Laputa Road (Laputa-no-michi)
Drive your own Castle in the Sky on this spectacular stretch of mountain road.
Flanked by the towering mountains of Aso region, Laputa Road (Japanese: ラピュタの道) sometimes called the Road to Heaven, is one of Kumamoto’s top sightseeing spots – that nobody knows about.
If you’re familiar with the works of Studio Ghibli, you’ll remember Laputa as the name of the floating castle in the sky. This winding mountain road is nicknamed Laputa because of its resemblance to a floating castle when the clouds roll in to the caldera basin and obscure the farmland below from plain view. The twisting road that juts out from the rim of the caldera looks like it’s floating on a sea of cloud.
What was once a fiercely-guarded secret by the locals is now starting to gain popularity among Japanese and tourists alike as photos of the spectacular phenomenon get shared online.
Its appearance changes drastically throughout the seasons; the most popular time is in the summer, when photographers flock to the road to snap panoramas of vibrant grasslands in stark contrast to the charred, mustard yellow fields and the farmland just after the Aso Fire Festival (Dai Himonjiyaki).
Taking in the spectacular mountain vista, often shrouded in clouds, it feels like you’re heading to the pearly gates in your rent-a-car. However, because of Aso’s unpredictability the road is often barred from approach. The mountain is particularly known for being hazardous in times of inclement weather; be sure to proceed up the road with caution as it is narrow and winding. It’s a good idea to check local media to ensure that it’s safe to visit the volcano.
One of the world’s largest calderas, formed after the volcano collapsed onto itself following an eruption, the rim surrounding the depression of Mount Aso is graced by endless fields of crops and grazing cows. This road, known as Milk Road because of the sheer number of cows that can be seen here, leads onto Laputa-no-michi and is just as beautiful.