04/11/2012 11:28 am ET Updated Jun 11, 2012

Kagoshima: The Hawaii Of Japan

When most people think of Japan, what comes to mind is raw fish, Mount Fuji, temples and Tokyo. Few step off the tourist path, but those who do will be rewarded: there are entirely new sides to this country waiting to be explored. Among the many is Kagoshima, a volcanic tropical paradise that could easily become known as the ‘Hawaii of Japan’.

Sunk into one of the area’s largest caldera systems, Kagoshima is one of the easiest places to get up close and personal with live volcanoes – some so active that certain hiking trails are closed, due to ash and releases of toxic gas. Eruptions happen daily: expect to hear a rumble, feel the ground shake for a few seconds, and see giant grey plumes rocket up into the sky.

(Photo: David McKelvey/Flickr)

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