Green Guest House
Without a doubt, the best place to stay in Kagoshima is the Green Guest House. It has a very convenient location, no further than a 10 minute walk from Tenmonkan and only 5 minutes away from Dolphin Port and the ports where the ferries depart, towards Sakurajima and Yakushima. Additionally, GGH has a policy to support travelers, therefore they will always lend a hand to people visiting Kagoshima, by recommending places to visit, helping to plan a trip or even assisting with making reservations of tickets and accommodation for travelers that cannot speak the Japanese language.
The facilities of GGH are extremely clean, with available options for every budget and taste. If you are on a budget and you don’t mind sharing a room, you can pay 1,800 Yen for a night at one of the split (male and female) dormitories or 2,300 to stay in a “capsule” in the mixed dormitory. If you want to have a little bit more privacy, GGH also has an option for you, private rooms for one (2,800 yen per night) or two people (4,600 Yen per night). They even have rooms for two or three people in case you are traveling in a small group or with your family (2,300 Yen per person). Out of all my trips around Japan I haven’t found a place with such good facilities at such a low price, which is why I can write with confidence that GGH is one of the best and definitely the cheapest places to stay in all of Japan.
The facilities are spacious, modern and very comfortable. The first floor, where you can find the reception, has a shared living room, a bar and a small common area, where you can use the computers with no extra charge, watch TV or even enjoy a movie from the many that they have in their catalogue, completely free! At the bar you can enjoy a beer, three different types of sake from the region or a bottle of Magma Soda, an exclusive drink from the area of Kagoshima with a spicy yet refreshing flavor. On the third floor you will find a shared kitchen equipped with everything you need to fix your own meals, which is free to use for all guests. Additionally, GGH house offers free coffee for guests. The building also has an area where you can have a BBQ or outdoor parties on the rooftop, with everything you need to cook meat or just have a nice evening chatting with old or new friends. You can also use the laundry and drying machines (with a price around 200 Yen per load each, and no extra charges for the detergent), free WiFi and showers available 24 hours. Safety is also a very important aspect of GGH, so they have free to use lockers for guests to keep their valuables in.
Perhaps the most important aspect of staying at GGH is the environment. The staff at this guesthouse are not only professionals, but are open to interact with the guests, treating each one of them as though they were a friend. They always have a smile on their face and will be open to assist you with any problem you might have during your stay. GGH is completely aware of the international environment of their services, which is why among the staff you’ll find people who can speak fluently Japanese, English, Chinese and even Spanish, making GGH one of the few places in Japan in which language does not represent a barrier. During my stay, I was able to see how people that have never met before can end up becoming traveling pals, and make plans together for their next destination. Without a doubt, GGH is the best place to stay in Kagoshima.
For more information or to make a reservation, you can call to the number 099-802-4301 or send an email to email@example.com. You can also access their website (English and Japanese) at: www.green-guesthouse.com.
Green Guest House
Sakamoto bldg. 5-7 Sumiyoshi-cho Kagoshima-shi Kagoshima 892-0823.
ちょうちょ家 (Chou Chou)
This little restaurant is without a doubt one of the best places to enjoy a delicious lunch in Kagoshima. Located north of Tenmonkan, Chou Chou is among the most hospitable places in town; so much that it even announces it on its front door by having a sign with the word “omotenashi” (hospitality) before the name of the restaurant.
The place is not very big and, although it is very easy to find, if you are not careful, you might miss this little gem. Chou Chou offers a large range of traditional Japanese food at an affordable price. At lunch, the average cost of a full course meal that includes rice, miso soup, salad, a main dish and one drink will be around 1000 Yen. If we take in to account the large size portions and great flavor, it is a very fair price.
The menu has a lot of different options, from the traditional grilled fish, to tempura and the many different ways to cook the famous black pork meat from the region. We strongly recommend you to try the oven-cooked pork with garlic and onions. Its taste is exquisite and the meat is so soft that it almost melts in your mouth… It’s delicious!
If you want to have lunch at Chou Chou, we strongly suggest you to come as early as possible, because of its fame among the locals, it’s very crowded at this time; which is why you’ll probably have to wait a little bit to get a table, but being patient will pay off as you will get to enjoy an excellent meal. Chou Chou is very easy to find, you just need to walk to the Northern area of Tenmonkan. As soon as you cross the tram line, you just have to walk another two blocks. In the intersection, that will be just where the roofed area finishes, turn left. Continue walking in this direction and you’ll find it to your left. You’ll recognize it from the signs with butterflies that are displayed outside the restaurant.
Higashisengoku cho 11-7 Yoshimata Building 2F, Kagoshima, Kagoshima.
Garufu is a restaurant that lovers of ramen cannot miss. This place is so famous that, no matter what time is it, there will always be at least one or two people waiting to get a seat. The reason behind this is very simple: without exaggeration, Garufu offers one of the best ramen in the country. Garufu’s ramen is not only delicious, but also very cheap, since their prices start from just 500 yen.
