Japan is a country with a whole lot of volcanoes of all shapes, sizes and persuasions. From the iconic Mt. Fuji to the recently erupted Mt. Ontake, you really can’t swing a koto around here without hitting a geological pressure cooker. And nowhere is that truer than the Aso-Kuju National Park in Kyushu, where they literally have volcanoes on top of volcanoes.

Mt. Aso popped its top about 90,000 years ago, leaving behind a massive caldera measuring 128 km around, the largest in Japan. So large in fact, that three towns, four mountains and the active volcano Mt. Nakadake now fit comfortably within the outer rim.

The fertile soil has allowed the area to be taken over with a picturesque patchwork of farms and vast grasslands used for raising cattle, but all the while Nakadake huffs and puff away, not quite letting the locals forget their tenuous position.

▼ The five mountains of Aso, including Nakadake, which has been pumping out enough sulfurous steam in recent years to make the summit a no-go zone and close the cable cars that once brought tourists there.


Nakdake can be viewed in relative safety from the nearby peaks, however, which also provide lovely hiking trails, and the area is quite accessible by car.

▼ Accessible enough for a hot dog/octopus ball vendor, even.





Another attraction is Komezuka, an almost perfectly shaped volcanic cone. The name, which means rice mound, comes from the resemblance to an overturned rice bowl.


Tateno, a break in the caldera rim, is another popular spot. The story goes that one of the Shinto gods kicked it down so the caldera lake would drain out and allow the land to be used for farming.


Down in the valley, the locals do get their farming on, with citrus and yams being local specialties.


▼Along with the region’s famous varieties of wagyu beef, akagyu and kurogyu.


 ▼Sunset on the caldera rim



If you find yourself in the Kyushu area, don’t miss spending a day or two exploring Aso, not only for the beautiful views, delicious food, and friendly locals, but also because it just sounds damn cool to say, “I’m on a volcano right now.”

Photos © RocketNews24