Mt. Aso, Kumamoto -A wonderful destination

Mount Aso is located in Kumamoto prefecture which is down in Kyushu island, the southern island of Japan. Since I used to attend a university in Beppu city, Oita prefecture which is a neighbor city of Kumamoto, Mt. Aso was easily accessible.

Mount Aso (阿蘇山) is still an active volcano which is the largest one in Japan and is said to be the third largest active one in the world. Its latest eruption was in 2004. I took a short trip to Aso city and Kumamoto in spring 2010 with my mother, just when sakura flowers were just starting to bloom. The weather was indescribably wonderful and I got to see this extremely beautiful volcano that I still wish to revisit ever since.

20121116-231602.jpg  20121116-231558.jpg

At first, we took a train from Beppu to Aso city. It took a very long time comparing to the short distance between Kumamoto and Oita. That was because I mistakenly bought a normal train instead of an express one which would have saved us a lot more time. We got there after a few hours and went straight to the hotel I book through favorite Japanese traveling site -> rakuten travel. The hotel is inside a golf club so many customers were golfers from all over Japan. I don’t recall the name of the hotel but the place was beautiful, surrounded by woods and mountains. The room we stayed was very big since it is not a business hotel. However, the downside of it was that it is located quite far from any train station so we had to call taxi when we wanted to go somewhere.

In the first day, we took a bus from our nearest train station to Kumamoto city. The city was very refreshing! Unsurprisingly, since Kumamoto is the third largest city in Kyushu island, the city center looked very lively to me. There were interesting shops and restaurants everywhere. Kumamoto is also famous for raw horse meat or basashi (馬刺し) in Japanese . We didn’t try it this time but I did try the second time I visited Kumamoto. To be honest, it was delicious but somehow made me feeling weirdly guilty…

We went to Kumamoto castle (熊本城) first since it is right in the middle of the city center. The castle is huge which definitely shows the signs of power related activities in the historical event of Japan. I really enjoyed exploring the castle. It has river course surrounded it..the garden was beautiful with sakura and the museum was very interesting!

20121116-213752.jpg

I officially love Kumamoto after exploring the castle. The atmosphere was relaxing and simply bright. The castle was quite big so it was impossible to explore everything but it is highly recommended for those of you who like taking photo or have an interest in Japanese history. Click here for more information about Kumamoto prefecture.

20121116-231607.jpg    20121116-231611.jpg

On the second day, we went up to Mount Aso. Again, the weather was on our side. It was such a lovely day. We went to Aso station and took a bus that goes up to the foot of the mountain. From there, we decided to take a rope way up to the top. If you like hiking or mountain climbing, there is a long route from the foot of the mountain to the top as well. The scenery along the way was picturesque. It did remind me of a similar view in New Zealand somehow. I enjoyed both the bus and the rope way ride very much. Once we got toe the mouth of the volcano, I could see that it was very much alive! The lava was vividly green and the volcano was producing massive amount of smoke! It was quite exciting and the view was breath-taking.

20121116-213801.jpg   20121116-213757.jpgt

My mother and I explored the volcano for a while. We took lots of pictures and walked along the trails designated for mountain climbers. It was a lot of fun!

20121116-213805.jpg   20121116-213809.jpg

Mount Aso is definitely a highlight of Kumamoto prefecture. You wouldn’t want to miss it if you visit Kumamoto. There are also a lot of things you can do in Aso city as well. You can go horseback riding, playing with animals in the farm, visiting flowers garden, going onsen, hiking, and even hang gliding! In this trip, we didn’t have much time but we did get to visit a flower garden, too. 🙂 Click here for more information about Aso city.

20121116-213813.jpg

Look at the smoke!

20121116-213817.jpg

Rocks from mount Aso

20121116-231546.jpg   20121116-231551.jpg

Seeing these old photos really makes me miss Kyushu even more. Mount Aso is highly recommeneded as a great destination for people who enjoy nature and want to explore Kyushu. So much to see down there in the Southern part of Japan! Be aware that you may need to check the volcano’s condition before booking your flight/train/hotels, etc because there is a chance of a restricted period that prohibits tourists entering the area depending on the lava and dangerous smoke from the volcano. Mount Aso trip was very memorable and I am hoping that I would get the chance to visit again sometime soon.

20121116-231617.jpg