Aso: A stroll around 阿蘇

Natural spring in Aso

Off to back of our Izumi Crane tour, we’re were invited by a Minami-Aso tourist group to experience and improve their tour of Mount Aso, and surrounding areas – here’s my story.

Having spent the night in Takata, I gave myself a 30 minute headstart on the journey. Despite some issues (like my car not starting… repeatedly…) us drivers met the passengers at the train station, and began the 2 hour journey to Aso, with many singalong tunes along route (much to the dismay of my passengers!).

We met with Jonathan, a Belgian expat, and the women and children of the tourist board who were joining us.

After boarding the bus, we introduced ourselves (in varying elegances of Japanese) and soon arrived at the tourist centre, a smoking mount Aso in the distance.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, the mountain has become increasing active over the last few months – indeed, driving past for the Izumi Crane Bike tour, our cars were filthy with the expelled ash in the air – so whilst we got a beautiful, atmospheric sight, it would mean that we were unable to venture too close.

Inside the museum was a highly complex, slightly humourous animatronic display of the Aso area over a few thousand year building, demonstrating how various eruptions had gone on to shape the landscape of the area.

Many of the earlier exhibition, displaying the history of the volcano (kazan/火山), were thankfully in English, then as we moved through the museum, the display about geology became exclusively Japanese.

Going up dat hill - Photo by Becca Guttentag
Going up dat hill – Photo by Becca Guttentag

Due to our tardiness, we could only afford a short walk around the area, before heading off to lunch at an onsen.

The lunch was awesome! Real roast chicken, mash potato, and 3 distinct flavours of rice balls – yum!

Naturally, we took the short interval as a chance to enjoy the onsen, and followed it up with milk and ice cream – the former of which I manage to make explode whilst opening, cover myself, the ice cream machine and nice, old Japanese lady in milk.

Then back in the bus to make our own paper! I don’t know why, but it was fun! Using framed, fine metal gauzes, we scooped paper fibres from a vat to create a mushy layer, added dies, glitter and leaves to create wonderful works of art.

Look at them shine - Photo by Becca Guttentag
Look at them shine – Photo by Becca Guttentag

Then our instructors sucked the shit out of the paper to compact it, then threw it on heaters to dry. I’m sure you’ll agree, the artwork is exceptional!

Here, there was also a small shrine, as well as a fresh water spring, from you which you could drink straight from (or bring a dozen large plastic bottles and fill them with water, whichever you wish…).

Our final stop on the official tour was a small service station that sound delicious icecreams, and had wonderful views of the mountains.

Though the official trip was over, the best was yet to come! Jonathan was the proprietor of a small, Belgian restaurant, and was making us dinner!

Busu enjoying the beer - Photo by Becca Guttentag
Busu enjoying the beer – Photo by Becca Guttentag

His joint not only sold a range of Belgian beers, but also delicious ginger ale for us drivers! The food was divine! A warm Belgium salad with ham, chips, sauerkraut and to finish waffles with pumpkin ice cream! A veritable feast, that really topped off a fine day!

Check out his restaurant here!

By J.Molkenthin

James Molkenthin is an enthusiastic and energetic British Designer, with a background in Graphics, Website and Product Design.