About Kirishima Geopark

The Charm of the Kirishima Geopark

When driving around Kirishima, it frequently happens that the area is blanketed by a thick fog. The name of Kirishima (lit. "fog island") actually comes from the fact that the mountains are often surrounded by a thick fog and when viewed from far away it appears that an island is floating among the fog. In other words, the fog that envelops the view is actually a part of the charm of Kirishima. Exactly what kind of place is this mysterious Kirishima?

Kirishima "floating" in a sea of fog (From Yatake Plateau)

A Kirishima forest wrapped in fog (Lake Onamiike)

There is a series of volcanoes in southern Kyushu and it is not an overstatement to say that the majority of the land is covered by deposits from volcanic eruptions. Some characteristics that set Kirishima apart are the ejecta from the giant eruption of the caldera and the over 20 volcanoes of Kirishima stacked complexly upon each other. Add to that abundant natural water and you are left with beautiful scenery including crater lakes, waterfalls, and gorges. Furthermore, as showed by the 2011 eruption of Mt. Shinmoedake, another charm of the Kirishima Mountains is that you can view the damage caused to vegetation by an active volcano and the changes thereafter.

An airborn view of the Kirishima volcanoes

Fall colors at Lake Onamiike

Kirishima is home to a wide variety of environments including rich, green forests and bare-faced mountains, and is a field that nurtures a vast array of animals and plants. Kirishima has a difference in elevation between the mountainous regions and foothill regions (Maximum elevation: 1,700 meters), and the environment changes vertically. Even though Kirishima is in the warm climate of southern Kyushu, one can enjoy the view of snow-covered peaks in the winter. Furthermore, the Fagus crenata (Japanese beech) and Quercus crispula Blume that live in the mountainous regions are plants that can only live in colder areas and it is thought they are remnants of a era of the past (an ice age) when the entire planet was colder. In this way, the geologic features of Kirishima and global climate change have led to the current varied environments and vegetation of Kirishima.

Kyushu azaleas (miyamakirishima) in full bloom and pumice from Mt. Shinmoedake
(from the hiking path in the middle of Mt. Nakadake)

Malus spontanea Makino on the Ebino Plateau

The beautiful shape of Mt. Takachihonomine, famous for its legend as the location of the descent to earth of the grandson of the sun goddess, has long been dear to the people living at its base as a symbol of Kirishima. The six shrines surrounding Kirishima have historically been moved due to the influence of eruptions. In this way, mountain myths and spiritual and festive events have been passed down as a part of the local people's lifestyle and are rooted in the area. Ryoma Sakamoto, a noble figure from the end of the Edo period, enjoyed climbing Kirishima, and there are many historic and spiritual episodes concerning Kirishima.

天Fire festival in remembrance of the descent to earth of the grandson of the sun goddess

Kirishima Shrine

It is thought that people began living in the Kirishima area at least 20,000 years ago. Since then, they have been threatened by volcanic eruptions many times but also live with the blessings of the volcano. The spring waters at the base of the mountains, the hot springs that draw many tourists, the caldera perfectly shaped for growing rice, the shirasu plateau used for tea plantations and the airport - all of these are indispensible to our lifestyle and industry. There are many other parts of Kirishima that allow us to feel a connection with nature. Geoparks help us rediscover the relationship between humans and nature and can help us discover new possibilities.

Ricefields of the Kakuto Basin and the Kirishima Mountains

Tea plantations atop the shirasu plateau and the Kirishima Mountains (Mizobe, Kirishima)

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