- Ibusuki, where rapeseed flowers bloom the earliest in Japan
- The top two superb rapeseed flower field view spots
- Rape flowers blooming around the mystical "Lake Ikeda"
- Rape flowers blooming against the majestic Kaimondake
- The appeals of Ibusuki are not only the rape flowers
- Our recommend during the winter season, the "Sunamushi Onsen"
- Try visiting "Chiringashima" after the end of the rape flower season
- Let's plan a visit to Ibusuki to see the "Rape Flowers"!
Blessed with seasonal nature, Kagoshima prefecture is a place full of photogenic sceneries.
Ibusuki city is located at the southern tip of the Satsuma Peninsula, and is famous for being the spot for the earliest blooming nanohana fields in Japan, where you can appreciate a photogenic scenery starting from mid-December. “Nanohana” in Japanese refers to the young plants and blossoms of the rapeseed plant, and is a long-loved seasonal flower in poems and cuisine.
This time, we will introduce the vivid nanohana field of Ibusuki, the deep relationship between the city and the flower, the top two recommended nanohana spots, along with attractions you can enjoy here during the flower’s off-season as well.
Ibusuki, where nanohana bloom the earliest in Japan
When hearing the word rape nanohana, I believe most Japanese people will think of the spring season.
This makes sense, because nanohana, both ornamental and edible, generally reach their peak season during January to March and are shipped nationwide. In addition to this, nanohana in the world of Haiku, is a seasonal phrase referring to late spring (around May).
However, this does not apply to Ibusuki city located in southern Kagoshima prefecture, where you can appreciate the Japan’s earliest blooming nanohana starting from mid-December.
More than 10 million nanohana color the city at their peak in January and various events are held to celebrate their coming..
The nanohana coloring Ibusuki
What kind of place is Ibusuki?
Ibusuki is an area with plenty of terrestrial heat and hot springs
Ibusuki city is located at the southern end of the mainland of Kagoshima (excluding remote islands).
The climate is warm throughout the year, due to merging warm currents(Kuroshio) and the abundant terrestrial heat of the hot springs. The average annual temperature here is quite high at around 19 degrees (compared to the 15 degrees in Tokyo), and this is the reason why it is also known as the "Oriental Hawaii".
Along this line, the mayor makes an "Aloha Declaration" every April, where every worker in city halls, banks and hotels dress in Hawaiian shirts for 6 months.
Various events related to nanohana are also held at Ibusuki.
Out of these, the "Ibusuki Nanohana Marathon" is especially popular, with it celebrating its 39th opening in 2020.
It is run by the Japan Association of Athletics annually on the second Sunday of January and it is the earliest marathon event of the year in Japan.
If you prefer taking your time enjoying the nanohana, a walking event held at the end of January called "Ibusuki Nanohana March" is also recommended.
Nanohana can be seen at the marathon course too
What is "Nanohana" in the first place?
Although "Nanohana” is mainly acknowledged by its vivid yellow color, there are in fact several types of plants which are called by this name.
The most common one we often see is the "Aburana(Brassica campestris)", which were introduced from Europe during the Meiji era and was widely cultivated for edible oils and fertilizers.
It is also utilized by beekeepers as raw materials for honey, and can also be eaten as is.
Nanohana with vivid yellow colors (Western Aburana)
On the other hand, "Karashina (Chinese mustard)" which is frequently seen on nearby riverbeds, are also part of the nanohana family.
This also consists of ordinary Karashina growing in various regions of Japan since the Yayoi era, and the "Brassica juncea" which was introduced from the west during the Meiji era.
Although it is said that Karashina has a unique taste(spicy) compared to the Aburana, it is delicious, depending on the breed, when soaked, pickled, or fried in oil.
The deep relationship between Ibusuki and nanohana
There is a historical background behind Ibusuki’s reputation as a hotspot of nanohana.
About 190 years ago during the Edo era, nanohana was grown in Kagoshima(Satsuma) mainly for "Food" and "Rapeseed Oil".
These were shipped to Osaka, also known at the time as the "Kitchen of the Nation", but unfortunately was considered an off-quality product, since the quality of Satsuma’s nanohana at the time was poor.
It has been actively cultivated since the Edo era
A person named Hirosato Zusho, who was in charge of the fiscal reformation of the Satsuma domain, stood up to change this situation for the better.
He conducted a "Rapeseed Reformation" through distributing fertilizer and changing packing methods.
As a result, the quality of the nanohana improved drastically, which led to it gaining a high reputation as a specialty of Satsuma.
Tadasuke Shimazu, who ruled Ibusuki at that time and received advice from officials of the research institution, also encouraged the cultivation of nanohana. This pushed and enhanced the revolution further, where they grew to become a spring tradition of Ibusuki as of today.
The top two nanohana sceneries
From here on, we will introduce recommended spots where you can appreciate a superb view of the nanohana fields.
Ibusuki is a major tourist attraction in Kagoshima prefecture, with the most popular spots being "Lake Ikeda" and "Kaimondake". Our top two recommended spots will also be related to these two places.
