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Japan is located at the western end of the so-called “Ring of Fire” and sits on or near the boundaries of no less than 4 tectonic plates, making it one of the most active places on the planet. . This location makes Japan home to an impressive number of active volcanoes, and the country’s many sweet and soothing hot springs are a direct result. Among Japan’s active volcanoes, the most famous are undoubtedly Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain, and Mount Asama in Nagan Prefecture, whose name often appears in haiku et tank poems Mount Aso, however, is very popular as a hiking and camping spot, and in this article, we’ll take a closer look at this volcanic destination perfect for adventurous souls and lovers of the outdoors.
About Mount Aso
Mount Aso is an active volcano located in Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu, and its ancient caldera is the largest in Japan. Mount Aso has several peaks within its caldera that are often referred to as “the central mountains”, with the five most prominent peaks being referred to as “Aso Gogaku” (阿蘇五岳). Of these five peaks, Naka-dake is still very active and emits considerable amounts of white smoke. This also means that Naka-dake is sometimes off-limits to visitors, but when the level of volcanic activity allows, its impressive crater can be viewed up close from vantage points accessible by car or bus. Although the volcano is the symbol of Mount Aso, the surrounding nature is also impressive: Kusasenri, famous for its beautiful grasslands, and Daikanbou, the highest peak on the outer edge of Aso, offer spectacular views.
Mount Aso Transfer
As one of the main tourist attractions in Kumamoto, Mount Aso has a transportation system that allows visitors to easily explore the area. Shuttle buses run between the parking lot at the top of Mount Aso and the parking lot near the crater, with round-trip options available. Take the bus that is cutely designed with Kumamoto’s famous local mascot, Kumamon, and enjoy a fun and educational tour of the Mount Aso volcano.
Official Site: Mount Aso Ferry
Camping is an option for those who want to fully immerse themselves in the wonderful nature of Aso. Camping near a beautiful lake or in a dense forest are classic options, but camping near a volcano is a unique experience where you can almost feel the pulse of the earth deep inside. There are several campsites in Aso and the services offered vary depending on the location. Here we would like to recommend Kodai no Sato Camping Village. This campground has barbecue areas that can be rented for a fee, allows automatic RVs, and even offers a landlocked salmon catching experience. If you don’t have a motorhome, don’t worry: there are several country houses available by reservation so you can easily enjoy a night in Aso with your family and friends.
Official website: Camp Village of Kodai no Sato
The Aso Mountains and their impressive nature welcome many climbers every year. For novice hikers, the Kishima-dake hiking trail is highly recommended. This trail is paved all the way making it very easy to walk and hard to get lost at the same time. The Kishima-dake summit offers magnificent views and is perfect for taking photos, and you can see the volcanic fumes from the crater of Mount Aso.
What to see and do around Mount Aso
In addition to the active volcano, Mount Aso is full of interesting things to see and do. Below we have selected some places that we recommend you visit to have a fun time with family or friends.
Daikanbou is the highest peak on the outer edge of the Mount Aso mountains and is less than 1,000 meters high. It is a popular climbing site, partly because you can see Aso’s five main peaks from its summit. The view of the five towering mountains seen from Daikanbou is hailed as “Buddha’s Nirvana”. If you are lucky, you can see a beautiful sea of clouds first thing in the morning on clear autumn days, something that attracts many climbers. Located in this picturesque place, you will find Aso Daikanbou-Chaten, a perfect place to rest and enjoy a delicious meal while admiring the spectacular view.
2. ASO farmland
ASO Farm Land, located at the foot of Mount Aso, is one of the area’s main attractions and is packed with family-friendly activities. It is one of the few theme parks in the world supervised by health experts and is operated with the philosophy of improving people’s health. In addition to the exercise facilities that help improve the health of children, there is also an area where visitors can interact with animals and a restaurant that serves special dishes made with vegetables from the garden.
Official website: ASO Farmland
Shirakawa Water Spring is one of the 11 water springs in Minamiaso Village and is the most popular of them. It is famous for its high-quality fresh water, and there is a small entrance fee to enter, helping to protect the source of clean, beautiful water. The spring water is so beautifully clear that you can even see the bottom, and the water here can be taken home freely, which is very popular.
We recommend taking public transport to Mount Aso. You can get to Mount Aso Station from Kumamoto Station in about 1 hour 15 minutes by the limited express train also known as “ASO BOY”. Another recommended means of transportation is the “Yamabiko” express bus which connects Kumamoto Airport to Mount Aso Station in about 1 hour.
With the largest volcanic caldera in Japan, the active volcano Mount Aso is a symbol of Kumamoto. The level of volcanic activity can increase suddenly, so be sure to check the latest eruption status on the official Mount Aso website before you go. If you are interested in volcanoes or just love hiking or being in nature, we highly recommend visiting Mount Aso while in Japan!
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