Kagoshima and the Historic Sengan-en

Nestled at the south western tip of the island of Kyushu lies Kagoshima, the largest city and the capital of Kagoshima Prefecture.Kagoshima is nicknamed the “Naples of the Eastern world” for its climate and the stratovolcano, Sakurajima.

The city is a favorite place to visit by many not only for its picturesque landscapes but also for its legendary tales of ancient civilizations and samurai clans fighting to keep foreign invaders away from their lands.

Sakurajima Island. | Yoshikazu TAKADA

 Finally culminating in having an important role in contributing to the modernization of Japan.The history of Japan tells us that Kagoshima was one of the places that initially had first contacts with outsiders.

The city was a de-facto capital of the Satsuma domain, was a busy trade hub with neighboring China, and in 1549, the arrival of Jesuit priest St. Francis Xavier, introduced Christianity. Three hundred years later, the city would come into conflict with the British Royal Navy across the same stretch of waters during the Anglo-Satsuma war. The ensuing battle between the British would unexpectedly pave the way for an allied relationship between the two sides. The movie “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise, made even more famous the Japanese hero Saigo Takamori, who lead the doomed Satsuma rebellion.

The Shimadzu clan. One of the most powerful families in Japan ruled Kagoshima for 700 years up until the Meiji Restoration. The family crest, a circular crest with a cross, is seen all around modern-day Kagoshima.

Shimadzu clan family crest.

One of the most visited places in the area is the family’s home, Sengan-en. Mitsuhisa, the 19th lord of Shimazu built Sengan-en in 1658.  Sengan-en is said to have been named after Mount Longhu (“”Dragon Tiger Mountain” located in China and is famous for being one of the birthplaces of Taoism).  In 1736, Lord Yoshitaka added a kyokusui water feature and moso bamboo from China through the Ryūkyū Kingdom. During the Bakumatsu and Meiji periods, Sengan-en housed vising dignitaries some of whom were Willem Johan Cornelis Huijssen van Kattendijke (was a career officer of the Royal Dutch Navy and a politician), British diplomat Harry Smith Parkes, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and Prince George of Greece.

Sengan-en is well preserved as of today, is a wonderful Japanese stately home with lush gardens and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Senga-en. | gorekun

The estate includes a museum, shrines, shops, restaurants a hiking course and a bamboo grove. A wonderful place that tells us many tales of historical times.