What a wonderful welcome to Kagoshima. Tents by Kagoshima tourist company and lots of school children greeted the ship. The tents contained all sorts of wonderful local food and the children sang and greeted all the guests going ashore. The biggest surprise for the guests of the Volendam happened later in the day prior to our departure, but more on that later in our post.
Kagoshima is the capital city of Kagoshima Prefecture at the southwestern tip of the Kyushu island of Japan and the largest city in the prefecture by some margin. It has been nicknamed the “Naples of the Eastern world” for its bay location (Aira Caldera), hot climate and impressive stratovolcano, Sukurajima. The city of Kagoshima features large shopping districts and malls with many restaurants. There’s also a large modern aquarium installed on the old docks overlooking the volcano. The harbour has numerous fish farms in the Bay.
Today we have a tour to visit the Chiran Samurai gardens and the Peace Museum. It was approximately a 75 minute drive to see the Chiran Samurai Houses. The 7 exceptionally preserved houses in Fumoto area of Chiran are amazing. The town is like something out of a decorators book, complete with a fish run running down one side of the town complete with very large Koi (fish). The town is immaculately clean as is common in South Asia and the people very friendly.
These particular houses were preserved thanks in large part to a succession of extremely talented family heads. The reigning Shimadzu lord granted Sata’s 16th generation family head, Kyusatsu Sata. Chiran’s land rights and the permission to use the prestigious surname Shimadzu. The samurai residences area were probably constructed either during the time of Kyutatsu Shimadzu (1651-1719, 16th family head) or Hisamine Shimadzu (1732-1772, 18th) The residential area is divided into different family residences by stonewalls. The gardens in this housing area have been preserved, all about 250 years old. The Samurai houses are very well preserved with the typical sliding doors opening up to the garden and pond areas. These houses are private residences still in daily use. We were privileged to meet one of the owners, a direct descendant of the original builders. None of the houses have a second story as it was considered impolite to look down on people.
The Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots was founded to preserve WWII records and exhibiting the photographs, relics and correspondence which belonged to the special Air force Attack Group members, who are known as Kamikaze pilots. It was named the Peace Museum in recognition of the waste of human life caused by wars. These pilots were trained to fly on kamikaze missions by steering their airplanes laden with bombs head-on into enemy ships or other targets during the decisive battle for Okinawa at the end of the war. The number of young men who died during the Kamikaze operation of Okinawa have been put at 1036. The age of these young men were between 17-25. The presentation we received was of course from the Japanese perspective, which we can understand given that sons of Japanese died as did our young soldiers. It is difficult to imagine the mind set required to get into a plane knowing that you will not return alive. The last letters written home (mostly addressed to their mothers) are poignant. One thanked his mother for her bringing him up well, another explained that the war was going badly and that he wanted her to assist in increasing production for the war effort.
We arrived back to the ship at 2:30pm to be greeted by a huge array of wonderful aromas. Special green tea (“new tea” from the recent crop) was being served along with rice cakes (similar to the ones we ate at Kelly’s Bay) and BBQ’ d rice cake served with a sweetened soy sauce. It was just delicious. Gerrit and I then walked around the lovely harbour area. The area is covered with rock and wonderful flowers. At the water edge we noted some jelly fish swimming in the water. There must have been about 30 or 40 of them in the time we stood and watched the water.
The greatest highlight was a performance by the one of Japans greatest Krishima Kuman Taiko (or drum band). This was just awesome – we were flabbergasted at the energy and talent of these players. We have a video of one of the numbers but it is too large to upload from here. There was a selection of drums (bass, tenor) and a young woman playing a type of penny whistle and a humongous drum (played on both sides by players at the same time). You just had to see this performance to truly appreciate the talent of these wonderful artists.