Our final day in Kyushu brought about some great fortune as we were able to see Mount Aso very clearly amid great conditions whereas the day before had been shrouded in mist. Mount Aso is the largest volcano in Japan and among the largest in the world. The first observation lookout was at Daikanpou which is the highest point to be able to view the whole caldera (large volcanic crater). The scenery was awesome with some splendid views of the greenery in the area.
Mount Aso consists of five peaks and the view of the peaks from this place is likened to a buddha lying down to die (Nehan-zo) though why they have to add the dying bit on the end I don’t know! Why can’t it just resemble a buddha just resting?!
No pictures to show but I did eat horse-meat (ba-niku) as my girlfriend bought a stick of it from a vendor as we returned to the car park at Daikanpou. Whilst there was a huge furore around horse-meat in the UK early last year, the reaction in Japan was one of surprise as its fairly common to eat it here. I’m afraid to say that I liked it a lot but can’t see myself making a habit of eating it too much!
The next stop was across the road from the Aso Volcano Museum. Kusasenri-ga-hama is a vast plain with cows grazing on the grass covering the area. The main attraction here didn’t seem to be the beautiful flattened crater of an ancient volcano but the chance to sit on a horse whilst circling a very short and simple course!
Not far from there was the Nakadake crater which was shaped over 20,000 years ago and was is actually still active! A car park has been built only a minutes walk away which makes things all to convenient not that its such plain sailing as there was a tailback of cars going on and on for ever. We had to wait in traffic quite a while but the queues on our descend were way longer!
Mt. Nakadake is located within the caldera that is 25 km in diameter. Nakadake’s crater itself is 600 metres in diameter, 130 metres deep and has a circumference of 4 km. This Grand Canyon-esque place emits smoke and due to the presence of toxic volcanic gas the crater is sometimes restricted. People with respiratory problems such as me with asthma, are actually told to refrain from approaching the crater at any time but of course I ignored that warning which I guess is just a disclaimer to save them from law suits.
The yellow rock-looking things below, which are supposedly good for preventing cockroaches, bugs, ants and so on, were being sold at a stall for 200 yen a piece. Maybe an interesting souvenir but as there was a sign saying that they couldn’t be taken on a plane (even in checked luggage) it certainly wasn’t worth bothering with.
The sign below says worlds number one volcano although I’m not exactly sure what its referring to! Biggest? Best?! For me, it was certainly a spectacular place and given what we were told about the previous days visibility being pretty much non-existent, we felt very lucky to have seen it in such glorious conditions.
The small, picturesque, green volcanic cone shaped slope (below) of Kome-zuka (954m) was seen a few times throughout the day and as we exited the Nakadake area we pulled over to catch a final glimpse of its beauty. The name actually means ‘rice mound’ and its another extinct volcano.
We then went to Aso Farm Land which was ultimately very disappointing for all of us, especially my girlfriends dad who said that it had change a lot since he last went many many years earlier. This was a health theme resort with huge massive crowds of people, restaurants galore, souvenir shops aplenty, many photo opportunities, lots of baths, spas and other such amenities. Basically, it had all the makings of your typical Japanese tourist trap but I couldn’t quite get why this place was so popular! As we had Momiji with us it was a tad difficult to find somewhere to have lunch so we ended up just buying some yaki-soba, beer and the huge turkey drumstick (below) which we consumed at one of the many outside tables. It was still nice enough but not quite what we had in mind!
There was time for one more onsen at Uinasu hot springs (400 yen entry) in the early evening before dinner which meant leaving Momiji alone at the hotel. Whilst the previous onsen had been fairly small, quiet affairs this one was a busy place with a sauna, two outdoor and four indoor pools (both electric and herb ones) and there was even an ice-cold pool which I managed to brave for a few seconds before returning to the hot baths. A nice relaxing way to bring the curtain down on a great trip around a part of the country I’d never seen but hope to visit again.