KAGOSHIMA (Kyushu Island)
One of Japan's most southerly major cities, Kagoshima is dominated by the imposing Sakurajima volcano's cone – a legendary active volcano that broods, churns and puffs out ash nearby. A pretty old-time ferry chugs across the still waters to the gently sloping foothills of the volcano's cone, and it's easy to imagine where the comparisons with its sister city Naples materialised, as you sail the glorious sweeping Kinko Bay, below beaming sunshine, towards the immense volcanic spectacle.
This is certainly no historic relic, and the volcano remains revered and feared, with the most dramatic recent eruption taking place in 1914, and spewing out a new bridge of land into the sea. Make the most of the geothermal activity in the area by indulging in a stress-simmering black sand bath. Incredibly relaxing, you'll be submerged in the warm sand, as you feel your muscles relaxing in the heat, and rejuvenating blood pumping around your body.
Enjoy a privileged view of the iconic volcano's loom from the terraced garden of Senganen Garden. Built in 1658, this elegant, traditional garden has belonged to the Shimadzu family for 350 years. Wander the gardens - which bloom with Japan's renowned cherry tree blossoms and feature tiny bridges looping over ponds and rock pools - before sitting back and sipping a wholesome green matcha latte. Elsewhere, museums offer Feudal Era and Satsuma Province history, as well as insights into the Kamikaze squadrons of World War II. Lake Ikeda is also close by, so be sure to keep an eye out for the legendary Issie monster.