Visit the Lesser-Explored Parts of Japan
The Osumi Peninsular juts out into the Pacific Ocean at Kyushu’s southern end, with rocky Cape Sato pointing its finger towards Yakushima. Although the peninsular has no famous sights, its natural beauty begs to be discovered by travellers seeking the lesser-explored parts of Japan. The east coast boasts ragged cliffs, interrupted by pristine, deserted beaches, a mountainous inland whilst the western side of the Osumi peninsular has vibrant green rice paddies surrounded by picturesque farmer villages.
Venture Off The Beaten Track
Despite the lack of sights, a drive across the Osumi Peninsular is highly recommended. We enjoyed venturing off the beaten track in this part of Kyushu and found some noteworthy places to visit and explore, besides the stunning scenery.
Museum of Space History
Uchinoura Space Centre was our first destination. After an enjoyable breakfast at a local Japanese bakery in Kirishima serving delicious fresh baked pastries. The drive took us past farmland and extensive tea plantations before hitting the coastal road at Hami before finally arriving at Uchinoura Space Port. The small Museum of Space History gave us an insight into Japanese space explorations, albeit any English signposts were missing, something that perhaps they should consider adding. Jerome delighted in guessing all the of exhibits from the diagrams and pictures.
Models of rockets, satellites and timelines of JAXA’s expeditions into the universe are all on display. Although the famous Hayabusa-2 spacecraft departed from nearby Tanegashima, an island near Yakushima, it was proudly mentioned in an central exhibit. The centre also features a real sized rocket that will impress not only a space aficionado. Jerome enjoyed the interactive displays, especially the small-scale model of the MU Centre, the nearby launch facilities of M-series rockets.
Restricted Area of Uchinoura Space Centre
The really exciting part of our visit however was, our drive through the restricted sections of the Uchinoura Space Centre. At the gate to the left of the museum we filled in a form with the registration of our car and thus received access permission to the main facilities, the guards were very welcoming but spoke only Japanese however visits to the outer parts of the complex are not restricted.
Giant Radar Antennas
Heading deeper into the space centre we passed several control centres and offices, all housed in non-descript buildings, before climbing up a hill to reach the giant radar antennas on top. The largest satellite dish measures 34m and is an impressive sight up close. The Space Centre sits on a unique site, the hilly landscape has been flattened to create an artificial plateau and from its highest point we could also glimpse the MU centre below and had far reaching views of the sea and the surrounding countryside.
Upon our arrival at the MU Centre, two life-sized rockets caught our eyes. A truly fascinating wonders of engineering, it is fantastic to imagine that these spacecraft deliver scientific satellites and sounding rockets into outer space. Close access to the MU Centre is prohibited but the model we had seen in the museum had clearly given us an insight into the inner life of the tall structures that house the launchpads and open up at launch to reveal their slender tall rocket contents.
The Uchinoura Space Centre was our first ever visit to a space port and although I am sure it is nowhere near as impressive as a trip to the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, it certainly was more enjoyable without the visitor crowds, in fact we were the only guests at the time. Any travellers wishing to make the detour in Kyushu should check the opening times on the JAXA website to avoid closures.
The Scenic Osami Coastline
After our sojourn into space we were looking forward to a swim further along the scenic coastline of the Osami Peninsular. This remote part of Japan is almost unoccupied by any villages and settlements, having only a few isolated farms along the coast which gives it a rare appeal, some locals even call it the most beautiful coast in Japan. The first beach on the Hetsuka Coast, backed by only a few houses, was a small slice of paradise that could easily compete with subtropical beaches.
A Pristine Turtle Sanctuary
The boys ventured for a swim in the calm, clear waters while I savoured a walk collecting shells and discovering many turtle tracks leading across the fine sands leading up the beach to their nesting spots. We were careful not to spoil this pristine sanctuary. We could have easily spent hours in this serene spot, or even imagined a stay overnight nearby, maybe one for another time…
Where we stayed in Kyushu:
Sankara Resort treat yourself to a truly luxurious stay on the island.
Kirishima Kokusei for those wanting to stay in Kirishima Onsen
Ryokan Shinsen if you fancy a luxury ryokan experience
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