Sengan-en: Where Japanese History, Nature and Sweet Potatoes Mash Together

A volcano, historical Japanese estate, sapphire blue ocean, UNESCO museum, a cute Starbucks…. Sengan-en has it all. 

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I visited this feudal estate, built in 1658 by Shimadzu Mitsuisha of the Shimadzu clan, before Ste went back to the UK. It was recommended by my awesome friend and Kagoshima connoisseur, Lydia. Her recommendations are consistently brilliant so I didn’t doubt her for her second on this one.

Following her advice, we boarded the city tour bus from Amu Plaza; you can’t miss the rooftop Ferris wheel. The pre-recorded tour guide, speaking English and Japanese, gave us some useful information about Kagoshima’s history as we headed out of the city, towards the coast to get to Sengan-en.

The bus cost 190 yen (just under £1.50) and stops at other places of interests too,; including Shiroyama Observatory for an amazing view of Kagoshima, as well as Saigo’s Cave, for anyone interested in the last samurai.

Feeling rather swatted up on Kagoshima history, we hopped off the bus right outside of Sengan-en. From the onsite ATM we withdrew some money and stood for a while at the ticket machine, pondering the prices.

You can either pay 1000 yen to visit the garden and museum or pay an extra 500 yen for access into ‘The House’. Eventually, we went with the house ticket, better to go all out, right?

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A map of the grounds- pretty huge right? 

Our first stop was the museum. We had no idea what the museum was about until we went in and I was happily surprised to find that all of the artefacts had an English explanation.

The museum is a UNESCO World Heritage site, telling the story of Japan’s industrial revolution. We learnt about the area’s birth of industry, interactions with the west and got to see some stunning samurai armour. The museum itself is an artefact, housed in Japan’s oldest remaining stone factory, built in 1865. 

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UNESCO Shoko Shuseikan Museum

Next came the gardens and holy sweet potato, they are huge. They mirror the volcano; with greenery and natural beauty sprawling out from the house like lava and pouring down into the blue sea. You follow this rippling magma of natural beauty across the sea and meet the mirror image itself, the epicentre of Kagoshima pride- Sakurajima. An active volcano.

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This part of the gardens offered an amazing view of Sakurajima

We planned to go to the house first but ended up distracted and detouring the gardens first. There were little craft shops, ponds, beautiful flowers and multiple shrines- including a cat shrine. It’s no wonder we took a detour!

I can’t praise this place highly enough. The whole place just felt calm. Ste was even in the mood to meditate! 

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Eventually, after a long, long, long long long time- we got to the house. 

The house is presented as it was lived in by Shimazu Tadashige in the 19th century and I want this to be my house. It was resplendent. A living, almost breathing, artefact of Japanese history. 

Walking around the house, you realise how giant it is. It doesn’t look so big on the outside. 

The highlights for me were the views of Sakurajima from the window, the at-home private onsen and the inner garden. Yes, INNER garden. The house just swallowed Japanese culture and welcomed us in to see it preserved in its stomach.

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Could an inner garden work in the UK?

After getting our fill and looking till we couldn’t look anymore we headed off. Slowly meandering back through the gardens, straight into the omiyage shop (obviously).

One of the shops was a brand shop, which I would argue doubled as an art gallery. They were selling famous Satsuma Kiriko glassware, cedarwood work and other literally stunning products. This stuff was, naturally, pretty expensive but it was worth it just to look around. I’d recommend this place if you wanted to get a special present. 

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Deep-fried fishcakes (Satsuma age), sweet potato ice cream, ryobo mochiya… there’s a lot of Kagoshima food to try

The shop next door was more my style. It was a standard souvenir shop selling snacks, local shochu (Japanese liquor), postcards etc.

After stocking up on postcards for people back home, we set off for Iso Beach, sitting five minutes away from Sengan-en, just past the 7-11 and Joyfull Restaurant. 

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Iso Beach hosts several activities in the summer
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In trying to make Ste a caterpillar, we accidentally cloned him. Top photographer.

Sitting right on the beach is The Factory Cafe, where we went to get lunch, at Lydia’s suggestion. While there were food options in Sengan-en, Ohkatei Restaurant (open 11:00-15:30) and Shofuken (open 11:00-14:30), this place was supposed to be good, well known for its burgers, and I wanted Kagoshima speciality sweet potato chips.

We were not at all disappointed.

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We had an amazing view of the volcano!
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The beautifully chaotic decor had me swooning
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I mean look how happy I am in this chair! Bonus~ do any music fans recognise my t-shirt?
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I devoured these 3-type chips! My favourite was the sweet potato, when in Rome right?

The owners of this cafe also own PINA, an amazing Italian restaurant in the city centre that I’ve eaten at. They also have veggie options and the food is delicious. For more info on these restaurants, their location or to have a look at some of their others, visit their website!

Instagram: Pina_Kagoshima

Instagram:Factory_Kagoshima

We all need a bit of escapism at the minute. With a big load of you stuck within the same 4 walls for the foreseeable future, where do you dream of going when all of this is over? Keep that place in your mind and remember that we’re all in this together.

Stay Positive,

Jess

x

 

Feature Image taken at Iso Beach, Kagoshima

11 thoughts on “Sengan-en: Where Japanese History, Nature and Sweet Potatoes Mash Together

  1. That was a beautiful blog & some lovely pictures especially the one of Ste & the volcano in the back ground truly stunning & magical at the same time
    You’ve experienced so much in your time in Japan & seen things I’ll never get to see with my eyes but I feel as if I’ve seen them through yours & I in vision myself in many of the places you’ve visited In your pictures
    Enjoy a saviour the rest of your time there because their all memories you’ll cherish & share for the rest of your life
    Love you lots always x😍x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙇🏼‍♀️🙇🏼‍♀️ I’m glad that I got as much done as I could before the virus hit. There’ll be plenty of time to travel after the virus too- let’s go somewhere!! 💕💕 Xxx

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    1. Thanks! The sunny weather was definitely the cherry on top 🍒
      I’d love to go back in summer, when the beach activities were running! You guys seem into your travel- where to next, after coronavirus calms down? 🤞❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We would also love to return in the summer, and that time with a rental car! Our next big adventure should be New Zealand! In the meantime, we will keep exploring Japan even if just by foot and bike! What about you?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I love your enthusiasm! For rental cars- the coastal road that passes Sengan-en makes for a really great drive. I’d also recommend Aso in Kumamoto if you haven’t visited there before, beautiful scenery and hikes.
        New Zealand!! That’s wonderful, I’d love to visit there too.
        For me, I’m hoping to explore some more of Japan before I return to the UK. I hope I get a chance to visit Okinawa, Hokkaido or Yokohama before I leave!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for the advice, haven’t been to Aso! When are you leaving Japan? Yokohama can be easily done as a day trip from Tokyo 🙂 Hokkaido is great in the summer as the temperatures are around 20-25 degrees and no humidity!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s well worth the trip if you’re into nature! You can visit the active volcano too! I’m leaving Japan in August- it’s so soon! Thanks for the info, I didn’t know Yokohama was so accessible! And Hokkaido sounds amazing, Kyushu summers are so hot and humid, no humidity sounds like heaven! 🙂

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