called Daikon and they’re basically huge radishes, I guess the reason they get so freakishly large is the super-nutritious ashen soil. We board one of the frequent ferries and head over, only to find out from the lady at the information desk that the Daikon season is late winter! Total bummer… Oh well, we decide to hop on a tour that takes us up to the top observatory together with about a hundred Japanese baseball kids.
The tour is kinda meh, but observing Japanese touristing is always amusing. And at the topmost observatory there is this rather cool scale model of the volcano under the glass floor. In the souvenir shop I get a Daikon fridge magnet, the only Daikon I’m likely to see this trip sadly… On the map we’ve found a lava field that you can visit as well, so we hop on a bus and find ourselves dropped off somewhere in the wilderness with a couple of footpaths leading up a hill. Disappointingly there is no live lava to be found here, even though you wouldn’t think so, given how hot it is! The sun is unrelenting, the ground is all black and the few shady spots are taking by the cleaning staff, gasping for air. The field isn’t much more than a maze of footpaths interspersed by a few bigger hunks of lava rock where people are fond of placing coins. As we’re about to leave the volcano decides to wake up and start billowing sulfurous smoke! Quite cool to watch as we wait for the bus in what is surely over 45 degrees Celsius heat.
We have another stop planned on the way back, touted as one of the best onsens in the area, complete with fabulous pictures, the Furusato Onsen certainly looks like the perfect place to cool off for a bit. The bus pulls up to this Communist-looking, huge box of concrete which probably was all the rage somewhere back in the early seventies. Undeterred we go inside and receive our robes and bathing clothes (this is a mixed onsen, so you’re basically bathing in a pajama). Walking down to the pools we pass this supremely depressing dried out swimming pool, looking more or less like the one I saw in Pripyat, Chernobyl. The actual onsen is just one pool that doubles as a shrine, which is kinda nice. But you quickly realize that the pictures online are taken from more or less the only possible angles and that the place is really not very nice. Suffice to say that we don’t stay that long.
Back at the mainland we have some time to spare and decide to visit the nearby aquarium as well. They have this baby whale shark they’re rather proud of, but the coolest thing I found were probably the snow crabs. Freakish creatures those! They have a dolphin show as well, but if you’ve been to Kolmården, then it’s not very impressive. Towards the evening it’s time to move on to our next destination; Hiroshima. That means traversing almost half of Japan to get there, but with the Shinkansen that is only some three-four hours which is nice. It’s rather late when we arrive so we just grab a taxi to get to the hostel we booked. But due to the mess that is the Japanese address system, the driver can’t even find the place! After a lot of confusion he does eventually find it and we can go to bed in the somewhat crappy but cheap dorm.