Kumamoto Castle in its glory Photo: 663highland

A solo trip around Kyushu

By Fergus Gregg

My journey through Kyushu begins in Osaka using the Sunflower overnight ferry. A bed in the tourist room costs only ¥8,000 which is unbelievable compared to how much that journey would cost via shinkansen.

The tourist room sleeps ten travelers on futons, with only a curtain to provide privacy. The next day after gorging myself on croissants and sausages at the ¥600 breakfast buffet I hopped off the ferry to start my day at my first location, Beppu.

The Hells of Beppu

Hell’s never been this blue Photo: Fergus Gregg

The first thing I did once arriving in Beppu, was walk to rent a car ten minutes away from the quay. My first port of call was The Hells (jigoku) of Beppu. Seven scalding natural hot springs. While I enjoyed the atmosphere of the beautiful blue ‘sea hell’ with its billowing fonts of steam, some of the ‘Hell’s’ felt like tourist traps.

559-1 Kannawa, Beppu, Oita - Map

Admission: ¥2,000

8 A.M. ~ 5P.M.


Mount Aso

Once I was through the hills between Oita and Kumamoto Prefecture, the land opened up into a vast and fertile tableland. Photo: Fergus Gregg

The next day, I went to the Aso Visitor Center, where I stopped to do some hiking before going to the volcanic crater at Nakadake. The hike which was supposed to be half an hour soon became an hour and a half due to the extremely icy path during winter. Despite my defeat at the hands of the hill, I couldn’t begrudge the views that even my short clamber produced.

After kicking the mud off my boots, I got in my car and made my way to the crater. Nakadake is the active volcanic peak of Mount Aso and is a constant font of ash and volcanic gas. The area around the peak is cordoned off so that authorities can control and measure who enters and what areas of the peak they can access.

When I walked to the edge, the light was blue. Smoke billowed out from a dozen entrances, obscuring the magma far below and the stench of sulfur was thick. The light turned yellow. The wind picked up. Volcanic gas is lethal when ingested in high quantities, even at yellow a single breath sent me into a coughing fit and running for the concrete shelters, along with most other visitors. Not wanting to chance red, I decided I’d seen enough of the volcano.

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I made it a point to do as much traveling as I could. I regret never making it to the Far East. My Mom went on a month long tour of Japan with an all-female Nisei group, and she said it was the best trip of her life. Had a lot of stories to tell. Very edifying.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@1glenn Why not do it now? You're more than welcome to stay here on the Ryukyu Islands.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I’ll be there next week but on business

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