What makes Garufu’s ramen so delicious and unique is that they use the famous black pork meat of Kagoshima, giving a unique flavor to the soup making this a whole new experience of eating ramen. However, even though ramen is supposed to be some kind of fast food, you’ll have to be a little bit patient if you want to dine at Garufu, because due to its popularity, you will not only have to wait to be seated but also to finally get your ramen plate. But don’t worry; while you wait you can enjoy some of Kagoshima’s famous pickled daikon, free of charge.
Garufu has many branches around town. However, the most famous is the one of Tenmonkan, in Kagoshima’s downtown. To get to Garufu you just need to walk through the main street of Tenmonkan and you will find it to your right side on the northern part of the street, just a few meters after crossing the trolley.
Garufu Ramen Tenmonkan:
Higashisengoku cho 14-3 Okur building 1F, Kagoshima, Kagoshima.
軍拡酒場: Gunkaku Sakaba (Tavern Nation at War)
Gunkaku Sakaba is a unique place that you will not be able to find in any other part of Japan. A small themed bar, Gunkaku Sakaba is a secret place but at the same time, little by little, it has become more well known due to its controversial decoration. To enter Gunkaku Sakaba means taking a trip through time back to Japan during the World War II period. Although the war ended more than 60 years ago, this little and hidden tavern of Kagoshima tries to keep the atmosphere of the country during that time, in an effort to keep in people’s mind the memories of one of the hardest and most difficult periods in Japan’s history.
A visit to Gunkaku Sakaba is a visit to a completely different Japan. From the building’s entrance you can immediately perceive a change in the atmosphere. On the street, you can find a sign saying “Yassenbo are not welcomed,” marking the spot where you can find this bar. Yassenbo is a very strong word used during the War time to refer to a weak and useless person, showing how strict and harsh Japanese society used to be in that period. Following a stairway filled with handmade signs, you can find your way towards the fourth floor, where you can find Gunkaku Sakaba. As you go upstairs, you can hear military music from that time and just in last couple of steps you will find a huge sign with a military boat on it.
Once inside, an elderly woman will shout “One ready to enlist!” This 82 year old woman named Yoko Yokomichi is the owner and only employee of Gunkaku Sakaba. Seated behind the counter, wearing a band distinctive of a group of women that dedicated their lives to support soldiers during the war, Mrs. Yokomichi or Mamma San as she is known by friends, kindly takes care of all the people that wish to enlist in her tavern.
The environment and decoration is something that you will not be able to find in any other place in the country. Pictures, uniforms and equipment that were used by the Japanese soldiers during the World War II are among the many paraphernalia that you can find hanging on the walls of this bar. Among them, the most outstanding is a IJA 92 machinegun that stands in the middle of the counter. Each one of the seats is named according to the different places where important battles took place, like Manchuria or Saipan. Once you take a seat, Mamma San will offer you a “Torpedo,” as bottled beer is called in this place. You can accompany your drink with some “Rations” (salty crackers called Kanpan and sweets called Kanpeito), “Ammunition” (peanuts) or “Granades” (hardboiled egg). Each of them will be served on a stainless steel plate, just as it used to be during the war. You can also try some daikon (pickled radish) prepared by Mamma San right in front of you. We also recommend you to try the sake, brewed by Mrs. Yokomichi, it has a strong flavor, but it is very smooth, definitely very different to any other bar in the country.
However, the main reason why we encourage you to visit Gunkaku Sakaba is not the food or drinks, but for the experience of being able to share a drink and a conversation with someone that lived in Japan during those hard times. Committed to taking care of each and every one of her customers, Mrs. Yokomichi will approach you and share some anecdotes of how life was in Japan during that time, about the hopes and dreams that young people used to have before and after the war. One of the stories she shared with us is that the same “Rations” she serves in the bar were those that children used to eat at school during the hardest part of this period. Listening to this story whilst biting into one of these crackers can bring a more profound understanding of the hardships people had to face during this period. For this reason, in case you don’t speak Japanese it is very important for you to bring a friend that is able to translate for you so that you can have a fluent conversation with Mamma San and get a deeper understanding of Japan’s history. In fact, this is one of the reasons why Mrs. Yokomichi opened this place “To be able to share with the young people what it was like to live in those times and how to prevent it from happening ever again.” What Mamma San wants is to “be able to support youth in any way she can.” One visit to Gunkaku Sakaba is a unique experience that you will only be able to have in Kagoshima.
You can find this tavern very close to the Tenmonkan, just two blocks away from the southern part of this famous street. It can be a little tricky to find, because all the signs that guide you there are written in Japanese. However, part of the adventure of visiting Gunkaku Sakaba is finding this secret place.
Tenmonkan Gion Bldg, 6-17, 4F Sennichi, Kagoshima, Kagoshima