Chiran (知覧) is a small town in the middle of the Satsuma Peninsula in Kagoshima Prefecture. Within the town there is a preserved samurai district with houses and gardens that date back about 250 years. Chiran's isolated location at the southern end of Kyushu has allowed the district to keep much of its historical character intact.
The preserved samurai district consists of a 700 meter long street within downtown Chiran that runs parallel to the main thoroughfare. The street itself is very attractive, with the rock walls and hedges of residences and the forested hillsides in the distance. Unlike some other samurai districts, it is also free of telephone poles and parked cars that would detract from the historic atmosphere.
Seven gardens attached to samurai residences are open to the public, while the buildings themselves cannot be entered. The gardens are relatively small and designed to be viewed from the residences. Five out of the seven gardens are of the Karesansui Dry Garden variety. Of the other two, one includes a pond and the other is composed of trimmed shrubs.
A 500 yen entrance fee allows tourists to visit all seven gardens. Entry tickets cannot be purchased at the gardens themselves except the one at the northern end of the district. They are also available at a few shops adjacent to parking lots along the main street that runs parallel to the samurai district.
The samurai district can be reached by hourly buses from Kagoshima (80 minutes, around 900 yen, departing from Kagoshima Chuo Station and the Yamagataya Bus Center), which also stop at Hirakawa Station (30 minutes to Chiran) along the way. Get off at the Bukeyashiki-iriguchi (武家屋敷入口) bus stop. Most of the buses continue to the Chiran Tokko Museum, which is about two kilometers away.