Nanohana blooming around the mystical "Lake Ikeda"
Lake Ikeda is a caldera lake which is almost circular from a bird’s-eye-view.
It is said to have been created 6400 years ago by volcanic activity, with the diameter of the lake measuring about 2.5km, and the circumference about 15km.
The largest lake of Kyushu, “Lake Ikeda”
It is also famous for being the nesting place of Japan's largest eel, the "Giant mottled eel". The largest individual one discovered so far is 1.8 meters long, and weighs 20 kg.
The Lake also has a legend of a dragon with a human’s head who, long ago, cursed his friend’s assailant to death.
This dragon belief remains today and can be seen at the shrine of "Ikeo Myojin", which was built by villagers to relieve the wrath of the dragon.
"Issie" is another local myth of Lake Ikeda.
Issie is an unidentified giant creature whose 20m long black body has a hump on its back.
You may think that you've heard of a similar story before, and you're probably correct.
It is nearly the same as the world-famous "Nessie, the Loch Ness monster" (it's called Issie because it lives in Lake Ikeda).
Whether it actually exists or not, Issie is one of Ibusuki's major sightseeing attractions.
The best view of the nanohana fields is available near the parking lot located in the northwest, so you can park your car and walk from there.
A promenade extends along the lakeside
After a while, a rape flower nanohana field will catch your sight along the path.
The vivid color of the flowers spreading through the wide green belt is breathtaking.
A nanohana field covering the entire area
You can see another popular attraction of Ibusuki beyond the nanohana fields, and that is Mt. Kaimondake.
This place gives you a view of three of Ibusuki’s major vistas: nanohana, Kaimondake, and Lake Ikeda.
You can appreciate three superb sceneries at the same time
Rape flowers blooming against the majestic Kaimondake
The beautiful “Kaimondake” and the rape flowers
Kaimondake is a beautiful mountain also known as the "Satsuma Fuji".
With its altitude being 924m, it is counted as one of the 100 famous mountains in both Kyushu and Japan.
The entire region is known for more than 4000 years of volcanic activity. The current form of Kaimondake was made in the 9th century by two major eruptions.
Many fields are located at the gently sloped foot of the mountain, and out of these, the superb view seen around the JR Nishi-oyama station is especially recommended.
Nishi-oyama station is also a famous station among railfans, since it is Japan’s southmost JR train station.
The southernmost JR station in Japan
The station consists of only one platform and is unmanned, with no station building or ticket gates. You are required to put the ticket in a box similar to a postbox, upon exiting.
An unmanned station with only one platform
At the tip of the platform, a pillar stating "The Southernmost JR Station in Japan" stands against the background of Kaimondake, making it a popular photo spot for tourists.
A commemorative photo spot located at the tip of the platform
At Nishi-oyama station, "Yellow Postboxes" reminiscent of the colors of nanohana are also extremely popular.
You will see endless numbers of couples and groups of women taking photos here.
Regardless of the season, this is a recommended spot to visit.
A yellow post box standing at the station front
The appeals of Ibusuki are not only the nanohana
Although the impressive vivid yellow of the nanohana along with the superb view of it blooming against the spacious lake and majestic mountains are a unique vista of Ibusuki, from here on, we will also like to introduce other tourist attractions worth mentioning. These are all available on the nanohana’s off-seasons too!
Our recommendation during the winter season, the "Sunamushi Onsen"
Ibusuki is also famous as a hot spring resort of Kagoshima.
Of these, the "Sunamushi Onsen (Sand Steam Bath)" is a specialty of Ibusuki.
Known for having a great effect of improving blood flow and removing toxins from the body, it has been loved by locals and visitors for more than 300 years.
The warmth of the sand and sound of the waves are a healing experience.
A specialty of Ibusuki, the “Sunamushi Onsen”
Underground water particles are heated by geothermal heat, to create the unique experience of Sunamushi Onsen.
On the sandy seashore soaked in saltwater, this is powerful enough to steam a whole potato. This might sound like a joke, but is an actual practice at this onsen!
The abundant geothermal heat is utilized in local steamed dishes as well
Try visiting "Chiringashima" after the end of the nanohana season
"Chiringashima" is a slightly strange but interesting uninhabited island off the coast of Ibusuki, that can be visited by foot under limited seasonal/temporal conditions.
You can walk to Chiringashima from March to October, after the end of the nanohana’s peak season.
A 800m long sand path will appear at for a very limited time, during either spring tide or middle tide days, and only during the low tide of those days.
The “Sand Path” of Chiringashima appears only at a limited time/small>
Promenades and observation towers are available inside the island, where you can appreciate a sweeping view of Kaimondake and the landscape of Ibusuki city from the sea.
Just be careful when you visit, because there’s always the chance of the path disappearing behind you.
Let's plan a visit to Ibusuki to see the nanohana fields!
Ibusuki is the place where you can enjoy the earliest blooming nanohana in Japan.
Other than the spots introduced in this article, there are countless nanohana fields throughout the city.
A leisurely drive through Ibusuki’s warm winter let you find your favourite sceneries!