Kumamoto is often referred to as “country of fire.” Because in Kumamoto prefecture, there is Mt. Aso that still continues volcanic activity. It is a popular course in Kumamoto prefecture to see this volcano. Kumamoto City, the prefectural capital, is home to Kumamoto Castle, a very popular castle along with Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle. This castle is also a must-see.
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Outline of Kumamoto
Kumamoto Castle and Mt. Aso are the highlight of Kyushu tourism
Kumamoto Prefecture is an area located in the central part of Kyushu Island. For tourists, Kumamoto Castle in Kumamoto City and Aso, an active volcano, are the standard courses. Aso has a vast caldera and offers magnificent scenery. A popular course among tourists is to see Kumamoto Castle, enjoy sightseeing in Aso, and then continue by bus or car to Oita Prefecture in eastern Kyushu. The road from Aso to Oita Prefecture offers magnificent natural scenery.
The shortest way to JR Kumamoto Station is from JR Hakata Station (Fukuoka City) in northern Kyushu, about 35 minutes by Shinkansen bullet train. If you are planning to tour around Kyushu, this Shinkansen is a smooth way to get around.
Aso Kumamoto Airport is located approximately one hour by bus east of Kumamoto City in western Kyushu. Aso Kumamoto Airport has scheduled flights to and from Seoul, Kaohsiung (Taiwan), and Hong Kong. Domestic scheduled flights are operated to and from Haneda and Narita in Tokyo, Itami in Osaka, Chubu International in Nagoya and Komaki, Shizuoka, Amakusa, and Naha in Okinawa. From Aso Kumamoto Airport, there are also direct buses to Aso Station, Kurokawa Onsen, Takachiho (Miyazaki Prefecture), Oita (Oita Prefecture), Beppu (Oita Prefecture) and Yufuin (Oita Prefecture).
If you want to see the strongest castle in Japan, We recommend Kumamoto Castle in Kyushu. Kumamoto Castle was heavily damaged by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes. The photos on this page were taken before 2016. The castle is currently under restoration. Luckily, the castle tower has been restored and you can enjoy a great view from the top floor of the castle tower. If you go to this castle, you will surely feel the atmosphere of the samurai and the feelings of the locals who protect their castle!
Aso is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world. To be precise, Aso is not one mountain, but a collection of mountains created by eruptions. Its craters are many, and eruptive activity is currently continuing from some of them. About 100,000 years ago, there were numerous volcanoes in this area, and after they erupted on a large scale, the center of the volcano caved in significantly, creating a caldera. Many mountains (outer rim) were born on the outside of the caldera that was created by the cave-in. The outer rim extends about 25 km from north to south, 18 km from east to west, and 128 km in circumference.
Aso is composed of (1) the mountains inside the caldera and (2) the outer rim of the caldera. Many of the mountains in the caldera have craters. Among them, Nakadake is currently emitting a plume of smoke. Since it takes quite some time to tour around Mt. Aso, it is recommended to see some of the most popular spots.
- Daikanbou: Daikanbou is a viewing spot on the northeast outer rim of the mountain. The view is very spectacular.
- Kusasenri: This is a large grassland in the center of the caldera. It offers a view of the vast grassland and the surrounding outer rim.
- Nakadake Crater: Nakadake (1,506 m above sea level) is a volcanically active mountain at the center of the Aso caldera, and one of its seven craters is still smoking. A road has been built to get close to this crater, allowing visitors to get a close-up look at the processing that makes the earth roar. However, you cannot get close to it when it is active.
- Komezuka: This can be seen when driving down from the crater of Nakadake. It is a small mountain, only 80 meters high, but you can tell it is a volcano because of the indentation at the top. The mound is covered with grass. It can be said that the rice mound is a formative beauty created by the great nature of Aso.
A rental car is recommended for sightseeing in Aso. If a rental car is not available, we recommend taking a cab in Kumamoto City. Bus tours from Kumamochi City are also available.
Another option is to use Aso Station as a base and take a train and bus, but this is less efficient and may be difficult to deal with in the event of delays due to bad weather or other reasons.
Express buses operate from Kumamoto City and Aso Kumamoto Airport to Oita Prefecture (Oita, Beppu, Yufuin) and other areas in eastern Kyushu. If you use those, you can enjoy the magnificent scenery of Aso while traveling, so this method is also recommended.
Kikuchi Gorge is located in the plateau area with an altitude of 500m to 800m in the northwestern part of Mt. Aso. This area has not been developed much, and the beautiful forest is still spreading. The gorge that flows through the forest is pure, and visitors are sure to be healed. Near Kikuchi Gorge, there is a popular hot spring ryokan “Kikuchionsen-Iwakura” where guest rooms have private open-air baths. Kikuchi Gorge is recommended for those who want to enjoy a quiet time in beautiful nature. There is no train, so please use a rental car, taxi or bus.
Kurokawa Onsen is a very popular hot spring town located northeast of Aso. About 30 hot spring Ryokan (Japanese-style hotels) are lined up along the clear mountain stream. Beppu and Yufuin in Oita Prefecture are famous hot spring towns in Kyushu. Kurokawa Onsen is more in nature than these hot spring towns in Oita Prefecture. The reason why this hot spring town is so popular is that no matter which ryokan you stay at, you can use the hot springs of 30 ryokans in the town. Guests are welcomed by all the hot spring inns. Kurokawa Onsen is served by highway buses from Kumamoto Station and Aso Kumamoto Airport.
Okoshik Beach is a beach on the Ariake Sea in the northwestern part of Kumamoto Prefecture. At low tide, a vast tidal flat appears as shown in the photo, and when it overlaps with the sunset time, you can experience a fantastic world. The best time to see the beautiful tidal flats illuminated by the setting sun is from January to April, and many photographers visit during this time. This beach is a 15-minute walk from JR Amida Station.
Thank you for reading to the end.