At any time of the year on the beach of this small town in Kagoshima Prefecture, on the southern tip of the island of Kyushu, you can see a curious sight. Vacationers here do not expose their bodies to the sun, as is customary to do at sea, but quite the opposite. Stepping onto the black-sand beach of Ibusuki, you can admire the strange picture of many heads sticking out of the sand, each under its own small umbrella. This is the main attraction of the city, the sunamushi sand spas.
Ibusuki, which is also called the “Hawaii of Japan”, is extremely rich in hot springs. Underground activity here is so high that residential buildings are heated by thermal water, and the city’s power plant also runs on it. In addition, warm soil allows you to get an excellent harvest in Ibusuki all year round. The Agricultural Department of Kagoshima University even opened an experimental botanical garden here. It contains an abundance of bright flowers, as well as useful tropical and subtropical plants, quite unusual in these latitudes: they are allowed to grow in the garden by the mild climate of Kagoshima and the constant supply of hot water.
The sunamushi sand baths are the most popular attraction in Ibusuki and unique in addition, and not only in Japan.
How to get there
According to liuxers.com, Ibusuki can be reached via highways 226 and 269 by car. If you’re heading straight to the onsen, you can get there in about an hour by train from Kagoshima-Chuyo Station, or by a shuttle bus and a half.
In the first half of the 20th century the hot waters of the Ibusuki springs were widely used for salt extraction and for agricultural needs. But, strange as it may sound, they were too hot: the temperature had to be lowered artificially. As a result, in the 1960s other sources were found that are still used today. Since the 1960s salt is no longer mined here, but thermal water is still used on agricultural and fish farms.
On the territory of the Hakusuikan Hotel is the Densokan Museum, dedicated to the history of Satsuma (modern Kagoshima). It occupies a beautiful building in a traditional style, with special emphasis on local ceramics.
Hot springs of Ibusuki
Onsen Ibusuki is located to the east of the city and is a group of spa centers: these are Surigama, Yajigyu and Nigatsuden onsens. Surigama is located along the coast road southeast of Ibusuki Station, Yajigayu is north of the station, and Nigatsuden is to the west. Each year, all three in the aggregate are visited by several million people. There is enough thermal water for everyone: underground activity in Ibusuki erupts about 120 thousand tons of soda-rich water every day with a temperature of +50… +60 ° С.
There is also a spring in the Ibusuki onsen, the water temperature in which reaches +100 °C.
The sunamushi sand baths are the most popular attraction in Ibusuki and unique in addition, and not only in Japan. The resort staff buries yukata-clad vacationers in the warm sand, and the steam bath is believed to help get rid of a variety of ailments and even excess weight due to accelerated blood circulation. After 10-20 minutes, the vacationer is dug up, and he can go to the traditional, “wet” onsen. Since 1982, the city has even hosted an annual onsen marathon: every second Sunday in January, thousands of people take part in it.
3 things to do in Ibusuki:
- Burrow in the sand.
- Catch yourself noodles in Tosenko.
- Ride a boat on Lake Ikeda to admire Mount Kaimon, which the people of the province call their local Fuji.
Neighborhood of Ibusuki
If you have already improved your health and are puzzled by the question of what to do in Ibusuki, you should pay attention to the surroundings of the city. For starters, you can go to Lake Ikeda, the largest on the island. The diameter of the lake is 15 km, and the depth significantly exceeds 200 m. The age of the volcanic lake Ikeda is about 5.5 thousand years. And it’s scary to imagine what the age of the protected eels living here, 2 m long, is. The lake can be reached in about 20 minutes by bus from the Ibusuki railway station.
The small island of Chiringashima in 2008 was included in the hundred of the most beautiful islands in the country. It can be reached by car in 10 minutes from the station. More precisely, not quite to it, but to the place where, at low tide, Chiringashima merges with the mainland. From March to October, a bridge of sand less than 1 km long appears here, along which you can get to the island to walk along the esplanades and climb to the observation deck. The only catch is that the isthmus appears for four hours at most, and sometimes it lasts only an hour, no more.
The village of Tosenko in the gorge of the same name is located southwest of Lake Ikeda and is famous throughout the country thanks to the original attraction “somen-nagashi” – “floating noodles”. At the village’s central restaurant, somen swims in a long man-made canal filled with natural ice-cold water from a local stream. In the 1960s special machines were set up on the Tosenko stream so that the noodles would spin in one place, and visitors could fish them out with chopsticks to dip them into the sauce and put them in their mouths. This entertainment annually attracts hundreds of thousands of Japanese to Tosenko.
Cape Nagasakibana is the southernmost point of the Satsuma Peninsula. There are many shops and cafes for tourists who like to walk to the lighthouse at the very end of the cape to admire the ocean and the view of the volcano. Here, on the cape, the territory of which belongs to the Kirishima-Yasu National Park, there is a wonderful flower theme park. In it you can see about 400 thousand plants of 400 different species in a natural environment. Depending on the season, they all bloom in turn, and this is a wonderful sight. In addition, flamingos and orangutans live in the park. And to the west of the park rises the Kaimon volcano with a height of more than 900 m: those who wish can climb it along specially laid paths.