Mt. Aso and around

30-31 Oct 2008

We wanted to go and see Mt. Aso, and some of us liked to make it a hike up the mountain from the North-East side. However, when we checked the warning webpage we saw it was closed because of toxic gasses, so we went up there by bus from the other side and hoped that the fumes would clear and the ropeway up to the crater rim would open later on the day.

First we went to the volcano museum which was interesting (jumping to make the seismometer register our "earthquake"). When after that the crater rim was still off-limits, we decided to use the hiking map I bought and asked the lady at the post office/souvenir shop/volcano museum - one-in-all desk which of the two circle hikes would give us the nicest views. The outcome was that Kijimadake was probably the best, so that's where we went.

[HDR] The path indeed provided nice views komezuka (the baby crater) and the caldera (which has a radius of around 20km!)

and also of Mt. Aso (although you cannot look into the crater and thus can't see the crater lake)

A problem was however the high grass and bushes obscuring the path to a level where it was no fun anymore. It got hard to know where to put your feet safely and later it even got hard to tell where the path was going. It was the worst signed path in Japan I had experienced so far.


The next two days we had a rental car and Olaf and Rene had arranged an international drivers licence so they were allowed to drive all of us around to those nice places where you can't get by train :-). First stop was "Daikonobo", north of the Aso caldera, where you have a nice overview. Second was the Nabe-ga-taki (saucepan/pot waterfall) which is not famous, but I had seen a picture at google earth which looked interesting. You can walk around behind the falling water here!

Grouppicture at Nabe-ga-taki

The next big stop was the Kyujuu suspension bridge. Nynke had found a big suspension bridge in her travel guide and on some japanese travel brochure, and after decyphering some kanji, searching the net, and counting the number of trusses in the pillars, we found out there are two "biggest" suspension bridges in Kyuushuu! It just appears that the Kyujuu one is very new and they "forgot" to update most information on the Aya bridge. Anyway, the Aya bridge would have been too far.

At the bridge there was a signboard advertising several other local sights. Nynke thought the picture of steaming mud looked interesting. Using some pamphlets and the car navigation we found out how to go there. It appeared to be called "Komatsu jigoku" (Komatsu hells). At some springs there were little baskets with a stick or rope to boil eggs in the hot water.

[HDR] On the way to our final stop (the Taketa castle ruins) we made a brief photo-stop because of the fog hanging in the valleys. When we were about to go, Nynke said something like "Interesting skyline" or so, and then I remembered the video in the Aso volcano museum which said that the Aso mountains look like a "sleeping buddha" if seen from the proper spot... which miraculously appeared to be this spot...

[HDR] Final (sightseeing) stop of the day: Taketa castle ruins. We were pretty late already and it had been rainy weather all day, so we were the only ones at the spot. We were amazed by the absence of huge warning signs, fences etc, even though there were really yawning chasms (Japanese normally put huge signs for really minor dangers).

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