Island Hopping: Transportation around Kagoshima Prefecture

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One thing that distinguishes Kagoshima from other prefectures is many islands that lie between the prefecture mainland and Okinawa. From north to south, the main islands are: Tanegashima, Yakushima, Amami Oshima, Kikaijima, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu. While you can get around the mainland on the trains, or travel across Kagoshima Bay on the ferry, getting to and from the many islands can be a daunting, confusing, and often expensive task, but island residents get a discount on most air or sea travel within the prefecture.

North Islands: Tanegashima and Yakushima

 

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      On the left: Yakushima       On the right: Tanegashima

Japan Air Commuter (JAC) flies direct between Tanegashima and Kagoshima Airport. There are two flights a day, and a round trip with the island discount costs about ¥14,000. Yakushima is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also famous for inspiring the setting of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke.  JAC also operates 3 direct flights per day to Yakushima

 

You can also get from Kagoshima to Tanegashima via three different ferry options: Cosmo, Toppy and Rocket, and Hibiscus. The latter two also go to Yakushima.

  • The Cosmo line ferry runs once a day between Kagoshima and Tanegashima and takes about 3.5 hours, costing about ¥6000 round trip with the islander discount.
  • Toppy and Rocket] is a high-speed jet foil ferry that runs several times daily between Kagoshima and Tanegashima, and also between Kagoshima and Yakushima. The trip lasts about 1.5 hours, and costs around ¥10,000 with the islander discount.
  • Finally, the Hibiscus Ferry runs once a day between Kagoshima and Yakushima, stopping at Tanegashima along the way. The Kagoshima-Tanegashima leg lasts 3.5 hours and the Tanegashima-Yakushima leg lasts 2 hours. The full trip from Kagoshima to Yakushima costs about ¥6000 round trip, or you can take either of the individual legs for less.

South Islands: Amami Oshima, Kikai, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu

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Amami Oshima is the biggest of the Kagoshima islands and also has the most travel options. There are 7 flights run by JAL to and from Kagoshima Airport daily. Direct flights are also available to and from Kikai, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu via JAC, though there are only 2-3 each day per island.  JAC also runs about 3 flights daily between each of the smaller islands (Kikai, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu) and Kagoshima Airport. A round trip ticket from any of the islands to Kagoshima airport will cost somewhere in the range of ¥25,000 with the islander discount, and a round-trip ticket from the smaller islands to Amami will cost about ¥10,000 with the islander discount.

For travel by sea, the Kagoshima ferry route travels between Kagoshima and Okinawa every day, stopping at Amami, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu along the way. There are also two additional routes, the Amami ferry route and the Kikai ferry route, that also stop at Kikai and a second port in southern Amami. Taking the ferry is about half as expensive as flying, but expect the trip to last at least 12 hours, most of it overnight.

While travelling between the islands and the mainland can be inconvenient, seeing the different cultures on each island allows you to experience the full range of what Kagoshima has to offer.

Maranda Li is a second year JET on Amami Oshima

Getting That Coveted Japanese Driving Licence

While you can find the nitty-gritty details on the Kagoshima JET page , here is just a little bit of a personal insight into the process.
 
Japan is all about ticking boxes and following protocols. The driver’s license is no different!

Sure, there are the obvious rules you need to obey and safety protocol you need to adhere to show yourself a safe driver. But there are other hoops you need to be jumping through:
 
The first, saving: Apart from the test fees themselves, lessons work out expensive as well as getting to the venue (which is in Aira).  Nothing less than \30 000.
 
The second, learning the course: The conversion test does not involve real-road driving. There is a course that you drive but you have to learn all the observations, when to put on your flickers, distance from the curb you have to drive, etc. Taking lessons close to where you live is fine but get at least  1 practice in with an instructor at the test venue. Your test adjudicator will ask and it is one of those hoops you have to jump though. If you skip out on this step, they are prone to see that as skimping on your preparation and can decide to fail you just on that.
Then you have to memorise the course that you can do it in your sleep for the rest of you life. A few friends and I found that the best way to get the course in our heads was with a group lesson – You split the costs of the lesson and while the one person drives, the others can study the map and/ or video the course for later study.

Then, on the day of the test, I would recommend walking the course through – pretend that you are in the car, miming the indicators and observations.  The written tests are done in the morning, so the course will be clear until lunch time.
 
And finally, attitude:  Be super respectful at all times.  It is as much a part of the test as the driving. Dress fairly smart, lots of bows, よろしくお願いします and ありがとう.
 
Final piece of advice would then be when it comes to the actual test, do your best to relax. A stressed mind makes silly mistakes. I myself turned right from the far left lane. Obviously, I failed that first one… And if you fail, while it does suck, you have to pick yourself up as quickly as possible, learn from your mistakes – sometimes, you genuinely don’t know what you did wrong and I am afraid that this is one of those mysteries that we generally put under “the man being out to get us” – and get another date in.

がんばって!

Nicole Ehlers is a third year ALT in Minamikyushu.

Renting a Car Over Buying: An ALT’s Experience

Besides buying a car outright, renting one is also an option. I ended up renting my car after the one from my predecessor was no longer running, but the process may differ for other people. One of my JTEs remembered the name of a company in Kokubu (World Motors Kokubu) and called them for me. After getting a ride to their showroom and looking at a car they had, the company owner offered to let me do a long-term rental instead of buying. I paid about 10,000Y per month for the first year I rented, but my car insurance was paid separately.

What I liked about renting was that any maintenance (shakken particularly) on the car is covered by my rental contract, and that I could pay year by year instead of all at once. The downsides to renting were that I had to switch cars a few times, and because they’re rented cheaply the car models are  much older than you might buy from a dealer. If you’re sure of only staying in Japan for one year or think renting might be for you, ask your supervisor about options from companies in your area

 

lauraLaura Boville is a 2nd year ALT in Kanoya, Kagoshima.