Hello everyone, have you ever heard of the natural phenomenon, “sea of clouds”?
Sea of clouds
A sea of clouds is a phenomenon that can be observed from mountains, airplanes, or other elevated places as you look down upon an overcast layer of clouds. On the wide expanse of white clouds, mountains seem to float like islands, making the phenomenon resemble a sea of clouds.
Aso is known for this wondrous phenomenon where it seems like the five peaks of Aso are floating on a thick sea of clouds.
This is one of the most symbolic and magical sceneries that Aso has to offer, and I truly wish for everyone who visits to experience it at least once! But… It’s not something that you can see every day.
So, what are the conditions that need to be met for this mystical sea to appear?
1. High temperature difference between night and morning.
2. Rain or high humidity in the air on the previous day.
3. A wind-still and clear morning.
When these three conditions are met, the stage is set for the sea of clouds to flood and fill the gorges and valleys of Aso.
Since the Aso area has a high difference in temperature and basin-shaped valleys between the mountains and in the caldera, it’s famous in Japan as a hot spot for “sea of cloud”-hunters.
The area is so potent that as long as you get to a high enough location, you can pretty much find seas of clouds anywhere! For example, if you ascend the Oshitoishi hill in Minamioguni you can often find billowing seas of cloud covering the distant landscapes.
With that said, of course, we will present a few of our recommended spots!
Nr. 1 – Daikanbo
Daikanbo, the number one tourist spot to enjoy the caldera scenery of Aso.
If you venture here in the early mornings, apart from a stunning sunrise, you can also enjoy the sight of a spectacular sea of clouds filling up the caldera to create this mystical scenery.
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/2JriwVRd5U33q8qn8
Nr. 2 – Se no Moto Resthouse
Se no Moto Resthouse, a place commonly used for a break if you are driving or biking around Aso. Here you can also capture some stunning sea of clouds that seems to spread out in all directions. Disclaimer, to snatch yourself a picture like this one, you will need to use a drone!
Se no Moto Resthouse
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/HsDeRMS9k4ukXmHp6
Nr. 3 – Mt. Tawara Observatory
This is the unrivaled sea of clouds-spot on the south side of the caldera, Minami Aso.
Compared to the usual view of the five peaks of Aso, as seen from the north side, you get a completely different landscape filled to the brim with a thick, white, sea of clouds.
Mt. Tawara Observatory
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/g7jzXkEUiZtnrJE79
Nr. 4 – Maebara no Ippon Sakura
Maebara no Ippon Sakura is a tourist spot in Oguni town.
It is mostly known as a photo spot where you can capture the stunning sight of a single beautiful cherry blossom tree that blooms during spring with Mt. Waita as a backdrop.
If you head there in the early mornings there is a good chance that you will come across some stunning sea of clouds filling up the surrounding valleys.
If you are looking for a slightly more unknown place that you will have a good chance of getting all to yourself, then this is it!
Maebara no Ippon Sakura
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/FjHrVGwzbXiFqiCk6
Nr. 5 – Kabuto Iwa Observatory
Our last recommended spot is this one.
Daikanbo is definitely awesome, but Kabuto Iwa puts up a good fight as well. This small observatory is mainly used as a place to have a quick toilet break or buy a drink during your drive. But it is also a real sweet spot for the one who wants to take some stellar pictures of a sea of clouds!
A bonus spot very close to Kabuto Iwa is “Aso Skyline”.
This large gravel-covered parking space doesn’t offer much but it does offer a fantastic view! There is plenty of space so it doesn’t easily get overcrowded making it a convenient place for a quick stop. 90% of my “sea of cloud”-pictures are from here!
Kabuto Iwa Observatory
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/JjFtY8kAp2zC6WRw5
Bonus, Aso Skyline
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/9mjTBFEFU9ivRyXw8
So, here you have five recommended spots to enjoy this magical phenomenon. The spots themselves might not be new, but the scenery is completely different if you manage to arrive there when the conditions are right!
The sea of clouds can only be seen in the early morning so if you are staying at a hotel or ryokan, wake up early and go for some cloud hunting before breakfast is served!
By the way…
Inside the sea of clouds, it looks like this. A very thick mist. So be very careful while out driving!
“Stop! Wait a moment! This is all good but how do you know if the conditions are right? Sea of clouds can only be seen in the early morning, right? Do you expect me to go out every morning during my vacation and hope that the stars align?”
If thoughts like these are streaming through your head right now, then fear no more! I have something just for you!
24 hours live feed from a few popular “sea of cloud” spots!
→ https://visitaso.com/ ←
For some reason, the site is only available in Japanese right now! So, until the English site is back you will have to settle for this picture to guide you to the correct buttons!
With this convenient tool, you can make sure that you don’t waste precious sleeping hours and you can even compare different sea of clouds to find your favorite scenery.
Many pieces need to fall into place and even then, there are no guarantees that you will be able to witness a sea of cloud. But that is exactly why it is such a moving moment when you come across this wonderful phenomenon of nature!
Use the knowledge and tools gained from this article and go out searching for the view of a lifetime!