If kurobuta katsu and active volcanoes sounds like a cool trip, Kagoshima will satisfy. CNN even had it listed as one of the top 5 most overlooked cities in Asia. It's at the southern-most tip of Kyushu in southern Japan, however, so it's unfortunately missed by most tourists.
Kagoshima was the first trip that I took after moving to Japan in 2009 after hearing people recommend it. I left Kagoshima putting it up there on my list favorite places in Japan. I made sure I went again for a second time in 2013. It's a great place to check out if you're looking for a tad bit of a warmer getaway to relax in "mainland Japan."
Sakurajima is (well, was) an island with the active volcano. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a good shot of it, but it's easily visible from the coast of Kagoshima city. You can see ash spewing out at the top.
To get to the volcano island, you head over by a 15-minute ferry that you catch from the Sakurajima ferry Kagoshima Port. There are buses at the port that will take you around the island. If you're not headed someplace like one of the numerous onsen on there, you can catch a bus like us that stops at some scenic spots.
Nearby the ferry port on the Kagoshima city side is Kagoshima Aquarium. It's a pretty nice aquarium, with dolphins being a main focus. There's an indoor dolphin show as well as a dolphin viewing in what seems to be a converted canal.
If you know a little bit of Japanese history, you'll probably know about Saigo Takamori. He's one of the most famous samurai, and was the inspiration to Tom Cruise's "The Last Samurai" film.
A trip to Kagoshima wouldn't be complete if it weren't for food. If you're a pork or tonkatsu lover, Kagoshima is the city best known in Japan for kurobuta pork. That means, kurobuta katsu, flavorful Kagoshima-style tonkotsu ramen, kurobuta shabu shabu... YUM.
Big statement: This is my favorite katsu that I've had in Japan. I've been here twice, to two different locations, and I can say that I've never had such perfectly breaded and fried, melt-in-your-mouth tonkatsu like I've had here. My family feels the same way. And that's no easy statement to make, there are so many good katsu spots in Japan. Even if you have to wait a while to get a seat, stick it out.
Kagoshima can be a little warmer than most places in Japan, so if you're looking for some shave ice, Shirokuma would be the place to go. It's probably the most famous dessert spots in the city, and is known throughout the country. While they do serve other foods, their assorted fruits in a fluffy bowl of snow is their most popular.