Takachiho Gorge and Mt. Aso 2-Days Itinerary
…and other nearby tourist attractions!
Takachiho Gorge and Mt. Aso are popular destinations that are often combined, because of their proximity with each other, making it a perfect weekend getaway or a 2-day trip. Both locations are part of Kyushu, but Mt. Aso is in Kumamoto Prefecture while Takachiho Gorge is in Miyazaki. Nevertheless, it’s only 56 km away from each other by car.
NOTE: This itinerary is ideal for people who will explore Takachiho Gorge and Mt. Aso by driving. For those who are planning to use public transportation, it might take longer or challenging to execute this plan without a car.
Foreign nationals could drive or rent a car in Japan, as long as they have an international or Japanese license. For those who don’t have this option, going on a tour guide is also a good alternative.
This narrow valley with columnar-shaped cliffs was created by the lava from Mt. Aso around 100,000 years ago. Furthermore, its picturesque aesthetic is completed with Minainotaki Waterfall cascades on its side while Gokase River flows through the gorge.
Aside from admiring the beauty of Takachiho Gorge, there are several activities that you can do here. This spot is perfect for a half-day trip or a whole day— for those who want to take their time.
1. Take a stroll
The surroundings of Takachiho Gorge are very lush in greeneries and feel quite refreshing. Hence, walking around doesn’t feel exhausting, but rather invigorating. Plus, when you walk on the bridge that overlooks the valley, you could take a stunning shot of Takachiho Gorge.
2. Row a boat
This is one of the fun ways you can get a closer look at the gorge. You can row the boat for 30 minutes, which costs 3,000 yen and up to 3 people can ride it. When you exceed the time limit, you pay 300 yen per 10 minutes.
For those who are not good at rowing the boat, don’t worry because there’s a staff that could help you out. Guess are also given a lifebuoy, so don’t worry.
3. Eat Nagashi Somen
This dish is served on bamboo with cold running water. The guests must catch the somen (white Japanese noodles) with their chopsticks before they fall on the strainer. After that, you dip the somen on Tsuyu— a sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, dashi, and bonito flakes. The somen that fell on the strainer will be given to you, so no need to worry about wasting food!
Although you can have Nagashi Somen in other parts of Japan, Chiho no Ie invented this dish in the 1950s.
NOTE: A set meal (with side dishes and grilled fish) costs 1,500 yen and for those who just want the somen, it’s 500 yen.
4. Write your wish
Are you looking for luck for love or you are wishing for something? There’s a tiny shrine in Takachiho Gorge where you could write your wishes on heart-shaped clay-stone.
It costs 100 yen and after you’ve written your wish, you can then hang the stone on the wall. All you need to do is to wait for what your heart is longing for to come true!
Amano Iwato Shrine & Amano Yasugawara
Visitors can’t access this cave without a guided tour from a Japanese priest. Instead, you can visit Amano Yasugawara, which is a power spot in a cave with countless human-made pile of stones. It’s around 5 minutes away on foot from Amano Iwato and it is said that when you stack the rocks together, your wish will come true.
As you walk along the path of those two power spots, you’ll see several stores and cafes. You could buy some souvenirs and try out some regional food Miyazaki, like mango ice cream or Kakigori (shaved ice).
The next stop is Kusasenri-ga-hama, a prairie located at the northern portion of Mt. Eboshidake— one of Aso’s five peaks. During summer, this grassland has a vibrant green color and as the weather gets colder, it turns golden.
Visitors can see some cows and horses grazing grasses, go hiking, and even do horseback riding. When you go to Kusasenri Observatory, you could see Nakadake Crater, Komezuka, Mt. Eboshi, etc.
NOTE: Although I didn’t hike with my husband, I read that the 2 most recommended courses are Kishimadake and Eboshidake.
For more insight, head to VISIT KYUSHU’s website. https://www.visit-kyushu.com/en/see-and-do/kyushu-hiking-adventures/aso-kusasenri/
For those who are not satisfied looking from Kusasenri and what a closer look, you can head to Nakadake Crater.
Aso has 5 peaks namely Mt. Neko, Mt. Taka, Mt. Eboshi, Mt. Kishima, and Mt. Naka which is also called Nakadake. The later peak is known to be the main tourist attraction of Aso Volcano. Even though it’s still active, visitors could still go up to the crater and see its inside. However, when there is high volcanic activity, you won’t be able to enter.
Thus, make sure to check http://www.aso.ne.jp/~volcano/eng/index.html for further information.
NOTE: When I was looking for places to visit at Takachiho Gorge and Mt. Aso, I didn’t really dig deep. I mostly focused on Takachiho Gorge, Kusasenri, and Resonate Club Kuju— the hotel we stayed at. Hence, when we arrived at Kusasenri, I was surprised that you could have a glimpse of Nakadake Crater.
Although the crater was close by, my husband and I decided not to go there because we were tired. We just want to enjoy our time at Resonate Club Kuju— which is a relaxing accommodation in Aso that not only serves Japanese meal, but also French cuisine. My husband (who is French) approves of it!
Daikanbo is located at the northern edge of Aso and it’s a popular spot to see the panoramic views of the city and Aso’s 5 peaks— Mt. Takadake, Mt. Nakadake, Mt. Nekodake, Mt. Kijima, and Mt. Eboshi.
