Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Visiting Kagoshima City - Starting Out

A logical starting place for exploring Kagoshima City is the main train station, Kagoshima-chuo eki. This is a recent addition to the city, having been built specifically as part of the bullet train system. The old Kagoshima eki is a couple of miles farther northeast, and looks very "industrial". While the newer and older stations are not physically connected by tracks, the street cars do run between them, and only cost 160 yen ($2). Kagoshima-chuo contains a large department store, and the Amuse Plaza (Amupla) complex, with a Kinokuniya bookstore and a Bic Camera shop. On top of the building is a Ferris wheel.

Currently, there's a stage set up in the main plaza, and bands occasionally play live during the week. This group had at least two westerners, and one of the songs they played was a cover of "Hotel California".

In front of the station on the east side is a large taxi and bus circle, plus a statue dedicated to "Group of Satsuma Youths". As part of the Meiji Restoration, a number of young men were recruited to travel to various western countries to study government and engineering.

Running straight east from the station is Napoli Douri Avenue (Naples Street Avenue), which turns into Perth Douri Avenue after crossing route 20 about a kilometer away.

The main intersection in front of the station includes Napoli Douri, and one street running south, which forks into two street going northeast. The eastern most of the two northern streets is called Miami Douri. Miami has the Tamiyama streetcar line which runs from the station down to Izuro Douri and the two big stone lanterns, before turning north to the old Kagoshima eki.

The second street from the fork, the western most of the two, runs into Nakanohiratori Street, which then goes northeast. Napoli/Perth, Miami and Nakanohiratori all head east to end at Kagoshima Bay, near or at Dolphin Port. As far as sightseeing goes, some of the monuments are as much as half a kilometer south of Napoli/Perth,and some others are between Napoli/Perth and Miami streets, but the majority are more along Nakanohiratori. Then, there are a few more sites north and east along the bay past Nakanohiratori. Many of the museums are on Nakanohiratori, as well as a number of government offices.

Then there's the river bed, named the Kotsuki river, which runs from northeast to southwest a couple of blocks in front of Kagoshima-chuo station, to eventually empty out at the bay 1-2 kilometers west of Dolphin Port. A number of monuments are along the river, with several pretty close to the station. Given the layout of the city and the spacing between monuments, it might be possible see all of them in one day, if you skipped going inside the museums and cultural center buildings. But, to really do the city justice, it'd be better to spend a week in the area and immerse yourself in the local history. One last note, there's a large hill near Nakanohiratori street, Shiroyama, which contains the highest point in the city (107 meters), the Observatory Promontory overlook, and the cave where Saigo Takamori and his men hid from government forces at the end of the Meiji Rebellion.

Because the Kotsuki river runs right in front of the station, there's a strong need for bridges in the area. I encountered two of them during my walk to visit memorials dedicated to Saigo, and both had memorial markers for landmarks that used to be there before. The quoted text comes from the markers. Note that "hashi" (sometimes pronounced as "bashi") means "bridge".

Bridge 1.

"Here stood Nishidabashi, one of the famous five stone bridges that Kumamoto mason, Iwanaga Sangoro, built at the behest of Zusho Hirosato following the reforms of the Tempo period. Takenohashi and Shinkanbashi were badly damaged by flooding on Aug. 6th, 1993, and the three remaining bridges were moved to Gion-no-su to facilitate river works. Completed in 1846, Nishidabashi was the entrance to the castle town with its own gate on the left bank, and at 6.2m was the widest of the five Kotsuki bridges. It owed its unique beauty to the double-arch design and the fanning pattern of the stones between the arches. The stone balusters were capped with bronze and linked with elegant tubular stone railings."

(The replacement bridge.)

(Photo of the old gate that used to restrict access to the bridge.)

Bridge 2.

(Old photo.)

"Here stood Koraibashi, one of the famous five stone bridges that Kumamoto mason, Iwanaga Sangoro, built at the behest of Zusho Hirosato following the reforms of the Tempo period. Completed in 1847, the four-arch Koraibashi was the second longest of the five Kotsuki bridges. The sides sloped more than Shinkanbashi, and the upstream protective pilings rose almost vertically to road level. Flagstones on the river bed also helped to protect the bridge. Local masons, Ryusuke Yamada and Genjiro Tanaka made their names working on this bridge under Iwanaga Sangoro."

(Replacement bridge)

About 1 kilometer east of the station, in front of the City Hall, is Chuu-ou Koen, which translates to "Central Park". Walkways lead in from each of the four corners, and have markers identifying them as "Miami Gate", "Perth Gate", "Napoli Gate" and "Chousa Gate" ("Chousa" is the Japanese pronunciation of "Changsha", the capital of Hunan province in China). According to the wiki entry, Kagoshima is sister city with Naples, Perth and Miami, and friendship city with Changsha.

To wrap things up. along the river near the Meiji Restoration Museum, at the south end of the History Road, there's a small park area with some rocks from the Tokyo garden of Tsugumichi Saigo. While I've been using the name "Saigo" fairly liberally in this entry, I'm actually referring specifically to Takamori Saigo, "the Last Samurai". Takamori had (I think) 2 younger brothers, one of whom was Tsugumichi, who went to to be a military leader during the uprising against the shogunate. Kagoshima collected some of the stones from the garden Tsugumichi kept at his residence in Tokyo, and erected them along the river near his birthplace.

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