In our quest to avoid the crowd, we drove to Kumamoto on a Monday morning from Nagasaki Prefecture for a two-day Mt. Aso adventure. The approximately three-hour journey led us to our Ryokan. Aware that check-in wasn’t immediate, we had already planned how to spend our time wisely. Here’s our itinerary, hoping it inspires your exploration of Mt. Aso.
Day 1: Exploring the Spiritual and Natural Wonders
1. Begin at Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine
Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine, nestled in the scenic landscape of Aso, Kumamoto, boasts a tranquil ambiance and rich history. Visitors are welcomed by the spiritual aura of the shrine, making it an ideal starting point for a serene exploration of the Aso region.
As you traverse the shrine, following the left path to its summit, you’ll encounter a substantial stone known as “Ugeto-iwa.” According to legend, this shrine serves as a harbinger of success in entrance exams and victory
2. Discover the awe-inspiring Takamoridon no Sugi.
Two majestic cedar trees, spanning over 400 years of age, captivate visitors with their extraordinary appearance. The intricate branching patterns emerging from the trunks create a mesmerizing spectacle. Notably, a renowned actress, drawn to the symbolism of the intertwined cedars representing a male and female pair, visited this site. It is rumored that after embracing the trunk and exchanging praises, she garnered positive energy, leading to speculations about her subsequent marriage. In recent times, Takamori Don No Sugi has gained popularity as a destination believed to bless visitors with matchmaking fortunes.
3. Explore the Charms of Shirakawa Fountainhead
The Shirakawa Fountainhead or Shirakawa Suigen presents a captivating scene with its clear water gently flowing through the sandy terrain. Embraced by a verdant forest, the continuous murmur of flowing water creates a tranquil ambiance. With a constant temperature of 14℃ or 57℉ throughout the year, the water boasts a soft and mild quality, offering a refreshing and natural taste. On the flip side, there’s a foot spa that promises a chilling experience, akin to placing your feet in icy water. For those smitten by its charm, bottled water is conveniently sold in the area, allowing visitors to carry a piece of this pristine source home.
Naturally, a shrine stands in the vicinity, serving as a testament of gratitude to the Creator for this bestowed natural blessing and wonder.
Day 2: Nature’s Splendor and Unique Landscapes
1. Visit Nabegataki, a renowned waterfall featured in advertisements.
Nabegataki is a picturesque waterfall that has gained fame through its appearances in various advertisements. Nestled amidst lush greenery, the falls cascade gracefully, creating a serene and captivating atmosphere. It’s a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and those seeking the beauty that graced commercial screens.
Furthermore, at Nabegataki, you can savor a unique perspective by enjoying the waterfall’s view from the back. This distinctive feature sets Nabegataki apart, allowing visitors to appreciate the cascading beauty from a vantage point not commonly experienced at other waterfalls.
2. Experience the mystical Oshitoishi, where big stones are believed to hold spiritual energy.
Although not initially part of our itinerary, the allure of Oshitoishi beckoned as we journeyed to Nabegataki Falls. Intrigued by the promises of panoramic views and spiritual energy, we took a detour along a narrow path, meandering through thickets until we reached a small hut. Engaging with the hospitable attendant, we paid the fee, received a brief introduction, a pamphlet, and a compass.
Ascending an uphill slope, we were rewarded at the summit with breathtaking panoramas and the serene presence of massive stones.
Using the provided compass, we tested the reputed power spot by walking around it. Surprisingly, the compass exhibited rapid movement, validating the mystical energy associated with the area.
3. Take in the grandeur of Daikanbo, boasting the largest caldera in the region.
Daikanbo stands as a majestic viewpoint, showcasing the expansive grandeur of the largest caldera in the region. From this elevated vantage point, visitors are treated to a panoramic spectacle that captures the awe-inspiring scale of Mt. Aso’s volcanic landscape.
Not only can you revel in the breathtaking view, but for those adventurous souls, there’s also the option of paragliding priced at 18,000 yen, and they conveniently accept credit cards.
4. Explore Kusasenri
Delve into Kusasenri for a multifaceted experience featuring horse riding, a volcanic museum, and expansive grasslands.
Spontaneously drawn to the sight of people leisurely strolling on horseback across the expansive grasslands, I decided to try horse riding. While initially intimidating with concerns about the horses galloping too fast, I gradually adjusted, turning the ride into an enjoyable experience. The fee for each ride is 1500 yen.
By the way, we decided to skip the Aso Volcano Museum.
5. Marvel at the Nakadake Crater, an active volcanic crater.
From Kusasenri, you can easily spot the Nakadake Crater, identifiable by the plumes of smoke rising from its distinctive, not-quite-perfect volcanic cone.
For those daring to get a closer look, there’s a convenient parking space nearby. A brief walk of less than five minutes takes you to the crater. Some adventurous souls even choose to hike from Kusasenri to the crater, a feasible option though I can’t provide the exact duration. For those opting to drive, it’s a journey of less than 15 minutes.
People with asthma and heart disease are prohibited from getting close to the area.
For the optimal sightseeing experience in Aso, driving proves to be the most convenient choice, allowing you to navigate the region at your pace. Additionally, alternative modes of transportation such as bikes, bicycles, tour buses, and hiking present viable options for those seeking a different perspective of Aso’s scenic beauty. Each method caters to diverse preferences, ensuring that visitors can choose the most suitable means for their exploration.
I hope this will inspire your future Aso adventures and leave you with unforgettable memories. For sure, it will because Aso leaves an indelible mark on the hearts of those who wander its paths. Until we meet again on the roads less traveled, may your adventures be as boundless as the landscapes of Aso, Kumamoto. Safe travels!