New to Aso and overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options? Fear no more! This time we introduce our most recommended spots in Minami Aso, the southern parts of Aso, a place of mystery and natural energy!
The mystical atmosphere, crystal clear spring water, and superb seasonal flowering is only the beginning! South Aso is filled with wonders and here are our tips to make the most of your day!
Jump in your car, head out from Aso Station and follow national highway route 57 towards Oita. Keep a lookout for the traffic signs and take a right towards Takamori at the Sakanashi intersection. As you travel along the winding roads you will notice how the forest grows denser and denser around you. Keep your eyes open and you will soon find this Torii gate by the side of the road.
Kamishikimi Kumano Imasu Shrine!
This might be one of the most atmospheric shrines in Japan and has lately moved into the limelight thanks to its appearance in the anime “Into the forest of fireflies’ Light/Hotarubi no Mori e”.
As you step through the Torii gate you find yourself faced with a long staircase that twists between the rows of thickly growing straight trees.
This staircase which guides you to the shrine building is quite long so make sure to wear comfortable clothing!
An avenue of Japanese cedar trees and over 100 stone lanterns align your path creating a solemn and otherworldly feeling as you head toward the sacred shrine. You can almost feel how the temperature drops slightly as you push your way deeper into the forest-covered mountain.
Finally, we arrive at the shrine building!
This is a small shrine that has been protected with great care and love by the people of Takamori since times long past. An ancient Shinto god is enshrined here and visitors are said to be blessed with good encounters and fortune in business.
But Kamishikimi Kumano Imasu shrine doesn’t end here. If you grab yourself a walking stick and press even further up the mountain you will find an overwhelming presence awaiting your arrival.
This giant rock sits proudly on the top of the mountain and boasts with a huge wind hole large enough to pass through. There are many legends regarding this mysterious boulder but it is said that the breeze that passes through will cleanse the soul of anyone who stands in the opening.
This is truly a place of power that makes you feel like you have been absorbed into an ancient world of mysteries and magic. There is much to see at Kamishikimi shrine so make sure to stop by when in the area!
Kamishikimi Kumano Imasu Shrine
2619 Kamishikimi, Takamori, Aso District, Kumamoto
URL(Only Japanese): http://www.town.takamori.kumamoto.jp/kanko/kankomap/kanko/kamisikimikumanoimasujinja.html
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/swxMFywiEmHSMzHr9
After having absorbed some natural energy from ancient Shinto gods and our beloved mother earth it is time to fill up on a completely different form of energy!
Just a stone’s throw away from Kamishikimi shrine we will find Takamori Dengaku Mura!
Dengaku is a traditional way of enjoying food in Takamori. Handmade miso paste is spread onto different foods that in turn are cooked slowly over an open fire in a classic Japanese sunken fireplace. While you wait for the food to cook it is deeply satisfying to surround the sunken fireplace with friends or family as you enjoy heartful conversation and the mouthwatering scents of Dengaku.
Ready to dig in! The savory aromatic smell of the oh-so-slightly burnt miso is irresistible!!
Eat to your heart’s content! You should expect it to take about 1 hour for the food to finish. Old-school slow-food! But don’t worry, the wait is worth it and the unrivaled atmosphere makes the time fly. There is no better place for you to enjoy your lunch!
Takamori Dengaku Mura
814-2 Kamishikimi, Takamori town, Aso District, Kumamoto
Opening hours: 10:00 – 18:00 (Reservation necessary after 17:00)
Fixed holidays: None
URL(Only Japanese): http://dengakumura.com/
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/t7RuKVFbEPLX1d918
Once your stomach is filled, it is time to once again hit the road and steer towards the next destination. Coming up is one of Aso’s gushing blessings, towards a natural springhead!
In various locations around Aso, you can find springheads from where crystal clean groundwater breaks through the earth’s crust and bursts forth. The rain that falls on Aso is accumulated in the ground and transforms into healthy mineral water that supports and enables the lives of everyone living in Aso.
And one of Aso’s most famous springheads is none other than this one!
Awarded by the Environmental Agency as one of the top 100 springheads in Kumamoto and in Japan, let us introduce Shirakawa Springhead!
The water from Shirakawa springhead gushes forth at an unbelievable rate of 60 ton each minute and flows all the way to Kumamoto city. The sight of the sand dancing at the bottom of the perfectly clear lake as water pushes up from the ground makes for a wondrous sight to behold.
Thanks to the cold water the temperature in the area is cool and makes for a pleasant retreat in the summer heat.
Truly a great blessing brought forward by Aso’s unique nature. Feel free to fill up your bottle and bring as much water with you as you please. Trust us, there is no better way to quench your thirst as you drive through Aso’s amazing scenery.
Shirakawa suigen (springhead)
458-1 Shirakawa, Minamiaso, Aso District, Kumamoto
※ An environmental preservation fee of 100 yen is required upon entry
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/vLuTAwfMmHx3qJKH6
Thanks to the south Aso’s dynamic nature there are also many seasonal wonders to feast your eyes upon if you are lucky.
One of the most famous ones is this!
This 400-year-old cherry blossom tree with a height of 14 meters is one of the most famous and breathtaking cherry blossom trees in all of Japan.
The blooming begins in early April and as it reaches its peak you can enjoy beautiful light-up events during nighttime. But be prepared, you won’t be the only one there so expect an overly packed parking lot and a sea of people.
Here we have another seasonal scenery of south Aso that is truly stunning.
A staggering amount of 30.000 sunflowers blooming in harmony!
Beginning in the middle of July, this spectacular sight can be enjoyed for about a month each year.
The yellow contrast against the green lush mountains of Aso in the background is quite mesmerizing!
3226-1 Nakamatsu, Minamiaso, Aso District, Kumamoto
Telephone 0967-67-1112 (Minami Aso Village, town office tourism department)
Opening hours: Available at all hours
Google map: https://goo.gl/maps/UERHSDJ2c3qDXCLc6
So, what do you think? Ready to throw yourself into a world of natural power and overwhelming beauty? Eat, look, enjoy! Rejoice in an unforgettable day of driving through Minami Aso!