We continue our installment were we ask locals of Aso to introduce the hidden gems of their hometowns. This time we have found our way to the vast rural oasis of the south, Minami Aso Mura!
Minami Aso is often associated with rural landscapes, plentiful sources of spring water such as Shirakawa Fountainhead, or the single giant cherry tree Isshingyo-no-Oozakura. But, even though they are spectacular, this time we are not looking for the most well-known places, the opposite! And our informer is none other than…
Oouchi-san from Minami Aso’s Tourism Division.
Without further ado, let’s get right into his recommendations!
No.1 – Must visit! Let’s become millionaires?!
As you head towards Minami Aso from Kumamoto City, you will pass through the Tawara-Yama tunnel. As you come out at the other end, you will see a collection of red shiny buildings. This is Hogi-Hogi Shrine.
This name, Hogi-Hogi, is written [宝来宝来] where 宝 means “treasure” and 来 means “coming”. so in other words, the name of the shrine is TREASURE IS COMING, TREASURE IS COMING Shrine. A slightly unconventional name? Well… There is a story!
In the spring of 2014, the area where Hogi-Hogi Shrine stands was undergoing construction work. One of the workers happened upon a large boulder. When he tried to use his heavy construction equipment to destroy the boulder the machine suddenly stopped working. After repairing the construction equipment he tried again. Once more the machinery broke down without cause. As he went to sleep that night the large boulder appeared in his dreams and asked, “Why do you want to destroy me?”. The construction worker answered, “If I don’t, I won’t get my salary, and I need money to live!”. The boulder replied, “Then buy yourself a lottery ticket. But do me a favor and use some of the money you win to enshrine me.” Not sure what to think, the construction worker bought a lottery ticket the next day. To his great surprise, he hit the jackpot and won enough to live comfortably for the rest of his days. His friend who heard the story went and prayed at the stone. Of course, also he won a small fortune soon thereafter. This rumor spread and soon enough people had won money thanks to the stone that this shrine could be built using nothing but donations from the happy lottery winners. To this day, people who have received the blessing of the stone and won at the lottery regularly donate money to Hogi-Hogi Shrine.
And here we have the rumored stone! It is considered to possess godly powers and, as mentioned, many people claim to have won at the lottery thanks to this very stone! It doesn’t only have to be about the lottery though, anyone who is in desperate need to boost their luck, this is the place to do it!
Address: 869-1411 Kumamoto, Aso, Minami Aso Mura, Kain, 2909-2
No.2 – Wonderful scenery at Minami Aso’s best park!
Welcome to our next destination, Tori-no-Kodzuka Park! Easily spotted thanks to the unusually small Torii-gate visible from the road.
Proceed up to the top of this small hill to find…
…a spectacular view of Minami Aso that spreads out before the five peaks of Mount Aso!
This is one of Minami Aso’s hidden scenic views!
But there is more than only stunning scenery to enjoy here.
Turn around and you will see…
Let’s zoom in slightly!
From here you can enjoy the “never falling stone”, a large boulder pierced in between the mountain walls, seemingly floating in the air.
Usually, you need to do a 2-hour intense hike to see the stone, but from here, you can, even though it’s slightly far. But wait?! You can’t see the stone? Well, I’m sorry to inform you that the “never falling stone” fell down in the earthquake in 2016. So now you can’t see it from here anymore. But the stone-less shape has now become famous instead since it looks like a cat. This has lead locals to believe that the cat is a guardian angel who protected them from further damage during the earthquake.
You can also find other atmospheric items sights such as the protector of travelers, Jizo-san.
And a miniature displaying the “never falling stone” before it fell, I hope this one will serve us better!
The whims of nature gave birth to a mystical place, and in the same way, the whims of nature took it away. But either way, Tori-no-Kodzuka Park is a great place to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery that Minami Aso has to offer!
Address: 869-1411 Kumamoto, Aso, Minami Aso Mura, Kain
No.3 – Wind down in a cafe straight from a fairy tale!
Our last destination this time is a place of relaxation. Welcome to Nohohon, Cafe of Joy!
This charming little hideaway can’t be described as anything other than fairytale-like!
As you step inside you are greeted by a lovely sparkling fireplace that sets the mood!
The interior design is all made with great care for detail and everything goes together into a well put together set of loveliness. And what brings it all together is the large windows the let through both light and invites in the flourishing nature outside.
Cakes, cookies, coffee, herb tea, whatever you need to be rid of that tension in your shoulders! Everything is top quality and will make you gasp with food-pleasure!
<Nohohon, Cafe of Joy>
Address: 869-1411 Kumamoto, Aso, Minami Aso Mura, Kain, 409-5
Opening hours: 11:30 – 17:00
Fixed holidays: Thursday, Friday
There we have it! Maybe you are in dire need of some extra luck, craving to be surrounded with beautiful natural scenery, or just really need to have a coffee in a relaxing setting that is sure to boost you with some extra followers on Instagram. Regardless, these three less known places in Minami Aso Mura, are well worth a visit so don’t be a stranger!
Come and enjoy!