Mount Aso is the largest active volcano in Japan, and it’s among the largest in the world. It stands in Aso Kuj National Park in Kumamoto Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu. Mount Asoís peak is 1,592 metres above sea level, and it’s possible for visitors to look at the crater from the viewing platform.
Kurokawa is one of Japan’s most attractive hot spring towns, located in the middle of Kyushu island about 20 kilometres north of Mount Aso. The town retains a delightful and traditional feel with its old wooden structures and charming river that flows through the middle. Easy to explore on foot, you can spend some time discovering the local shops and sights there.
The biggest draw to Kurokawa is the large selection of onsens and guest houses run by local family businesses. It makes for a perfect idyllic and traditional location to stay on Kyushu in Kumamoto Prefecture.
Both Mount Aso and Kurokawa are perfect locations for a long weekend trip, and the Kumamoto Prefecture is an easy three-hour drive away from Oita Prefecture, for instance.
Here is my travel guide to what you can do and where to visit on a trip to Mount Aso and Kurokawa.
Stop off at a spring water place – Shirakawa Source
Along your drive to Mount Aso, be sure to stop at one of the spring water locations, such as Shirakawa Source. It’s a picturesque location to walk through the wonderful nature to reach the spring. Entrance will cost you 100 Yen.
This is one of the the top 100 locations in Japan to enjoy fresh spring water straight from the source.
Many visitors flock to this location to sample the fresh water which is rain water that flows through the central volcanic cones of Mount Aso and from the hills of the southern caldera rim.
It’s then collected underground at the foot of the mountain where you can enjoy wonderful fresh water directly from the spring.
Remember to bring along your own water bottle or you can purchase bottles from the gift shop.
Stop off for a soba lunch along the way
Soba is a type of Japanese noodle that is best served cold and rather delicious to enjoy for lunch. It takes a lifetime to learn the method of soba noodle making, and the dish tastes wonderful with soy sauce and wasabi.
At Restaurant Soba Noodle you can enjoy a tasty soba meal with an incredible view of Mount Aso and the beautiful countryside landscape.
Farming is rather popular in the surrounding area and all the produce is locally sourced within this establishment. The vegetables sure taste extra fresh and yummy. I highly recommend this spot. Prepare yourself as it is a total feast and well worth enjoying.
Time for some local sake at Reizan
As the water source is popular for its high quality, of course you would expect to find some Japanese sake being made close by.
Why not meet the owner and enjoy a sake tasting experience and then take a tour of the factory?
The sake is rather good here, and this is a perfect location to also pick up a few gifts to bring a taste of Japan home with you.
Spend some time at the Aso Volcano Museum
On the drive up to Mount Aso crater you can stop off at the Aso Volcano Museum. The facilities here are great if you want to have a break, grab a coffee and a light snack and learn more about the volcano. They also have an English audio guide if you wish to take the tour.
Mount Aso volcanic activity information
Just a few words of warning for visitors to the crater. Remember firstly that Mount Aso is still an active volcano so you should be made aware of a few things.
My advice is to first check with a local source such as your hotel, the Aso Volcano Museum, or visitor information office for live updates on visiting the crater as the visitor situation can change daily.
If you have health issues such as asthma or breathing issues, it’s advised not to visit the crater area.
UPDATE: The no-entry zone around Mount Aso’s crater was lifted on April 24, 2018.
It’s now possible to view the crater from the viewing area.
Visiting the area depends on the gas levels in the air. If the gas levels are too high, it can stop visitors from going to the top of the crater for safety reasons.
If the weather or visibility are bad, then the entry zone may be closed on your day of visit so do plan to make alternative arrangements just in case this might become an issue.
On my visit first to the crater the area was closed due to high wind speeds, but it was open to visitors on my second visit.
The popular ropeway that was used for visitors to get to the top of the crater remains out of service.
Instead, you can take a shuttle bus which operates between the ropeway’s lower station and the crater (1200 Yen round trip). The toll road to the crater is also open if you wish to use your own car, and the crater is an easy one-minute walk away from the car park at the top.
