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    • Spring
      • Eating Wild in Japan

        Eating Wild in Japan

        Winifred Bird's latest book is an introduction to the world of sansai (mountain vegetables) and foraging in Japan.
        Niseko flying Hokkaido

        Bird’s Eye View of Hokkaido

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        Northern Tohoku’s Top 5 Spring Hikes

        Chase the cherry blossoms north and enjoy five of Tohoku’s best hikes this spring.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor Activities in Japan

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.

        Haga Farm Spring Glamping in Tochigi

        Haga Farm and Glamping in Tochigi opened in August 2020, and it has quickly become a popular escape for Tokyoites.
    • Summer
      • Washi Papermaking Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Following the Paper Trail in Kochi

        Discover the traditional art of washi papermaking in Kochi with artist Rogier Uitenboogaart.
        Climbing Mt. Fuji Outdoor Japan

        Peaking in 2021: Climbing Mt. Fuji

        Thinking of climbing Mt. Fuji this summer? We talk to Mt. Fuji guides on best practices for scaling Japan's highest mountain.

        Japan Camping Guide

        Check out our picks all the way from Hokkaido to the Okinawa Islands and then plot your perfect Japan camping adventure.
        Japan's Digital Nomads Van Life in Japan

        Japan’s Digital Nomads

        Adventure couple Ruth Aisling and Bappa Shota explores Japan by van.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endangered Wildcats

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
    • Autumn
      • Pow Bar Founder Megumi Scott

        Beyond the Brand: Pow Bar

        An interview with Megumi Scott, the founder of Niseko brand Pow Bar.
        Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
        Mountain Biking in Japan

        Guide Lines: Autumn Mountain Biking in Japan

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    • Winter
      • Early Bird 2021-22 Japan Ski

        Early Bird Ski Deals for 2021-2022

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        Pacific Solo

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        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

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        Kaiyu Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

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        Outdoor Japan Shimoda

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        Iriomote Outdoor Japan

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        Shikoku Road Trip: Kochi ...

        Mountainous forests and coastal towns dominate most of the prefecture, where visitors will find enterprising locals and nature guides working to revitalize their communities. Shikoku’s winding roads are best explored by car.
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    • Sky
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      • Matagi Akita Tohoku Sustainable Living

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        Early Bird 2021-22 Japan Ski

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    • Travel
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        Summer Events Fireworks Festivals in Japan

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        Summer Festivals in Japan

        2021 Summer Festivals in Japan

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100 Famous Japanese Mountains: #69 Mt. Aso

I get off the bus at Miyagi Station and begin my two-hour walk to the Asosan trailhead. I am well rested, my pack feels less heavy than usual and the sun is out after a week of rain. I walk slowly, following the train tracks, taking in the cemetery, the few statues and restaurants along the way.

An old man in a paint-splattered uniform is bewildered when I approach him at a fork in the road to inquire about Aso-san. My map also calls this area “land of fire.” He seems as if he doesn’t talk to strangers much but manages to smile and point me in the right direction.

I leave my pack in the visitor’s center where the old woman at the counter yells after me, “You have your water? Map? Jacket?” I laugh and nod my head as I make my way up the easy trail to Asosan.

The national park I was entering has five mountains clustered together and it seems to have been a pet project for the Ministry of Tourism. A huge parking lot connected to a lift takes anyone willing to shell out the yen up the mountain without breaking a sweat.

The trail is flat and easy, and within an hour I am overlooking one of the spewing craters of Mt. Aso. It is a bit windy, and I can smell the sulfur spewing out of active Nakadake, the massive crater mountain in the center. Within two hours, I reach Taka-dake, at 1,592 meters the highest point on Mt. Aso, and then back down again in the visitor’s center parking lot.

I pass an elevated temple on the road down to town and stop to watch the monk in his yellow robes. He encircles the monastery many time s while beating a drum and chanting something that sounds as if it contains powerful meaning.

Another kilometer, and a green van stops. The driver asks me if I want a ride. It reminds me of a pickle with a surfboard on top. The driver, a college student from Kyoto ditching his studies, gives me a lift to Kumamoto Station. It is not yet mid-afternoon as I reflect on the relaxing, yet memorable, hike through the “land of fire” as I head down the road toward Kumamoto Castle.

Trail Tips

If you have time, you can also take an overnight sleeper train to Kyushu (Hayabusa train from Tokyo to Kumamoto) and then take the scenic route (local train) to Mt. Aso.

Things to Bring

Raingear, flashlight, map, camera, sunscreen, water, camera, gloves, sunglasses, warm hat, snacks.

Things Not to Miss

While you are in Kumamoto, take a stroll through Kumamoto Castle, a 10-minute bus ride from Kumamoto Station. Near the Castle, you also find the Kumamoto Art Museum which has an excellent collection of tomb replicas excavated from the area.

Contact Information

Kumamoto Tourist Information 熊本市観光案内所: (096) 352-3743
Kumamoto Goodwill Guide Service 熊本Goodwill ガイドサービス : (096) 355-6434
Aso Taxi Service: (0967) 22-0272
Aso Youth Hostel 阿蘇ユースホステル : (0967) 34-0804

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