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photo of Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park


Kirishima Massif, Kinkowan Bay, Sakurajima Volcano
—Hot Springs Created by Giant Calderas and Bountiful Seas
Date of Designation: March 16, 1934
Area: 36,605 ha (land area)
Related Prefectures: Miyazaki, Kagoshima
Born in 1934 as Kirishima National Park, Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park was one of Japan's first national parks. The park can be broadly divided into northern and southern parts, each with its own characteristic scenery as either the Kirishima area or Kinkowan Bay area.
The Kirishima area in the northern part of the park has a series of more than 20 volcanoes, both large and small, as well as crater lakes, fumarole phenomena, hot springs, and plateaus all created through volcanic activity, in addition to a large amount of natural vegetation. Many tourists and others visit the main usage bases for the Kirishima area, including the Ebino Highland, Kirishima Onsen hot springs resort, Takachihogawara, and Kirshima-jingu Shrine. In the Kinkowan Bay area in the southern part of the park, centered around Mt. Sakurajima --a still-active volcano that is the area's symbol--is unique scenery, including Mt. Kaimon, Lake Ikeda, and Chiringashima Island on the Satsuma Peninsular side; Cape Sata-misaki --home of many subtropical plants--on the Osumi Peninsular side; and the sea area within the bay.

Terrain/ Scenery

photo of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine

Mt. Takachiho-no-mine
Photograph provided by Takeharu Nagatomo

Southern Kyushu, where the park is located, is an area where volcanic activity is frequent. Eruptions continue to occur today, and giant calderas (depressed topography formed by eruptions accompanied by large spurts of magma) formed by large-scale eruptions in the past can be seen. This volcanic activity is caused by the movement of a plate sinking into the ocean floor to the east of Kyushu, and the Kakuto, Kobayashi, Aira, Ata, and other calderas are located in a row running north-south. Furthermore, eruptions have had an enormous impact on the topography and geology of southern Kyushu, such as the pyroclastic plateaus formed by sediment from falling ash and pyroclastic flows accompanying large-scale eruptions in the past.

The Kakuto and Kobayashi calderas are located in the southern part of the Kirishima area, which is also referred to as the "Volcano Museum" because of its diverse cluster of more than 20 volcanoes, both large and small, including Mt. Karakuri (1,700 m above sea level) and Mt. Takachiho-no-mine (1,574 m above sea level) .
photo of Mt. Shinmoedake (Eruption in 2011)

Mt. Shinmoedake (Eruption in 2011)

Volcanic activity in the area is still vigorous, with Mt. Shinmoe erupting in 2011.
In the Kinkowan Bay area, Mt. Sakurajima to the south of the Aira caldera is a world-famous active volcano; on the southern side of the volcano lies the Ata caldera. The topography of Mt. Sakurajima continues to change tremendously due to the volcano's many eruptions, such as the large-scale eruption 100 years ago (in 1914) in which larva created a land bridge between the island and the Osumi Peninsula.
photo of Onami-ike Crater Lake

Onami-ike Crater Lake

In the Kirishima area, volcanoes with various topographies, crater lakes, fumarole phenomena, and hot springs characterize the landscape. Due to climate changes in the past, volcanic eruptions, differences in altitude, and other factors, the area has a wide variety of plant life, and seasonal changes such as blossoming flowers, crimson autumn leaves, and accumulated snow color the landscape. Moreover, the peak of Mt. Karakuri provides a commanding view of not only the Kirishima area's many and various volcanoes but also Mt. Sakurajima, Mt. Kaimon , and other volcanoes aligned in the direction of Kinkowan Bay.
photo of Mt. Sakurajima

Mt. Sakurajima

The Kinkowan Bay area landscape comprises Mt. Sakurajima rising out of the bay as well as the peninsulas enclosing the bay. A unique landscape has been created through the combination of topographies such as Mt. Sakurajima --the entire island of which comprises a lava flow landscape--and the Aira caldera around Mt. Sakurajima, Mt. Kaimon --which is a multiple volcano--and Lake Ikeda around Ibusuki, and the Mt. Tsujidake fault escarpment at the Ata caldera and coastal cliffs around Cape Sata-misaki , with subtropical forests and vegetation and sea areas.


A diverse range of plants is distributed through the park due to vigorous volcanic activity, repeated climatic changes in the past, differences in altitude ranging from sea level to mountain peaks rising 1,700 m above sea level, the Kuroshio Current--a warm ocean current that is one of the largest ocean currents in the world--and abundant rainfall in mountain areas said to reach as much as 4,000 mm per year. In high altitude areas, there are solfatara formations (open vegetation that has adapted to a solfatara environment) that have been impacted by volcanic activity as well as colonies of Rhododendron kiusianum. Moreover, in medium altitude areas there are broadleaf deciduous forests of Beech, etc., temperate coniferous forests of Fir, etc., and broadleaf evergreen forests of Castanopsis and Oak, etc.; and in low altitude areas, there are subtropical forests of Banyan and other trees. Thus there is rich variation in vegetation, and the ecosystem functions based on this.
Also, in places that have been impacted in the past by volcanic eruptions, such as the remains of lava flows, there are plants whose transitional stages differ for each eruption period, making the area a valuable place in terms of research where ecosystem changes can be observed.
photo of Colonies of Rhododendron kiusianum

