4 Awesome Things to Do in Mount Aso

The Mount Aso caldera is an extremely diverse landscape that spans about 350 square kilometers and offers some of the best adventures in Japan – hikes, and sightseeing, among many other activities.

Komezuka Crater in Mount Aso

The Mount Aso area is located in the heart of Kyushu and features one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world. The caldera is so large that it’s home to thousands of people, even though there’s an active volcano right in the middle of it.

Calling the area “Mount Aso” is somewhat misleading since there is no single Mount Aso. Rather, Mount Aso refers to the entire volcanic caldera, which has many mountainous peaks inside of it.

The central crater group, featuring the still-active Nakadake, encompasses the renowned five peaks of Aso. These five peaks are Nakadake, Takadake, Eboshidake, Kijimadake, and Nekodake.

In this massive crater, there are tons of things to do, and in this article, we’re going to share our 4 favorite things that we did when we visited the Mount Aso area.

Nakadake Crater

  • Hours: 8:30 AM – 4:30 (December 1st – March 19th), 5:00 (November 1st to November 30th), or 5:30 PM (March 20th to October 31)
  • Cost: Vehicle entry fee required – read below
  • Location: đŸ“ Nakadake Crater – Google Maps

No trip to Mount Aso would be complete without a visit to its only active volcano, Nakadake. The Nakadake Crater Observation area offers an unparalleled experience of being up close to the raw power of an active volcano.

During our visit to Nakadake Crater in October, we were greeted with a chilly atmosphere, an expected contrast given the crater’s high elevation. The crater was actively steaming as clouds billowed out of the crater.

One crucial aspect of visiting Nakadake is being aware of the sulfur emissions from the volcano. The park rangers at the gate inquire about any respiratory issues as the sulfur clouds from the crater can cause irritation. However, if the volcanic activity from Nakadake reaches unsafe levels the observation area completely closes down.

🌋 For up-to-date information on volcanic warnings at Nakadake Crater, check the Aso Volcano Disaster Prevention Council website.

At the observation area, you’ll notice several small concrete refuge shelters. These shelters provide a place for visitors to hide in if the volcano’s activity suddenly escalates. It’s a reminder of the dynamic and unpredictable nature of an active volcano.

To get to the crater’s observation area you need to pay a fee to the ranger if you drive in. The fee depends on the size of your vehicle:

  • Bicycles: Free
  • Motorcycles: ÂĨ200
  • Light vehicle: ÂĨ600
  • Ordinary Car: ÂĨ800

We drove a tiny camper van up to Nakadake and were charged the “light vehicle” rate to get in. I guess there are some advantages to mini camper vans!

Komezuka

Japan is just the place you’d expect to find a charmingly cute volcano.

Komezuka is a cute little volcanic cone located right on the side of Highway 298. It has a nearly perfect round shape, which makes it quite attractive for photos.

In the summer and early autumn, Komezuka and its surroundings are draped in a lush blanket of green grass, creating a serene, dream-like setting.

While Komezuka was once accessible for hiking, cracking around its rim prompted Japanese authorities to put fences around it to deter hikers.

Despite these restrictions, Komezuka has lost none of its beauty. It can be perfectly enjoyed from its roadside photo spot, or from Kusasenri Observatory, where the view remains unobstructed and picturesque. This accessibility makes it a convenient and enjoyable stop while driving along Highway 298 or Highway 111, allowing you to appreciate its beauty without the need for a hike.

Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine

The Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine is nestled within the cypress forests on the slopes of Mount Aso.

Popularized as the setting for the anime Hotarubi no Mori e, the shrine’s stepped pathway is lined with over a hundred moss-covered stone lanterns and provides an epic journey to one of Japan’s most mystical shrines.

The best time to visit the shrine is from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. The dense tree canopy around the shrine tends to obscure sunlight during the early morning and late afternoon, making the middle of the day the best opportunity to see the shrine in its full splendor.

On clear days, the shrine becomes even more magical. Sunlight filters through the trees, casting rays that dance across the walkway. Capturing the light as it filters through the canopy and illuminates the moss-covered stone lanterns and steps creates a truly epic experience.

Behind the shrine lies a trail that goes up the hill to a natural rock archway known as Ugetoiwa. This rock arch, steeped in legend about a demon escaping from the rock, symbolizes overcoming adversity.

⛩ī¸ Read more about the Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine

Daikanbo Lookout

Daikanbo Lookout was the first place we went to in Mt Aso during our 6-day camper van journey around Kyushu. We arrived at Daikanbo Lookout around 3 pm and initially intended only to stay there for a short period, as is typical with most lookouts. However, we soon discovered that Daikanbo had much more to offer.

The lookout is crisscrossed with various little trails meandering through the grass and around the area, making it easy to get lost in exploration. What we initially planned as a quick visit turned into a 2-hour exploration.

As the sun began to set, the lookout transformed. The evening sunlight casts a magical glow over the Mount Aso caldera, enhancing its beauty and creating an exceptionally breathtaking atmosphere. This mesmerizing view was a highlight of our visit.

Overall, Daikanbo Lookout offers not just panoramic views but an immersive experience to witness Mount Aso’s natural beauty. It’s a perfect first stop for your visit to the Mount Aso area to soak in the landscapes of the entire Mount Aso caldera.

🏞ī¸ Read more about the Daikanbo Lookout

Trey Lewis is an outdoor enthusiast. Whether its hiking knife-edge ridges or just fishing by the river, Trey isn't afraid to get dirty in search of the next adventure.

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