In addition, when you come here around autumn or winter, it gets very cloudy. However, you’ll have the chance to see the top of the mountains peeking through the clouds. It can also be cold and windy, so make sure to bring something to keep you warm.
There’s a toilet, shop, and restaurant in here.
NOTE: My husband and I went here during winter and not during our Takachiho Gorge and Mt. Aso this summer. I decided to include Daikanbo in this itinerary because of its proximity to Nakadake Crater. So, for those who are staying near that area, it’s an interesting spot to add in your itinerary.
Kuju Flower Park (Kuju Hana Koen)
This flower park features 500 kinds of flowers from spring to late autumn. Despite its location at the base of Mt. Kuju, it can be easily accessed by car from Mt. Aso. It takes about an hour drive.
Kuju Flower Park also has some café/restaurants, stargazing events, seasonal activities (e.g., lavender/ blueberry picking), and shops that offer various local products. For more information, visit http://www.hanakoen.com/ (only in Japanese).
NOTE: I love flowers, so it’s a no-brainer that I included this in my itinerary. Plus, it’s only 5 km (6-minute drive) away from Resonate Club Kuju or 26 km (30-minute drive) from Daikanbo.
We stayed more than 2 hours here because I took my time taking photos and admiring the colorful flower fields. During the time we visited, the seasonal blossoms were salvia and globe amaranth.
Other tourist spots around Takachiho Gorge and Mt. Aso
For those who are still looking for more places to visit, here are some additional sites:
Situated in Yamato, Kumamoto, Tsujun Bridge (Tsujunkyo) was built in 1854 and it’s Japan’s largest stone aqueduct. It was constructed to be able to distribute water to Shiroito Plateau, which was suffering from a drought.
Tsujunkyo is still used today, but the most striking feature of this bridge is when the water is released. The bridge has a hole in the middle on both sides, so when the water is unleashed, it goes down to the river, which looks like a waterfall.
NOTE: You can only see the water being released during weekends or holidays of late spring and late fall. This spectacle lasts for about 20 minutes.
Takamori Yasui Tunnel Park
Kumamoto surely loves water!
Takamori Yasui Tunnel Park was not supposed to be a park, but an intersection railway that connects Kumamoto and Nobeoka. However, this project was stopped in 1980 when tons of water came out from the groundwater source.
Now, it’s a place where you could have various exhibitions like illumination displays, bamboo lamps, and many more. It could change depending on the season.
However, the highlight of Takamori Yasui Tunnel Park is a water fountain with a stroboscope effect. The water that flows from this fountain looks like pearls that cascade in different speed and sometimes it even stops! It sort of gives the spectators a “bullet-time” effect, which was made famous by the movie “The Matrix!”
Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine
Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine is situated in Takamori Town, which is where Takamori Yasui Tunnel Park is. The distance between the two is only 7 km (9 mins by car), hence it’s convenient to visit these places on the same day.
Before you could reach this shrine, you must climb its long staircase, which can be tough for those who are not used to working out. On the other hand, you’ll be mesmerized by the tall trees and other greeneries around the area. It gives out a very refreshing atmosphere.
Aside from being one of the popular power spots in Kumamoto, it’s also a well-known place for manga/anime lovers. The setting of the one-shot manga and 44-minute anime, Hotarubi no Mori e, was in this shrine.
NOTE: The story of Hotarubi no Mori e revolves around the tragic love story of a mountain spirit, Gin, and a teenage girl, Hotaru.
This is one of my favorite anime movies because I’m quite fascinated with Japanese folklore. I didn’t even know that Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine was the shrine in that manga until I wrote this blog.
Located in Aso District, Kurokawa Onsen is one of the best-preserved onsen (hot spring) towns in Japan. It has a serene vibe, lush nature, and structures with Japanese aesthetics that emit a very traditional atmosphere.
Besides its appearance, Kurokawa Onsen is also well-known for its “Rotemburo Meguri” or “tour of outdoor baths.” There are 28 outdoor baths in this place and it costs 500 yen per bath. However, for those who plan to bathe in more than onsen, they can get “Tegata” (wooden pass) for 1,500 yen. They could use it to visit 3 different hot springs of their choice and it’s valid for 6 months.
NOTE: Kurokawa Onsen has a bamboo lantern illumination (light exhibition) from December to May (or up to April). This event is called “Yu Akari Illumination” and during this period, you’ll see spherical bamboo lanterns glowing at night. It starts from sunset to 10 pm.
Kokonoe Yume Otsuribashi
Kokonoe Yume Otsuribashi is one of Japan’s longest and highest suspension bridges, which is 290 meters long and 173 meters high. It’s situated in Aso-Kuju National Park in Oita Prefecture.
From this bridge, visitors could see the wonderful view of Kuju Mountain Range and the waterfall, Shindo no Taki.
NOTE: Among the places I listed in this article, Kokonoe Yume Otsuribashi is the only place I’ve never been to. I decided to add it because of its location and I think it’ll be beautiful during autumn— base on the photos I’ve seen.
Have you’ve been to Takachiho Gorge and Mt. Aso ? How was it? And for those who are planning to go here, I hope this blog could help you out!
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