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
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
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