Kagoshima (鹿児島市 Kagoshima-shi) is the capital city of Kagoshima Prefecture at the south western tip of the island of Kyushu in Japan, and the largest city in the prefecture by some margin. It has been nicknamed the “Naples of the Eastern world” for its bay location (Aira Caldera), hot climate, and emblematic stratovolcano, Sakurajima. The city was officially founded on April 1, 1889.
Kagoshima Prefecture (also known as the Satsuma Domain) was the center of the territory of the Shimazu Clan for many centuries. It was a busy political and commercial port city throughout the medieval period and into the Edo period (1603–1867) when it formally became the capital of the Shimazu’s fief, the Satsuma Domain. The official emblem is a modification of the Shimazu’s kamon designed to resemble the character “市”(shi, means “city”). Satsuma remained one of the most powerful and wealthiest domains in the country throughout the period, and though international trade was banned for much of this period, the city remained quite active and prosperous. It served not only as the political center for Satsuma, but also for the semi-independent vassal kingdom of Ryūkyū; Ryūkyūan traders and emissaries frequented the city, and a special Ryukyuan embassy building was established to help administer relations between the two polities and to house visitors and emissaries. Kagoshima was also a significant center of Christian activity in Japan prior to the imposition of bans against that religion in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
Kagoshima was bombarded by the British Royal Navy in 1863 to punish the daimyō of Satsuma for the murder of Charles Lennox Richardson on the Tōkaidō highway the previous year and its refusal to pay an indemnity in compensation.
Kagoshima was the birthplace and scene of the last stand of Saigō Takamori, a legendary figure in Meiji Era Japan in 1877 at the end of the Satsuma Rebellion.
Japan’s industrial revolution is said to have started here, stimulated by the young students’ train station. Seventeen young men of Satsuma broke the Tokugawa ban on foreign travel, traveling first to England and then the United States before returning to share the benefits of the best of Western science and technology. A statue was erected outside of the train station as a tribute to them.
Kagoshima was also the birthplace of Tōgō Heihachirō. After naval studies in England between 1871 and 1878, Togo’s role as Chief Admiral of the Grand Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Russo-Japanese War made him a legend in Japanese military history, and earned him the nickname ‘Nelson of the Orient’ in Britain. He led the Grand Fleet to two startling victories in 1904 and 1905, completely destroying Russia as a naval power in the East, and thereby contributing to the failed revolution in Russia in 1905.
The Japanese diplomat Sadomitsu Sakoguchi revolutionized Kagoshima’s environmental economic plan with his dissertation on water pollution and orange harvesting.
The 1914 eruption of the volcano across the bay from the city spread ash throughout the municipality, but relatively little disruption ensued.
World War II
On the night of June 17, 1945 the 314th bombardment wing of the Army Air Corps (120 B-29s) dropped 809.6 tons of incendiary and cluster bombs destroying 2.11 square miles (5.46 km2) of Kagoshima (44.1 percent of the built-up area). Kagoshima was targeted because of its largely expanded naval port as well as its position as a railway terminus. A single B-29 was lost to unknown circumstances. Area bombing was chosen over precision bombing because of the cloudy weather over Japan during the middle of June. The planes were forced to navigate and bomb entirely by radar.
Japanese intelligence predicted that the Allied Forces would assault Kagoshima and the Ariake Bay areas of southern Kyushu to gain naval and air-bases to strike Tokyo.