With only one day left in south Kyushu’s Kagoshima, we had a hard time deciding whether to spend it on the island Sakurajima with Japan’s most active volcano; or whether to head more south to the town Ibusuki to visit a mystery island and hot sand bath. After talking to friendly locals at dinner, we decided that Sakurajima is probably most stunning just looking at it from a distance, and that we should head over to Ibusuki for a change of scenery.
Ibusuki’s Mystery Island
Have you heard of Chiringashima, Ibusuki’s Mystery Island? When we read about this place, we really wanted to go and see it as we’ve never seen anything like it before. Chiringashima is an uninhabited island that is connected to Ibusuki via a 800m sandbank that only appears at low tide for a few hours when the weather is good between March and October. Before going, you need to check the predicted time online of when the sandbank will appear that day (usually around 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.). Following a recommendation we found online, we arrived a bit before the predicted time and started walking over the slowly emerging sandbank and made it there as one of the firsts ones. It felt really strange and magical at the same time to walk right in the middle of the ocean! After about a 20 minute walk, we reached the island and a guard approached us to show us what time we need to leave by and advised us to enter a path leading around the center of the island.
There were not many other tourists there that day and most of them either turned around after a short rest or just went to the first viewpoint, while we followed the path further onto the island for as long as we could until it was time to head back. As we were the only ones following the path around the island, it felt really special to be in nature on an uninhabited island! The path was paved and they clearly do a lot of maintenance of the flora and fauna on the island.
As we didn’t rent a car on our holiday in Kyushu, as it’s a hassle for us to get our drivers’ licenses converted to a Japanese one to do so, we took a local train to Ibusuki (cheaper as the express and we were not in a hurry) and then rented bikes at Ibusuki Station, cycling for about 15-20 minutes to get to the sandbank. It really felt like being on a tropical summer holiday cycling around the well-paved and palm tree lined streets!
Ibusuki’s Steam Sand Bath
Ibusuki is most famous for it’s steam sand bath on a geothermally heated beach, which apparently is unique in Japan. (Although I have seen it in Taiwan!) Hot sand bath on the beach followed by onsen after a long day of walking? Yeah, why not! After paying the entrance fee and getting into our yukatas (a Japanese bathrobe), we went outside to the beach and the staff dug holes for us and buried us under hot sand, with just out heads sticking out, which they protected with a cosy towel under our necks and a tiny umbrella over our faces, haha! It was a strange experience and the sand was very hot and steamy. 10-15 minutes is definitely enough. Apparently there are lots of health benefits of doing a hot sand bath and the one we can definitely confirm is that our skin felt so smooth for a few days afterwards!
Looking back on our day trip from Kagoshima to Ibusuki, given that the weather was warm and sunny, it was definitely the right decision to spend our last day there!
Read more about our trip to Kyushu: