The next morning it was raining and I was hung over, so I borrowed an umbrella, bought some coffee from the vending machine, and went back to bed for a few hours. After that, I went to the train station and rented a bike. JR have managed to make renting bikes more complicated than renting cars in most of the rest of the world. First, you need to visit the train station’s reservation office and pay for a piece of paper that looks like a train ticket. Let’s call it a bike ticket. It has the pickup and drop off times on it – you have to decide in advance how long you’re keeping the bike for. Then you need to find the car rental counter, go there, and they’ll lead you out to the parking lot and give you a bike. The most annoying part is the counter closes at 17:00 in Kagoshima, so you can’t keep the bike any later than that.
Oh well. My goal in Kagoshima was to take the ferry out to Sakurajima, the island/active volcano across the harbour, and ride around it, visiting the sights on the way. Unfortunately, I was late enough that I didn’t have time to do much sightseeing if I wanted to ride all the way around. I stopped for 10 minutes in a lava field, which was cool. I expected a smooth flow but it turns out the cooling process makes it break up into chunks. Very neat. At the halfway point, I took a photo at the buried torii – a shirne gate that was buried by the 1914 eruption of Sakurajima. So not many photos but it was a nice ride.
Sakurajima is an interesting volcano. It occasionally dumps ash on Kagoshima but it’s mostly harmless. They’ve built some concrete eruption shelters just in case and you can see lava canals on the way around the island. They got a few days’ warning (wells boiled, the ocean turned purple) before it erupted in 1914 so nobody’s worried about it doing anything sudden.
One odd thing was how unfriendly the locals on Sakurajima seemed. Reactions to foreigeners so far seem to be indifference (Tokyo), welcome (Kagoshima), or surprise (Kishigawa.) On Sakurajima it seemed to be more of a hostile indifference. Oh well. Not everyone has to like me. It was just a big change from Kagoshima, which is just across the harbour and everyone is super friendly.
Originally written January 30, 2010