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January 7, 2020 - Tarumizu to Jigenji - Kagoshima
After spending the night in Tarumizu on the West Coast of Kagoshima, I decided to drive to Kanoya and then drive past Kagoshima to Jigenji. I was originally worried that the main sites I would visit today would be my least promising of the trip - but it strangely ended up being one of the most impressive. My first stop was the Arahiratenjin shrine.
The Arahiratenjin shrine is what I would call a rest stop - but it would look spectacular when the sun sets and there seems to be a rather calm beach with restrooms at the car park.
My next stop was the Kanoya Air Base Museum which tells the story of aircraft in the Navy. There are a good number of older aircraft outside which are also worth a look at as well.
The museum includes a lot of original artifacts and is spread over two floors. The first floor tells of how the air force grew after WW2 along with other more interactive exhibits. However - it's the second floor that brings people to this museum. The first area talks about the navy's air force up until around 1935 and includes a lot of original artifacts. The second room where no photography is allowed focuses on the kamikaze pilots that left from Kanoya airbase. There is also a picture of each known person that left - which must go into the thousands. Unexpectedly - English information was rather strong.
Unfortunately the second floor was the better part of the exhibition and I misunderstood that only the zero plane could include photos - not the entire room as there was some really interesting things to view. This site was worth it alone and strangely it's not well known.
I then visited a small train museum located not too far from the airbase. It was free and was more aimed at a local audience. Another major attraction in the area is the Kanoya Rose Garden which I would have visited if it was a warmer month.
My fourth stop for the day was the Uenohara Jomon Site - a museum and archaeological site with the oldest known proven habitation in Japan. It's been said that there have been humans here for over 9500 years - as this is the age of some of it's pottery.
This absolutely huge site has a museum (320 yen for entrance) which explains it's history in great detail in Japanese - but reasonably in English.
As this site is still being excavated, they continue to collect, tag and store what they find. There is starting to be quite a bit though.
The holes are excavated former residences. It does feel a bit like Astrix a bit though with the recreated homes.
My next stop was Amami no Sato - which can be described as part garden, part museum and part silk factory based in a hotel and wedding reception. It costs 400 yen to enter and I was the only person I was in this large and sprawling location.
When I started to stroll around the gardens - I was amazed by the number of gardeners but lack of tourists. Then I noticed English/Chinese/Korean translations which tends to suggest that this place is on the tour bus circuit but it is set up for that.
The museum section was slightly underwhelming but strangely taught me more about the culture of Amami than when I visited there a few years ago.
For me - the highlight was the large strolling Japanese garden which unfortunately did not have the same borrowed scenery as Sengan-en. This garden has a golf range in the background. Sengan-en has Sakurajima volcano.
This is a pretty big bet to make - but I see this as the second best major (in size) garden in Kyushu.
There was also a large area where people still worked on making silk by hand - along with examples of their best work in the form on kimonos.
My last stop for the day was Hirakawa Zoo which costs 500 yen to enter. I arrived at 3:30 and thought that 90 minutes would be plenty of time to see everything. On this occasion - I actually struggled to see everything.
If you visit this zoo - I suggest you just follow the recommended course with is roughly 3 kilometers long. Most animals looked happy and conditions were better than at most zoos. I'd call this my second favorite zoo after Asahikawa Zoo in Hokkaido.
I am not the best with moving objects - but there were lots of very photogenic animals today. There was also few people in the park which was a plus but it was a Tuesday afternoon in winter.
If you have ever wondered why more zoos don't have Koala's - it's because it's difficult to grow their food. They also seem to have a bit of a baby koala boom at the moment.
I was expecting today to be my least favorite day on my trip - strangely it's been my most favorite as the sites have really been different and have also been standouts. For tomorrow - I'll be driving to Ibusuki via Chiran.
Arahira Tenzen Shrine (http://www.pref.kagoshima.jp/ao01/chiiki/bariafuri-oosumi/arahiratennjinn.html)
Kanoya Airbase Museum (https://www.mod.go.jp/msdf/kanoya/toukatu/18siryoukann.html)
Kanoya Train Museum (https://www.e-kanoya.net/htmbox/soumu/railway_memorial.html)
Uenohara Jomon Site (https://www.jomon-no-mori.jp)
Amami no Sato (https://www.amaminosato.jp/guide/)
Hirakawa Zoo (http://hirakawazoo.jp/lang/en/)