The largest active volcano in Japan is as unmissable as you'd expect.
As the largest active volcano in Japan and one of the largest in the world, Mount Aso is a must-see for anyone traveling in Kumamoto. Standing at 1592 metres above sea level and boasting five soaring peaks, its caldera is gigantic. There you’ll find Aso City, Aso Takamori-cho, and the Southern Aso Village, plus a whole range of outdoor activities from hiking to horse-riding to hot springs (as well as others not beginning with the letter “h”).
Within Mount Aso lie five mountains that comprise the Aso Gogaku: the Eboshi-dake, the Kijima-dake, the Naka-dake, the Neko-dake, and the Taka-dake. Naka-dake is the volcano that is currently most active – and the one that you’ll need to inquire about should you wish to visit the mountain.
There are many sections of the volcano that you can tour: Mount Nakadake, offering a splendid view of the crater, can be accessed via car or by ropeway. Due to the volcano’s sporadic activity, and the high potential for eruptions, it’s sometimes not possible to get up close.* However, if you do manage to visit Nakadake, you can visit the Aso Volcano Museum and view the crater which runs as deep as 100 metres.
If you’d like to try your hand at horseback riding accompanied by an epic pastoral backdrop, visit the Kusasenri-ga-hama between early March and mid December where two lakes lie upon a flattened volcanic crater with cows grazing the surrounding greenery. Also nearby is the Komezuka, a large hill that you can hike through. If you happen to be a fan of azaleas, hike to the Sensui Gorge in mid-May, located near the cable car station.
Interested in shrines? Pay a visit to the Aso Shrine which was believed to have been founded approximately 2000 years ago. Its Romon Gate is one of the largest in Japan.
Other recommended areas in the vicinity include the Takachiho Gorge, the Kuju Mountain Range, and Kurokawa Onsen – all easily accessible by car.
*There is currently a no-entry zone covering a one-kilometer radius around the crater. The ropeway is therefore closed, as are roads and hiking trails leading to Nakadake.