Kagoshima in a wheelchair | Accessibility Review
The last stop on our 21-day Shinkansen trip through Japan was Kagoshima. While this beautiful and accessible seaside city at the southwestern tip of Kyushu Island is not a typical stop for travelers with a Japan Rail Pass, it is more than worth a visit. Kagoshima is known for its active and potentially dangerous volcano, the majestic Sakurajima. In this travel review, you can read everything about the accessibility of Kagoshima and its sights.
How to get there by train
Kagoshima is directly served by the Kyushu Shinkansen departing from Shin-Osaka Station. The travel time is 4 hours. Major stations on the way to Kagoshima-Chūō Station, the terminus, are Hakata as well as Kumamoto. Like all Shinkansen stations, Kagoshima-Chūō is completely wheelchair-accessible.
Kagoshima City Tram
The Kagoshima City Tram connects Kagoshima-Chūō Station with the city center, but not all the tram stations are accessible. There is only one wheelchair-accessible low floor tram running. We missed the accessible tram by seconds and had to wait about 20 min. for it to come back. The tram driver set up a ramp and pushed me on board. We got off at the accessible Tenmonkan tram stop. However, the platform was very narrow and my 40 cm wide manual wheelchair hardly fitted between platform and tram. The fare of ¥170 (2018) per ride has to be paid in cash.
Wheelchair-accessible hotel in Kagoshima
The REMM Kagoshima, a modern 3-star hotel in the heart of Tenmonkan, has one accessible double twin room adapted for wheelchair-users. The comfortable twin beds are easy to move closer if needed. Besides the fact that the room is not extremely spacious, it is possible to move around in a small wheelchair without hitting the walls.
However, there was no chance for me to access the TV cupboard. The passage was just too narrow for my wheelchair because of the table, the massage chair as well as the couch.
The bathroom is spacious enough to turn around in a wheelchair. Like in most wheelchair-adapted rooms across Japan, the bathroom has no roll-in shower but an “accessible” tub. There are lots of grab bars.
There is space to transfer from the wheelchair to the toilet. But how should a wheelchair user grab a towel? As you see in the picture below there are lots of amenities for hotel guests as well as a hair dryer and a hot brush.
Tenmonkan Dori is a large shopping street with lots of shops and restaurants in the bustling city center of Kagoshima. There are also lots of smaller side streets to discover. The entire Tenmonkan district is roof-covered, to protect visitors from regular ash falls, rain as well as sun. Most importantly, the Tenmonkan arcades are wheelchair-accessible. MARION CRÊPES has its origins in Harajuku/Tokyo and came all the way to Kagoshima to treat visitors as well as locals with sweet or salty French crêpes.
Kagoshima City View Bus
The Kagoshima City View Bus is a good way to discover the city as a wheelchair user. The fare per ride is ¥190 (2018).Wheelchair-accessible seating is available. The bus leaves from Kagoshima-Chūō Station and takes you around the city in about 80 minutes. All major sightseeing spots are served on the audio-guided round course: the Museum of the Meiji Restoration, Tenmonkan, the Statue of Saigo Takamori, Shiroyama Observatory (not accessible), Sengan-en as well as the City Aquarium. We took the bus from Tenmonkan to get to Sengan-en and back.
The driver was very friendly and he pushed me onboard after preparing the access ramp. He also provided wheel chocks to stabilize the wheelchair. There were several grab bars in front of me and I felt safe during the ride. He asked where we would like to get off before the bus moved on.
Sengan-en is a scenic, traditional Japanese garden, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more than 350 years it has been passed down through the Shimadzu family. The garden offers beautiful views of the active Sakurajima volcano and the Aira Caldera. The regular entrance fee is ¥1000 per adult. Wheelchair users pay ¥1500 with a proof of disability (written in English), one accompanying person included.
First things first: Sengan-en is wheelchair-accessible in large parts, but like in many temples and castles across Japan, there is gravel on most of the paths. There are several wheelchair-accessible restrooms throughout the garden. An accessible route for wheelchair users is clearly indicated on the area map on the Sengan-en website.
The inside of feudal lord Shimadzu’s former home can be visited, but unfortunately, it is not wheelchair-accessible. As you can see above, there is gravel around the house and wheelchair users might need help. The restaurants and souvenir shops are perfectly accessible. Here are some more impressions:
Unfortunately, there are steps to Konan Bamboo Grove, Kyokusui Garden as well as the upper Sakurajima Island viewpoint which consequently make these areas inaccessible to wheelchair users.
However, there is another great Sakurajima viewpoint on the accessible route through Sengan-en. It is close to the Shimadzu family residence in the “Borrowed Scenery” Garden.
Kagoshima is a beautiful and very wheelchair-friendly seaside city. Clear efforts have been made to welcome wheelchair users. Besides the fact, that not all tram stops are accessible yet, there are other options like the Kagoshima Cityview Bus to get around. Most of the major sites are wheelchair-accessible. Make sure to also read about the accessibility of the Sakurajima Ferry as well as the active Sakurajima Volcano.
Have you already been to Kagoshima?
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Tell me more about your experience in the comments below!