Where else in the world would there be a tourist ropeway leading up to a pungeant, steaming, and very live, volcanic crater? At least there are concrete emergency shelters installed for the rare occasion when the volcano goes bang.
Mt Aso is in north-central Kyushu (Kumamoto Prefecture), and is a series of peaks located in a very large, ancient caldera. The tourists (myself included) come to Naka Dake, which is where the central live craters are located. There’s a carpark here for those who don’t want to get out of their cars at the ropeway station below. The observation decks up here are frequently (at least partially) closed due to wafting toxic volcanic gases emerging from the crater. There were some roped off areas on the day I was there.
The above two photos are panoramas, so click on them to enlarge them.
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.
“Retro” Mojiko is a port town on the northern tip of Kyushu full of art-deco and historic buildings that were built when the city was an important early trading port. Everything here is retro – at least for tourist benefit. It’s a very pleasant town, and worth a stay and a walk around.
Mojiko is located on the southern side of the Kanmon Strait, which separates Kyushu from Honshu – it is only a few hundred metres across at the narrowest point. Before the current Kanmon Ohashi was built, Mojiko was the town from where the ferry departed for Shimonoseki on the Kyushu side. It was also opened up as a port city, first for exporting coal, then general trade, in the early 20th century. Now the town centre is kept in a period theme, to attract tourists, thriving on stories of Albert Einstein’s visit and sales of bananas. The town’s “meibutsu” (famous foods) – every Japanese town has to have something to sell off to visitors – are yaki-curry (baked curry), fugu (poisonous globefish) and “nama-caramel” (raw caramel). Not an ideal combination, but I guess it reflects foreign influence as a trading port and local seafood.
This is Mojiko Railway Station. It is the oldest railway station (building) in Kyushu, and is kept in period style. Upstairs is a small museum and photo gallery of times past.