Visit the “land of fire” and learn how the locals live in the shadow of Mt. Aso volcano
- Trip Outline
Situated within the famous natural beauty of Japan’s Kyushu Island lies Kumamoto Prefecture and its historic city of Aso. Once the home of feudal lords and Samurai, modern day Kumamoto still retains its ancient charm, with shrines, onsen and continuing traditions such as Kagura (a form of dance-based worship dating back over 1000 years) intermingling with the rich natural heritage and volcanic geological landscape that characterises the area.
As you explore Kumamoto on this special tour, you’ll have the chance not only to experience several wonderful Japanese traditions and cultures first-hand, but also to meet and interact with the locals who call the area their home and continue to help the area’s heritage and history thrive in modern times. Between such experiences, you’ll also spend ample time exploring the beautiful Kyushu scenery, with hikes and walks across the countryside as well as several opportunities to learn more about (and witness) the area’s volcanic properties.
In April 2016, a powerful earthquake struck the Kumamoto region, and as a result restoration work continues even today. Despite this, the people of Kumamoto and Aso are always eager to welcome visitors and you can rest assured that despite the ongoing restoration, your adventure to Kyushu will still be truly unforgettable.
- Visit Nagasaki and stop by the Heiwa Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum to learn more about the area’s tragic history and how it can be prevented in the future
- Enjoy the wonders of the sea with a ferry boat ride, dolphin watching experience and even a fresh seafood BBQ
- Hike through the beautiful natural scenery of rural Japan, passing rice fields, shrines and volcanic geological features as you go
- Experience the area’s volcanic properties first hand with volcano hikes, onsen hot spring bathing and even a chance to cook your own lunch using naturally-occurring steam
- Spend a night living with rural residents during an unforgettable homestay experience
- Watch a special performance of Kagura and allow yourself to be mesmerised by a tradition dating back over 1000 years
Meeting at Hakata Station for introductions and a quick briefing about the tour, your group will then travel to Nagasaki by train, where you will store your bags and belongings at a station storage facility.
Following lunch at a nearby restaurant, you will travel by streetcar to Heiwa Peace Park for a walking tour of the grounds, and then the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum to learn more about the area’s tragic history and the important lessons that can be learned from the past.
The learning continues with your next destination. Reaching the Glover Garden Open Air Museum by streetcar, you’ll have the opportunity to find out more about the history of Western and Japanese relations before returning to the station once more to collect your luggage.
Having checked in to your accommodation for the night, dinner will be served on the premises. Afterwards, you’ll have plenty of time to take in the surrounding nightviews and make the most of the accommodation’s facilities before bed.
Your first destination today will be Oura Catholic Church, the oldest standing Christian church in Japan. Here, your guide will provide you with an overview of the history of Christianity, not just in Nagasaki but in Japan as a whole.
Next, you’ll travel by private bus to Kuchinotsu Port, where you can board a ferry set for Oniike. Here you’ll head to Amakusa Kaisenkura for a special BBQ using delicious fresh and local seafood before spending some time watching for Dolphins. There’s a 90% chance that you’ll see some, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled!
On your way to Aso via private bus, you’ll stop for a while in Kumamoto to take in the sight of Kumamoto Castle (currently closed) and grab a refreshment before finally reaching your accommodation around 18:30 in the evening.
Travelling to Higotai Park via private bus straight after breakfast, your first activity of the day will be a 5km downhill hike to Ogi Tanada Rice Terrace. This walk which will take around an hour and a half, will showcase some of the stunning scenery of the Japanese countryside and provide a great opportunity to truly appreciate the country’s rural beauty.
From Ogi Tanada, a private bus will take you to Ikeyama Fountainhead to enjoy a delicious bento packed-lunch and some fresh fountain water before continuing on to Jigoku-Onsen Suzume no Yu, where you can bathe in a naturally-occuring volcanic onsen hot bath and hear the story of the 2016 earthquake which struck Kumamoto, leaving severe damage in its wake.
The afternoon will be dedicated to tasting and touring, starting with a visit to the Marukichi Soy Sauce factory in Takamori and the nearby Yamamura Shuzo Sake brewery. At both locations, you’ll not only learn how the products are made and tour the facilities - you’ll also get a chance to try tasting them for yourself.
In the evening you’ll return to your accommodation, just in time for another delicious dinner.
After breakfast on day four you’ll head to the local Former Girls’ School for a short visit, followed by a trip to the nearby Aso Shrine. Here, you’ll have time not only to explore the shrine itself, but also to examine the variety of small souvenir and food shops that surround it and its grounds.
Next, you’ll travel to Kokuzo Shrine (along with some other important nearby landmarks, time permitting) for a short visit before sitting down to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, the group will take a 3 hour hike up the well-known Mt Kishima. Depending on the weather, upon reaching the top you’ll be greeted by the impressive sight of the Nakadake Crater, which makes for a wonderful photography opportunity.
Checking in to your accommodation that evening, dinner will be served slightly earlier to make time for a special performance of Kagura, a mesmerisingly colourful form of dance-based worship that has been used to entertain Shinto gods for over 1300 years!
You’ll be exploring some of the local towns today, with a walking tour of Tsuetate Onsen Town followed by a visit to Waita Onsen Town, where you’ll stop to enjoy a lunch of chicken that has been prepared using natural volcanic steam.
In the afternoon, the group will visit the beautiful Nabegataki Falls, where you’ll be challenged with finding some of the heart-shaped stones hidden along the picturesque pathway!
As a truly special experience, you’ll be spending the night at the home of a local family as part of a home stay. Take the opportunity to get to know your host family, ask them as many questions as you wish and experience authentic Japanese life for yourself.
Bidding farewell to your hosts after breakfast, the group will travel to Takachiho to visit the Amanoiwate Shrine, as well as nearby Amanoyasukawara, where you will hear the story of the goddess Amaterasu Omikami.
After a delicious Takachiho Beef lunch at a nearby restaurant, you’ll then travel to Takachiho Gorge for a wonderful boat tour. From the water, you’ll be able to view the area’s beautiful scenery from a fresh new perspective - the perfect memory to take with you when the tour ends the following day.
Heading once more to Kumamoto via private bus, you’ll check in at your accommodation and drop off your bags before enjoying a final, farewell dinner at a nearby Izakaya (Japanese pub).
Your tour will come to an end after breakfast on day seven, no doubt far sooner than you would like. We hope that you’ll always remember the places you visited and people you met during your time in Kumamoto, and we look forward to welcoming you back to Japan again sometime soon.
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