Visit Mount Aso Crater
Mount Aso is an active volcano and the mountain’s active volcanic peaks include Mount Nakadake. This spectacular crater is easily accessible to visitors if you wish to look over the edge into the middle of the crater.
It’s also possible to take a helicopter flight over the top of the crater (for an additional fee). The flight will need to be booked in advance and it will be weather permitting.
You can find a selection of easy hiking paths around Mount Aso
Close to the parking point and viewing platform you can find a selection of easy walking routes that can take you to a selection of around six different viewing points to see the Mount Aso volcanic crater.
The selection of easy hiking paths is a great way to discover this unique volcanic landscape and a nice way to see some wonderful views away from the most popular viewing deck. As the hiking paths are normally less crowded, you could find yourself having the whole place to yourself. The walk started to feel as if I was walking on the moon ñ it’s a unique landscape for sure.
Cycle around the Senomoto Highlands
Rain or shine, why not stop off along the way and rent a bike for a few hours and cycle around the stunning Senomoto Highlands?
The area is located perfectly between the Aso Mountains and Kurokawa. Here you can explore and take in the beautiful scenery as the route is perfect for riding a bicycle.
Great way to enjoy some fitness with some wonderful views of the Senomoto Highlands.
Kurokawa Onsen Town
Kurokawa is a charming old Japanese town nestled amongst a forested valley with a river running through the middle.
Efforts have been made for the town to remain small and local to ensure it can retain its cosy charm for visitors looking for a peaceful escape. Kurokawa is most popular for offering a selection of onsens and ryokan for guest to enjoy, which makes it a perfect location to spend the night.
Stay at a local traditional Japanese ryokan
If I could recommend one thing for first time visitors to Japan, it would be to experience at least a one nightís stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan.
It can be a costly experience as the service is premium, rooms are private and normally include a meal plan and onsen access.
Why not treat yourself for one night at a Japanese ryokan? Itís an experience you will remember for a lifetime.
Yumerindo Hanadomari offers a wonderful ryokan experience in Kurokawa, and you can even take your stay to the next level with a private onsen in your room.
They have traditional Japanese tatami mat bedrooms or a selection of western beds to choose from, the option if yours.
Breakfast is either served in the room or the dining area depending on which room type you’re in.
Guests also staying in the ryokan can use the bigger onsen.
Here is a video tour of my private hotel and onsen
Here you can check out a video tour of my Traditional Japanese ryokan in Kurokawa to give you a better idea.
Kurokawa wooden ryokan onsen pass
A great way to explore Kurokawa and its endless selection of onsens around town is to purchase a Kurokawa onsen pass.
Naturally those choosing to stay in Kurokawa will have access to their own ryokan’s baths as often as they wish but those wanting to venture around town and explore other baths at other guest houses can do so if they wish.
In Kurokawa the tradition is called Rotemburo Meguri (“outdoor bath tour”) and it is popular amongst visitors.
It’s possible for visitors to explore other baths in town during opening hours.
The onsen pass is made of wood (tegata) and each pass is sold for 1300 Yen. Each pass purchased gives you access to three different ryokan onsens from a selection of twenty participating ryokans, and the pass is valid for six months. So it’s possible to visit a selection of onsens over a period of a weekend.
You can purchase your own wooden pass from the information office. The pass comes with a map of the participating onsens you can explore. Be sure to check for the opening times for each location as they vary each day.
Alternatively, you can pay around 500 Yen per each bath if you only have time for one visit.
This is such a great way to visit three different onsens around town as each guest house offers a different experience. What a relaxing way to explore the town!
Thank you for reading all about Kurokawa and Mount Aso
Thank you for reading about my trip to Kurokawa Onsen Town and Mount Aso. I hope you found this read interesting and have loads of information about the region.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to email me directly and I will be most happy to help you out. All the best and safe travels around the region.