And believe it or not, for many people, winter is actually their favorite Aso season!
This time we will introduce unique scenery, exciting experiences, and many other things that truly shine during the cold months in Aso.
[Winter highlights, nr.1] Susuki, Japanese pampas grass
This is the dazzling Japanese pampas grass, Susuki. It takes over as the unrivaled and beautiful ruler of the Aso scenery through autumn and winter.
Komezuka, the milk road, the Aso skyline… From autumn to winter, Japan’s greatest meadows turn into a sea of shimmering pampas grass swaying in the wind. As summer turns to winter, the white tips of the pampas grass slowly transform the green landscape into a glittering golden tapestry.
Especially the sight of the evening sun as it rests its final beams of light on an overwhelming number of pampas grass is nothing but breathtaking.
The Japanese pampas grass can be enjoyed all around Aso and the temptation to stop your car for pictures is often hard to resist. But make sure to consider your surroundings and make sure not to stop your vehicle in a way that may cause danger on the winding mountain roads!
[Winter highlights, nr.2] A magical phenomenon, the sea of clouds
In Japan, one of the major attractions of Aso is this mystical phenomenon. Early in the morning, when the conditions are right, white and fluffy clouds form in the valleys between the mountains giving birth to a mystical sea of clouds.
During the winter, the necessary conditions are common giving you an extra high chance to witness this rare sight!
We won’t go into the specifics here but if the morning and night have been cold and the temperature rises quickly towards noon then the sea of clouds often appears.
And if you enter into the sea of clouds it will look something like this. A very thick mist. But this thick mist, seen from above, will be a beautiful scenery that you won’t ever forget.
In the Aso area, you can pretty much find a sea of clouds anywhere as long as you go high enough. But don’t worry, we will give you our recommended spot!
It’s the famous observatory, Daikanbo!
One of the must-visit places that everyone stops by if they visit Aso. The caldera of Aso that once was a giant lake transforms into a sea of clouds. It almost looks like the five peaks of Aso are floating upon a soft white bed of clouds.
Address: Yamada, Aso, Kumamoto 869-2313
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/5nMWGajFQSuhNwJY6
And… The Kabuto Rock observatory!
From here you can capture the 3-dimensional feeling of the outer rim of the crater along with the five peaks of Aso in one well-arranged shot!
Kabuto Rock observatory
Address: Nishikozono, Aso, Kumamoto 869-2303
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/KKex9v7jSjEKbkMY8
During the winter in Aso, we recommend that you take at least one morning to wake up early, leave the comforts of your bed and head out to watch this spectacle of nature. And when you are done, return to your hotel or ryokan just in time to enjoy your breakfast with a spirit refreshed by mother nature.
Oh, but you feel worried that you can’t judge if the conditions are right and you might go out early only to find a caldera empty of clouds?
Well well, look no further! This is the tip of the year! Follow the link below and you will find a 24/7 live feed from the top 3 spots for the sea of clouds (including Daikanbo)!
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Check the current state before heading out to ensure not wasting time and sleep!
[Winter highlights, nr.3] A starry sky, so spellbinding that a stiff neck is guaranteed!
Next in the line, we have another of Aso’s big selling points, some of the clearest and astonishing starry skies that you will ever witness!
To be honest you don’t even need to visit a special spot. Just take the time to stop and look up and you are bound to be surprised. Bring something to sit on, something hot to drink, and go for a ride up the mountains to any unlit place and you will truly be entranced. You will find yourself spending hours as you let your gaze be absorbed into the overwhelming space.
※Picture was taken from Hiranodai in Minamioguni.
If you are weak to the cold but still want to enjoy the starry sky!
This is a rooftop bar located on the top floor of the ryokan Soszankyo in Aso city. Here you can get cozy in these see-through dome-shaped tents as you enjoy the night sky together with your alcohol of choice! This bar even serves proper cocktails so feel free to get fancy!
[Winter highlights nr.4] Nothing more to say than… Onsen!!!
Hot springs are great in any season but during the winter is when they truly shine! The feeling as your cold body is heated by the natural springs combined with the sight of atmospheric steam that rises all around you is unbeatable!
The Aso area truly is a treasure chest of onsen. Wherever you turn you will find onsens with their own unique traits and charm. All of them are worth a visit but here is a personal favorite for the winter season!
Often called the Mt. Fuji of Oguni town, Mt. Waita presents the fabulous, Waita onsen village!
This rather unknown onsen area consists of 13 onsen and lodging facilities.
One of its traits is that steam rises up from the ground all around town, all times of the year. And this characteristic steam stands out even more in the winter! Do I even need to mention that the baths and the food is top-class as well?
They also utilize this rising steam in many inventive ways! One is to steam food, something which is available in various spots around the village. But they also use the steam as a sustainable form of energy to heat houses and much more!
Even if you don’t stay at any of the ryokans in Waita onsen, visitors can enjoy steaming food at the cheap price of 300 yen!
Address: 2816 Nishizato, Oguni, Aso District, Kumamoto 869-2504
Opening hours: 13:00 – 21:00 (Last entry at 20:00)
Fixed holidays: Thursday (Except for national holidays)
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/KF5JwfDFL3YnsMH59
So, what do you think? There are many reasons to visit Aso in the winter. And we haven’t even touched on everything here. For example, there are the beautiful Koga falls that freeze during the winter creating a truly magical sight!
There is an entire world of wonderful experiences to explore during the winter season in Aso so use this as a starting guide and make the most of your trip!
And remember, even though it seldom piles up, it does snow in Aso from time to time. Especially if you go deeper into the mountain the risk of snow increases and the roads often freeze over. This can lead to roads being very slippery and sometimes even closed off. Check the weather and the status online before getting into the car, and more than anything, drive safe!