In Autumn last year we spent a couple of weeks exploring Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island, southwest of the main island of Honshu.
We flew from Tokyo to Oita, picked up a hire car and headed straight to Beppu, a famed hot springs city, home to over 2000 onsens and the ‘8 Hells of Beppu’, aka vibrantly coloured thermal pools which you definitely do not want to fall into.
Our accomodation in Beppu was a real highlight also. My only regret was not staying here longer!
The Ryokan was called Umikaoru Yado Hotel New Matsumi.
After leaving Beppu we drove towards the Kuju Mountains, stopping at a small town named Yufuin, a popular day stop for art galleries, cafes and boutiques (and of course more onsen).
We arrived in the Kuju region in time for a short walk around the wetlands located near the Chogabaru Visitor Centre.
For this part of our journey, we based ourselves at the foot of Aso. Although around an hours drive away from Kuju, we planned to visit Aso-san and were unsure when we would be able to access due to the high level of volcanic activity.
Our main hike in the Kuju Mountains was to summit Nakadake (中岳), the highest point at 1791m. From here we also did Kuju peak (久住山), slightly lower at 1786m, and finally Hossho (星生山) at 1762m.
The varying landscapes along this hike were truly incredible! We managed to time it perfectly with the changing autumn colours (紅葉, kōyō).
After truly tiring ourselves out it was onto our next location – Kagoshima via Takachiho Gorge. We were still yet to be able to access Aso-san, the highly active volcano (its most recent notable eruption was just in 2016 and destroyed the cable car that takes you to the peak).
Luck was on our side however, as we were departing Aso town for the last time, the road opened and we were allowed a brief stop to see the crater! Not for long though as the toxic gas levels were still quite high.
You can see above the damage still being cleared away from the most recent destructive eruption.
We continued on, stopping at this popular little spot in Miyazaki Prefecture – Takachiho Gorge. A very cute (albeit busy!) photo op. Unfortunately there was a very long wait for the rowboats so we had to settle for a couple of photos before heading on our way.
We finished this leg of our journey in Kagoshima where we returned our hire car before jumping on a high speed ferry to the subtropical island of Yakushima.
See my next blog post for some incredible views of this Natural World Heritage protected island.