Admittedly, I only popped into the visitor center because I had the crazy idea of trying to walk to the famous view point, Yunohira Observatory, from the edge of Sakurajima. You shouldn’t. And, upon trying that and thankfully turning back after just half an hours walk in the pouring rain, I decided to enter the visitor center for some much needed guidance.
With its big double doors, grey walls, hard floor and staff uniforms so indistinct that you can’t tell who works there, it had all the key ingredients of an ordinary, leaflet filled visitor center, complete with gift shop. But it was only after I had been tempted into buying a ridiculously cute Sakurajima Daikon (Radish) key chain, that I noticed the dark corridor beside me. A distant, old-style TV coaxed me closer with a slow motion eruption, shot from the mouth of the volcano. I was encapsulated in its crescendo-ing fiery red spurts, streaming steam and furious spewing lava. Red lightening began to strike its mouth, creating the most mesmerizing and absolutely awe-invoking eruption you ever saw. In fact, it was deemed so beautiful that you can actually buy the DVD in the gift shop.
The corridor soon widened to reveal a bright display of volcanic information: large slices of solidified lava, diagrams and 3D models plastered across the walls and floor. And to top it off, a lot of the information was available with the English translation.
You can see the interesting development of the volcano over time, observe volcanic ash under a microscope and imagine the devastation of the rare and famous month-long lava flows of 1914 that ceased Sakurajima’s status as an island (a ‘jima’). There are even opportunities to take a photo with Sakurajima as your background, just in case the weather is too bad to get a close up with the real thing.
Hidden away, back through the gift shop and behind a grey panel, is an unsuspecting theater displaying frequent viewings of a Sakurajima documentary, complete with English subtitles. And, even though I only went in because I had to wait for one of those infrequent Sakurajima buses, I was really glad I did. It was really interesting and actually answered pretty much every question I had and even some I didn’t have. It gave me an insight into not only the development of the volcano, but also accounts from people living on a volcano, eruptions, farming, onsens, shelters and more.
The best thing about all this information, is that you can actually go outside and see it all for yourself: the ash covering the floor, the rising steam from the volcano, and the solidified lava. Everything you experience inside, you can explore outside. So be sure to visit the center fairly early on for the best experience.
But the most mind blowing part, if I had to choose one, was the eruption counter on the wall, where I discovered that last year, there were 737 eruptions, which is over two eruptions every day.
The Sakurajima visitor center is free and conveniently located just 10 minutes walk from the ferry port, right next to a lava trail and Yogan Nagisa Park Foot Spa. While there’s no entrance fee, I would always urge everyone to support the local community by giving a small donation or buying something from their gift shop. Exploring the visitor center may not take much longer than an hour but it’s definitely worth it. And, of course, it’s possible to pick up some more leaflets in English and get some advice.
Immerse yourself in a lava filled adventure! The videos of the volcano erupting alone are worth the trip.
|Name||Sakurajima Visitor Center|
|Address||891-1419, Kagoshima-ken, Kagoshima-shi, Sakurajima, Yokoyama-cho 1722-29|
|Access||[map]891-1419, Kagoshima-ken, Kagoshima-shi, Sakurajima, Yokoyama-cho 1722-29[/map]|
|Opening Hours||09:00 - 17:00|