We are back once again to hear what secret spots the locals of Aso want to recommend you! This time, we will have a look at Ubuyama Mura and Nishihara Mura (Mura=村=Village).
Let’s start off with…
The small village known by the name of Ubuyama Mura is famous, among other things, for the clear and delicious water of Ikeyama Suigen (suigen=spring source), Oogitanada which is one of the most beautiful rice terraces in Japan, and the charming round purple Higotai flowers that bloom through August.
We asked two locals to give us some other less known recommendations. Firstly, let’s introduce our informers!
This is Nagahama-san from the Ubuyama town hall and Fujihara-san who moved to Ubuyama as a part of the Community Reactivation Cooperator Squad (a publicly-funded form of employment often found in rural areas in Japan).
So let’s have a look at what this tag-team wants you to experience in Ubuyama Mura!
Firstly, Ubuyama Suigyo En (Suigyo En = Water and fish park)!
Ubuyama Mura itself is located in the deep parts of the mountain, and to get to Ubuyama Suigyo En you need to go even further!
Here they have created a pond with connecting fish pens by drawing natural mineral water from the famous spring source, Yamabuki Suigen. And, of course, they raise river fish in the pond as well!
You can find information about Ubuyama Suigyo En in tourist brochures about Ubuyama but the number of visitors is still few.
And… What is up with this mysterious building floating in the pond?
The text says “Hospitality for your heart and tastebuds!” which makes me think that this is a restaurant?
Let’s have a look inside!
The simple tatami design of the interior maintains a nice Japanese atmosphere and the large windows let in plenty of sunlight!
Outside the windows, you can see the shoal of fish swimming vigorously.
As soon as I stepped inside the staff asked me “Set meal?” so I simply answered “Yes!”. So, this is definitely a restaurant!
After a short while…
Sashimi made from Rainbow trout (Nijimasu)!
Compared to salmon, it has a lighter blend of pink and orange colors.
The texture is supreme, there is no fishy smelliness, and you can even feel a slight sweetness. This is probably as fresh as a fish gets and you can truly feel it from the taste.
Next in the line up was a salt-grilled Yamame, a river fish that is both famous and popular in Japan.
The tender white meat melts in the mouth and is perfect with only salt and lemon.
Of course, the set is also combined with rice, miso soup, and various pickled vegetables!
Lastly, one of the most popular dishes at Ubuyama Suigyo En, the whole fried Yamame. And even though you might feel hesitant, you can eat it all from head to fin!
This entire set of 100% fresh fish can be yours at the mind-blowing price of only 1500 yen! It doesn’t get much better than this.
To be honest, first I was a bit worried because river fish can have a distinct smell that I can be sensitive to. But, as you can expect from fresh fish raised in such crystal-clear, clean water, this tasted nothing but amazing! And before I knew it, I was patting my full, round belly with a satisfied smile.
Ubuyama Suigyo En is truly a hidden gem. If you’re a fish-lover and want to experience something very local, make sure to stop by!
Ubuyama Suigyo En
Address: 2236 Ubuyama, Aso District, Kumamoto 869-2705
Open hours: 10:00 – 18:00 ※Reservation required after 18:00
Fixed holidays: Irregular
Next, we have…
Nishihara Mura, the part of Aso closest to Kumamoto airport, famous for beautiful hiking trails along Mt. Tawarayama, and lately also a constantly increasing number of fashionable and cozy cafes and shops.
And our representative from Nishihara Mura is…
Iwami-san from the Tourism Association in Nishihara Mura!
And what Iwami-san wants to promote as his recommended hidden spot is…
Kaze no Sato Camping Ground!
This camping ground suffered major damage during the huge earthquake that occurred in Kumamoto 2016 and was forced to close down. Thanks to the encouragement and support of locals and repeat visitors, Kaze no Sato Camping Ground has after 3 years of stillness finally reopened!
What makes this place special is that it is easily accessible from Kumamoto city! Only a 50-minute drive by car! You can enjoy either solo-camping or visit with friends or family.
The scenery is great and you can enjoy resting your eyes on Kumamoto city, the Ariake Sea, and Mt. Unzen! And it goes without saying, the stars are beautifully visible at night!
There are lots of entertainment for children as well with, among other things, a 70 m long slide! Kids (or adults) can also enjoy collecting any of the rare and interesting bugs and insects that can be found in the great nature of Aso.
This is the building where you find the reception and friendly staff! The surrounding area is still being repaired gradually!
They also have a stage for events.
A resting area in this round unique-looking building.
If you keeping going further back you will find this observation deck!
From here you can look out over the entirety of Kumamoto city! Sadly it wasn’t the clearest of days but normally the view from here is great both at day and night.
Another part that gives extra points to Kaze no Sato is the unique and interesting cottages! These here are newly built in 2019 and come in many different styles!
But it’s not all about buildings, this area is called “Mushi no Hiroba” and is a playground for children. Wide-open space to run around and playground equipment where the children can climb and enjoy.
And, of course, the rumored 70 meters long slide!
Another thankful detail is that the toilets are handicap-friendly as well!
Great for families with newly renovated, clean, and spacious facilities. There are also tents and other equipment available to rent which is a big plus for foreign travelers!
Kaze no Sato is still under renovation and there is much to do. A visit here is both a chance to reflect on the uncontrollable power of nature while also enjoying and basking in its blessings. Kaze no Sato also serves as a beautiful example of the Japanese bonds and the will to never give up, regardless of the crazy earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters that fate throws against them.
I hope you will have a chance to stop by Kaze no Sato Camping Ground!
Kaze no Sato Camping Ground
Address: 1731-7 Miyayama, Nishihara, Aso District, Kumamoto 861-2405
Reception: 09:00 – 12:00, 13:00 – 17:00
Website: https://kazenosato.nishiharashoko.jp/ (Only in Japanese)
Ubuyama Mura and Nishihara Mura are both small villages but they are filled with unexplored greatness that is waiting for anyone willing to step off the beaten path.
Don’t hesitate to pay any of these wonderful areas a visit!