めちゃくちゃMechakucha Rotating Header Image

Along the Yamanami Highway

The Yamanami Highway is a tourist road in Oita that runs between near Yufuin towards Kurokawa Onsen and Aso.  It crosses over a plateau that appears not very Japanese in character – it’s wide and open. 

There are wide plains, and some steaming volcanoes as magnificent scenery.  A few times I caught myself thinking that I was driving along a road in New Zealand.

Kuju Highlands

The Yamanami Highway is just the name given to the road by the tourist brochures.  It’s really just Prefectural Road #11.  Driving out of Yufuin, there were a few moments before we found Route 11.  Thanks to Nabi-chan (our faithful in-car navigation woman who is always patient and kind, even though she never listens to what I have to say…), we found Route 11 down in a valley.  This was before it becomes the Yamanami Highway, but this stretch was a bit more fun to drive along – it’s a very narrow local instead, running past farm houses, through a forest, and with very short and sharp bends.  We could have taken a shortcut along the motorway to the start of the Yamanami Highway, but what fun would that have been?

Oita Prefectural Road #11, before it becomes the touristic Yamanami Highway

At the top of the hill, the traffic caught up with us, but we had a great view back down the valley to Yufuin, with Yufu-dake towering above.  Unfortunately, the day was a bit hazy, so the photos have become a bit smudgy (even though I’ve tried to clean them up a bit through the Picasa filter).

Yufu-dake overlooking Yufuin in the valley

From here, it was along the Yamanami Highway – and the great Oita outdoors.  A side road took us along to Japan’s largest pedestrian suspension bridge (or a tsuribashi), which has been built across a ravine on the edge of the Kuju Kogen escarpment.  It’s purely a tourist attraction (around 1000 yen to walk across and back) with the usual big-city rules about keeping to the left and out of everyone’s way.  There’s even a bored security guard pacing up and down the bridge, with nothing apparent to do.  You can leave the cities and some things don’t change.

Tsuribashi

The view from the tsuribash is the edge of the Kuju Plateau escarpment, and the waterfalls that flow over the side.  It’s quite spectacular.  Sorry about the glare and haze – this photo’s a panorama, so click on it for enlargement.

 

tsuribashi view

Back along the Yamanami Highway, the views started opening up as we got closer to Kuju-san.  This is a volcano around 1,700 metres high, and Kyushu’s highest mountain.  It’s steaming away, with a plume of steam visible for a long distance.  Here’s a photo of the rental car – a Toyota Vitz – which felt like it had a lawnmower engine.

My rented wheels - the no-guts Vitz

At the foot of Kuju-san is a large meadow, with a visitor centre and a boardwalk.  The scenery here is stunning, and I really wanted to head off on one of the tracks leading towards the mountain.  Unfortunately, Vitzy needed me to keep driving along the highway.

Kuju Highlands

Kuju Highlands

On the way back to Yufuin, instead of doubling back along the Yamanami Highway, we took a road circling around to the east.  Nabi-chan of course told me where to go, so everything was under control.

One thing that Nabi-chan didn’t know was the side road up to a waterfall called Kiyotaki.  There was a signposted turnoff that caught my attention, so I took Vitzy up the narrow road through the forest.  Nabi-chan went blank, but the road led to an *empty* (yes, in Japan – it was empty!) carpark, and a short walk led to Kiyotaki.  It was a fall over 30 metres high, with nobody else to share it with.  The maples here would be very pretty in autumn.  The below picture is another panorama, so click on it to enlarge.

Kiyotaki

Yamanami Highway

I’ve also created a general Yamanami Highway photo album.  And if you missed it, I posted some panoramic photos of the Kuju Kogen as a preview a few days ago.

Leave a Reply