The Best of Kyushu
In the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, it’s all about volcanoes, hot springs, and ramen. Mount Aso, Japan’s most active volcano, is located in central Kyushu and the island’s largest city, Fukuoka, is famous for its pork bone broth tonkotsu ramen, ancient temples, and beaches.
1458 Iwanouecho, Hirado, Nagasaki 859-5121, Japan
Perched above Hirado Bay, the five-story Hirado Castle is surrounded on three sides by water. Once occupied by the Matsura Samurai clan, the castle’s exhibits showcase items from Japan’s feudal period including, documents, drawings, armor, and weapons. Don’t miss the castle’s observation deck overlooking central Hirado and the shrines and walking trails among the castle grounds.
Mount Aso, Kurokawa, Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture 869-2225, Japan
Mount Fuji might get all of the press, but the largest active volcano in Japan is actually Mount Aso, located in the center of Kumamoto Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu. Mount Aso can also claim the world’s largest caldera, a cauldron-like area of land that is formed after the collapse of a volcano following its eruption. While the massive eruption that formed the Aso caldera occurred at least 100,000 years ago, today’s Mount Aso is still an active volcano, becoming increasingly productive since the end of 2014 as it spews out clouds of smoke and ash daily. Previously, visitors were permitted to peer over the edge of the bubbling Nakadake crater, the last of the five main peaks to be active. Today, a two-kilometer restriction is in place and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future. Still, most days you can drive up to the parking area on the volcano’s wide apex and watch Mount Aso in all of its glory.