The Aso mountain range, containing an active volcano, is located in the center of Kyushu and is called the largest caldera in the world with a perimeter stretching some 130 km. 1,700 m high mountains including Mount Kuju (1,787 m), huge grass plains, virgin forests, rocks, streams and flowers are a sight to behold. Walking on soft grass is fun and offers a chance to see “aka-ushi” (a kind of cattle) and horses grazing contentedly.
+ Aso Mountain Ranges
Five mountains – Mount Naka-dake, Mount Taka-dake, Mount Neko-dake, Mount Kijima-dake and Mount Eboshi-dake (located in the center of outer rim of the crater – 19 km east-west and 24 km north-south) are collectively called Aso-san. Aso-san has been worshipped as a sacred mountain. Those who witnessed and heard the overwhelming power of the mountain’s infernos believed it was a kind of god and revered it. Aso began erupting about 300,000 years ago and 4 large eruptions, the last one of which was 90,000 years ago, formed the current caldera.
+ Mount Naka-dake Crater
Mount Naka-dake was shaped more than 20,000 years ago and was active until just recently. Its magnificent views often lead to it being called The Grand Canyon in the East! After you depart from the Sensuikyo cable car, on the east side of the central crater, a 10-minute walk up a steep slope brings you to the eastern crater observatory where burning red magma and white rising steam can be seen. Access to the crater is sometimes restricted, due to the presence of toxic volcanic gas.
Komezuka is a 954 m hill. It was a volcanic hill and the summit sags downwards. There is a legend that says that God piled up rice to make a hill and distributed pieces of rice on the summit to poor villagers, which is how the bend on the top was made. The hill is covered with grass in early summer and well worth seeing. However, entry is not permitted because it is a working farm.
The huge beautiful plain, 1 km in diameter, is located on the Mount Kijima-dake crater.
Scores of fires over 3m high can be seen in the plains at Aso. The vast field is maintained by “noyaki,” or open burning in early spring. If the area is not maintained properly, the grass plain becomes bush-like within a few years and later grows into a forest. So, local residents maintain the field with dangerous open burning, grazing and mowing. Thanks to the open burning, the emergent grass – feed for cattle and horses – grows quickly and harmful insects are disposed of. Shortly after the burning, the field is charred but it turns yellow-green with fresh growth in spring.
+ Theme Parks in Aso
Aso Farm Land is a large theme park on the hillside of Aso-san. Visitors can learn various crafts and play with animals, as well as enjoying a soak in the hot springs. There are a lot of cute animals in Cuddly Dominion and, in Aso Milk Farm, visitors can see and experience a real dairy farm.