Aso Nature Trek and Hot Spring Tour
Marvel at the wonders of Japanese nature and enjoy some hands-on cultural experiences in the Aso region of Kumamoto Prefecture.
- Enjoy a tour and tasting experience at the famous Marukichi Soy Sauce Factory and a Reizan Sake Brewery.
- Feast on delicious Wagyu beef.
- Explore Kumamoto's best onsen (hot spring) towns.
- Try your hand at cooking local produce over natural hot spring steam.
Tour Level Fitness: ★★★ Skill: ●●
This Nature Trek and Hot Spring Tour is a fully guided tour suitable for anyone who can walk for more than 1 to 3 hours. This is a 3 day, 2 night tour that will take you on the geographical highlights of Aso, a historical city in Kumamoto Prefecture, located in the region of Kyushu. Your tour accommodation will be hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns featuring tatami flooring and futon bedding). The maximum group size for this tour is 12 persons. At the heart of Japan’s most southwesterly island of Kyushu lies Kumamoto Prefecture. Whilst Kyushu’s modern day capital is Fukuoka, situated in the north, historically Kyushu was governed from Kumamoto. Its feudal lords presided from Kumamoto Castle, one of the top 3 revered castles in Japan. Samurai and feudal lords made frequent use of the Futaenotouge Pass, a portion of the Bundo Circuit connecting Kumamoto to Tokyo. This short walking tour has a particular focus on Aso's natural hot springs, local cuisine and spectacular nature spots, including Higotai Park and Nabegataki Falls. On the first day we will take a walking tour to the Nishinomiya and Yasaka Shrines, before heading on to the famous Marukichi Soy Sauce Factory and a Reizan Sake (rice wine) Brewery for a tour and tasting experience. The second day will focus on Kumamoto's best nature spots, with a walk around Higotai Park to the scenic Ogi Tanada rice terraces and around Ikeyama Fountainhead - a beautiful and natural source of spring water. Lunch on the second day will be a feast of local Wagyu beef, and the evening will be spent enjoying a traditional Kagura dance performance (subject to availability). Day three consists of visiting Kumamoto's best onsen (hot spring) towns, including the opportunity to get hands-on, cooking your own lunch over natural hot spring steam using local produce. The trip will end with a walk up and around the scenic Nabegataki Falls. It should be noted that Kumamoto was struck by a particularly devastating earthquake in April 2016. As such, many towns, villages and historical sites such as Aso Shrine are currently being renovated. Nevertheless, the resilient people of Kumamoto and Aso eagerly await your visit to the heartland of Kyushu.
Day 1 - Culture and Local Produce Tour
Meeting at Kumamoto Station at 8am, the group will then travel to Nishinomiya Shrine via microbus before heading to Minamiaso Village.From Nishinomiya Shrine we will venture in the direction of Yasaka Shrine for a 90 minute walk. Among the Kami (gods or deities) worshipped at Nishinomiya Shrine are the Daimyojin - the “great shining deities” of Aso, Kosa and Takaki. Today’s lunch will be at a soba restaurant in Minamiaso Village, followed by a tour of nearby Takamori. We will then visit Hizenya, a craft-shop famous for producing Marukichi Soy Sauce and Miso. After that, it’s time for some sake sampling at Reizan, one of Kumamoto’s iconic sake (rice wine) breweries. Accommodation: Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths. Meals: Lunch and Dinner Provided.
Day 2 - Nature Hike TourToday we will depart for Ubuyama, a village located in the northeast portion of the Aso Caldera. Our first stop will be Higotai Park, famed for its collection of flowers that includes Higotai, which bloom in the summer. From there we will then walk on to Ogi Tanada, a picturesque rice terrace that is highly esteemed in Japan. After stopping for lunch, we will then continue to explore Ubuyama’s natural attractions, such as the Ikeyama Fountainhead - one of the 100 most exquisite and well-maintained water sources in Japan. After Ikeyama Fountainhead we will walk to Ikeyama Farm, home of Aka Ushi - a breed of small Wagyu beef cattle known for its red colouring, tenderness and lack of excess fat. There will be ample opportunity to learn more about the breed at the farm. In the afternoon, we will enjoy a performance of Kagura at Namino Kaguragaen. Kagura is the oldest performance art in Japanese culture, and vibrantly depicts tales of Japanese mythology. You will also have the chance to explore the Kagura-den, a building within a Shinto Shrine where Kagura is performed for Kami during ceremonies. Accommodation: Japanese inn with onsen thermal hot spring baths. Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
Day 3 - Kumamoto Hot Springs and Cooking TourToday you will be able to experience the relaxing and refreshing Japanese custom of bathing in an onsen (hot spring). First we will travel to Tsuetate Onsen Town, located in the mountains that straddle Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures. Here, steam dances between the Japanese inns and ships. The murmuring of its namesake, the Tsuetate River, adds to the appeal of this attractive onsen town while the narrow back allies carry a nostalgic atmosphere and have been carefully maintained since the 1930s. These allies are referred to as ‘Sedoya’, which means “the house behind the other house”. Next it’s time to visit Waita Onsen Village, where six hot springs can be found located at the base of the 1,500 meter tall Mount Waita, overlooking the Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures. After lunch, we will head to the town of Oguni to visit the Horai Yoshimi Shrine and then take a trek to Nabegataki Falls. Horai Yoshimi Shrine is largely known for its 700 year old towering twin cedars, while the Nabegataki Falls boast a 20 meter (65.6 feet) wide curtain of cascading water. There is even an accessible spacious area behind the falls, making this an ideal location for photography. The final onsen of the day will be found at Kurokawa Onsen, a village with an assortment of some 25 different hot springs and outdoor baths. Food stands, Japanese inns and souvenir shops line the streets of this village, creating a charming atmosphere that makes for the perfect escape from urban life. Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
The caldera of Mount Aso is one of the world’s largest volcanoes.“Aso” refers not only to the city, but also Mount Aso. Mount Aso is not a singular mountain; rather it is geologically classified as a cluster of volcanic peaks that form a ring around the city.
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