Cycling Kyushu: Day 8 / by Ryan Mundt

CLEANING KAGOSHIMA

Day 8: Akune to Kagoshima  |  65km

I woke up at 7am. Got out the tent and took a little walk around the campgrounds. The forecast was calling for possible rain this morning so the skies were pretty overcast…again. I also later remembered that there was an eclipse around the same time I woke up. I didn’t ever think to look up.

When I returned to my tent Michael and Bridgette were getting out of their tent.

We sat around and started breakfast. We weren’t in a big hurry this morning since today’s ride would be so short.

We packed up out tents and bikes and hit the road around 9am. We would follow Route 3 all the way in to Kagoshima city.

Target near!

The ride was pretty uneventful other than the couple times my chain fell off while shifting gears. Around noon we stop at a 7-11 for lunch. At this point we are only about 20km from Kagoshima.

It’s not very often that I deal with complete newbie’s to Japan. Being as they can’t read anything, it’s fun to explain what all the different kinds of onigiri are in the conbini.

We take a seat on the concrete outside the store and I’m finally able to plug my cell phone in again in an outlet next to the pay phone.

It’s pretty warm now and the skies are fairly clear. I fill up the water bottles and we head off for the last 20km.

10km out and green as!

When we get to 10km out of the city I notice that it’s still really green. Usually by this point it really starts to get covered in concrete. This doesn’t happen until about 5km from the main station. As we head toward the station we can see some pretty nasty looking clouds up ahead.

Then as we really get into the city there is a wall of dust and ash a few blocks ahead. Kagoshima is, for god knows what reason, built 4km from a very active volcano. And today it is a little angry! The streets and air are increasingly being filled with a nasty black ash. It’s one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen. Why on earth do you build a city hear!?!

I have to put my sunglasses on to keep it out of my contacts and locals are running inside building and carrying umbrella to protect from the ash storm. Cars and street trolley’s are filthy with ash. This city begins to really remind me of the filthy streets in Beijing.

Luckily the guest house we planned on staying was near here. We cycle over to Little Asia Guest House where the sign says they have “frendy staff”.

They may have frendy staff but they sure as hell didn’t have friendly staff! We go inside and immediately are asked if we have reservations. No. Very short and frank the guy says they are full. Japanese people, especially in hospitality, are the kindest people in the world…almost to a fault. So I was kind of shocked as was the German.

We both turned away and said we didn’t believe this guy. So we asked him if he knew of the other hostel in the area called Green Guest House. He pointed to my iPhone and told me to look it up myself. What a dickhead!

So I look up the phone number for the other place and they couldn’t have been nicer! They had beds available and we said we’d be there in 15 minutes as it was closer to the port rather than the station.

We cycled down the main business street alongside the street trolleys, the streets still covered in ash. When we get to the hostel there is a middle-aged couple waiting for us. They check us in and give a rundown of the facilities. We ask them if this ash thing is normal. No, they say, you are lucky! Haha! Actually, I am kind of lucky to see it. It has definitely been a memorable experience.

Next thing is a shower to get the ash and sweat off us. We relax for a while and I have a celebratory chu-hi…by myself unfortunately! Oh well!

This guest house seems really nice and is only ¥1,500 a night for a bed. I climb up to the rooftop, and it’s covered in ash. From here I get my first view of the source of all this ash; a big vegetation-covered volcano with clouds lingering around the top. Very cool! Unfortunately there is a big storage warehouse blocking half the view.

After we relax for a bit we decide to go for a walk and explore Kagoshima. The worst of the ash storm seems to be over.

The side streets around the main shopping area are awesome! Ash aside, in a good way, it looks like a much dirtier and “lived-in” place than most of Japan. It resembles a mix of Thailand, China and Vietnam.

The grey ash make it look like China.

This makes me laugh for a couple reasons!

We walk all over the place together while we chat and they ask me about life in Japan. I also show them the wonder world that is Daiso!

We end up spending a majority of the time trying to find an ATM that they can get money out of! They have to end up calling their bank back home to get it sorted out.

Fun for the whole family!

Around 7pm we start to get hungry and look for an izakaya, being as they are new to Japan and want to try a bunch of stuff. The food was great but unfortunately their credit cards didn’t work here either!

After dinner we head back to guest house and relax for the rest of the night. Tomorrow is a full day of travel back to Tokyo via shinkansen and the couple will take the ferry over to the volcano, Sakurajima, and cycle on from there.

We go to bed around 10pm. Lying in bed the building vibrates with every big truck’s passing on the big street below. I hate to see this vacation end! What an amazing amazing experience!