Travel Journal

Takachiho, Aso-san and Usuki (Japan)

(Friday 16 November 2007) by Lynda
Time to leave the warm south and head up north. I took the local train to Aso, no JR rail pass for me so the Shinkansen is just too expensive for me. The local trains
take twice as long but are only half the price so I`ve seen a lot of the coastline of Kyushu on my way to Aso (and changed trains 4 times). Aso is a little town in the centre of the gigantic Aso-san volcano caldera. The caldera has a 128 km circumference and is about 100,000 years old. The train had to take a special route (see picture in the gallery) to make it over the ridge of the caldera. Inside the caldera are the five mountains of Aso and Naka-dake is currently the active volcano.

On my first day in the Aso area I visited Takachiho just outside of the caldera. Takachiho has a beautiful gorge with waterfalls, overhanging rocks and sheer walls. The gorge was really amazing with very aquamarine water because of the volcanic activity in that area. The autumn colors of the maple trees completed the picture of this beautiful place. And in my quest for the sun I went to Amano Yasugaware cave.

quote:The legend of Takachiho: the sun goddess (Amaterasu) was very upset about the behavior of her brother and hid herself in a cave so night fell across the world. To lure her out another goddess performed a dance so comically lewd that the sun goddess emerged from hiding to find out what the merriment was about. This dance, the `iwato kagura` is still performed in Takachiho today.

Unfortunately this cave was closed for public so I'm still not able to tell you where the sun comes from!
We did it!
We did it!

The next day Rachael, an Australian girl and me wanted to climb Naka-dake but unfortunately the volcano was very active with a lot of poisonous gas so we only could get on the furthest observation point so we could't look into the crater. So we decided to climb the volcano next to it Kijima-dake, it was quite a steep climb but we made it and the views were superb. From that point you could see the whole caldera and the steep ridge around it. Amazing that all the people in the caldera live so close to this highly active volcano. We had seen enough of the volcano and took the bus to Beppu. From Beppu we made a daytrip to Usuki to see the stone buddha's from the 10th to the 13th century. We rented bicycles and went to the ravine. It was a great daytrip and the buddha's are very impressive, especially the Dainichi buddha head.

I could have spend weeks on Kyushu, what a great island. But Japan has more islands so I will head further east now!

  • Volcanoes by Karin

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