Colonies of Rhododendron kiusianum along the mountain peak
Photograph provided by Takeyoshi Kamamiya

A wide variety of plants grow in the Kirishima area, enabling observation of a diversity of flowers in each season. Early spring is the time to view, Japanese Witch Hazel, and Gentiana thunbergii; early summer is the season for Wisteria brachybotrys, Magnolia sieboldii ssp. japonica, and Schizocodon soldanelloides; summer is the time for viewing Japanese stuartia and Conandron ramondioides; and autumn is the season for Patrinia scabiosifolia and Swertia japonica. There are also many plants whose Japanese names include the word "Kirishima", including Miyamakirishima (Rhododendron kiusianum), Kirishimamizuki (fragrant witch hazel), Kirishimagumi (Elaeagnus epitricha momiyama), and Kirishimahikodai (Saussurea scaposa).
photo of Magnolia sieboldii ssp. Japonica

Magnolia sieboldii ssp. Japonica

photo of Fragrant Witchhazel Photograph provided by Takeyoshi Kamamiya

Fragrant Witchhazel
Photograph provided by Takeyoshi Kamamiya

A diverse range of plants that can also be seen in the Kinkowan Bay area, including Balanophora tobiracola, Veratrum linnaeus, Corn Lilies, the Fern Palm, and the Banyan Tree; in Cape Sata-misaki there are also Crateva religiosa and Livistona chinensis, and in the cloud belt around the peak of Mt. Kaimon grow Liparis auriculata and Calanthe reflexa. In the Ibusuki area in particular, both northern species such as Vicia amurensis oetting, Cimicifuga japonica, and Viola chaerophylloides forma sieboldiana and southern species such as the fern palm and seaside morning glory can be observed.
photo of Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree


In the ocean area, due to the effects of the Kuroshio Current, there is a vividly colorful underwater seascape comprising stony corals and soft corals (seaweed) where a distinctive ecosystem with subtropical fish, such as butterfly fish and heavenly damselfish swimming around can be observed.
The Kirishima area is home to a variety of birds, including the extremely rare pitta and the ruddy kingfisher with its distinctive reverberating call. Insects found here include the wonderful hairstreak (southernmost distribution) and Antigius butleri butterflies.
In recent years, the number of Japanese deer in the Kirishima area has been increasing, and the strong pressure of their grazing is having a huge impact on the vegetation overall.

Ruddy Kingfisher
Photograph provided by Takeyoshi Kamamiya

The Kinkowan Bay area is home to birds such as the Brown Booby and Japanese Cormorant, which can be found on Matagoshi Island off the shore of Takeyama, while visitors can also observe rare and migratory butterfly species such as the Great Orange Tip and the Peacock Pansy, which are endemic to southern regions.
In addition, the rare Libellula angelina dragonfly can be observed in the ponds and bogs around Ibusuki, and the tropical giant mottled eels measuring more than 2 m in length live in Lake Ikeda--which is designated as a natural treasure as a breeding ground--and various other locations in the area.
Especially in the nationally designated Miike Wild Birds' Forest at the foot of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, many wild birds including the screech owl, black paradise flycatcher, and Mandarin duck can be observed.
In addition to being home for various insect species, such as cicadas and Artimpaza setigera japonica, the Sata area is a stopping point for many migrating birds such as the gray-faced buzzard and Chinese goshawk, and birdwatchers flock here during the migration season.


photo of Amanosakahoko (legendary spear) atop Mt.Takachihonomine Photograph provided by Takeyoshi Kamamiya

Amanosakahoko (legendary spear) atop Mt. Takachiho-no-mine
Photograph provided by Takeyoshi Kamamiya

Tensonkorin (Descent to Earth of the Grandson of the Sun Goddess)
Mt. Takachiho-no-mine in the Kirishima area is a sacred mountain said to have been where Tenson (Ninigi no Mikoto, grandson of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu) descended to earth bearing three celestial gifts. The Amanosakahoko (legendary spear) at the mountain's summit is said to have been driven into the mountain when the deity descended to earth, and so is consecrated as a sacred treasure of the Kirishima-higashi-jinja Shrine. At the foot of the mountain is also the Kirishima-jingu Shrine and ancient shrine ruins, giving the area a mystical atmosphere imbued with a sense of ancient history.
photo of A Hot Spring in Ibusuki

A Hot Spring in Ibusuki

Hot Springs
In and around the park are many hot springs--blessings of the volcanoes--that have been enjoyed since ancient times by local residents and visitors coming for hot spring cures. Hot springs in the Kirishima area are known for their rich spring quality, including sulfurous and hydrogen carbonate springs. Although located outside the park, the Ibusuki Sand Baths in the Kinkowan Bay area are also famous throughout Japan.