Introduction to Aso City

Aso City is located in the center of Kyushu and borders Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures. Aso City alone is home to 25,000 people in one of the world's largest calderas, centered on the active volcano Aso. Its history and culture of coexistence and co-prosperity with nature for more than 2,000 years can be said to be a pioneer of the SDGs.

Aso is blessed with abundant nature and various local resources, including vast grasslands protected by the symbiosis between people and nature, as typified by controlled burning, and rare plants and animals unique to Aso, such as the Oorurishijimi (Shijimiaeoides divinus, a kind of butterfly), and is designated as an Important Cultural Landscape by the Japanese government. It is also designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark and a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage site.


Transport to Aso City

It takes about 40 minutes by car or expresses bus from Aso Kumamoto Airport, which used to offer direct flights from Tokyo, Osaka, and other East Asian countries before COVID-19. The JR Hohi Mainline, also known as the railroad that crosses Aso caldera, runs through the area, and it takes about 1 hour from JR Kumamoto Station, where the Kyushu Shinkansen stops, and about 1 hour and 30 minutes from JR Oita Station by express train.

National Route 57 runs through the area, and with the opening of the Futaenotouge Tunnel through the outer rim of the volcanic crater, the area can be visited in about an hour by car from Kumamoto City. Other services such as the Trans-Kyushu Bus, which connects Yufuin, Kurokawa Onsen, and Beppu, are also available, making the area suitable for sightseeing by public transportation.


What’s good to eat in Aso City 

Aso's unique food culture has been nurtured by the symbiosis between the volcano and people, including grassland-raised "Aso Akaushi beef," which is popular for its lean flavor and low-fat content, as well as fermented foods such as "Takana pickles" (pickled mustard leaf, regarded as one of the three best-known pickles in Japan) and other dishes such as Dengaku (grilled vegetables).

(1) Pickled Takana and Rice with Takana Aso's Takana is a traditional vegetable nurtured by the cold climate and volcanic ash land. It is harvested by "takana folding," which is folding by hand rather than by machine, and pickled with salt and red pepper. In particular, the old pickles, Lacto-fermented for six months, are chopped into small pieces, fried in oil, and mixed with rice to make "takana- meshi," which is widely enjoyed at home and in local restaurants.

(2) Char-grilled Akaushi beef and pickles such as Akado-zuke This dish is prepared by grilling Akaushi beef, which has been raised on pasture in the grasslands of Aso, and other vegetables such as local taro, tofu, and thick fried bean curd over a charcoal fire at the edge of the sunken hearth. The meal concludes with Takana-meshi, traditional pickles such as Akado-zuke (Akado-imo, a kind of taro potato, has a red leaf, and edible stems. Akado-zuke is its brined bunch with a distinctive texture and a fresh sour taste), and a soup filled with local vegetables, allowing you to fully enjoy the lifestyle and culinary blessings of Aso's farmers.

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    Information about accommodation in Aso City 

    About 70 diverse lodging facilities are scattered throughout Aso City, including traditional Japanese-style hot spring inns, large hotels, business hotels, remote lodgings for the luxury class, farmhouse guesthouses, pensions, guesthouses, campgrounds, and training camp facilities.


    Best Things to do in Aso City

    (1) Aso Volcano and one of the world's largest calderas There are currently 111 active volcanoes in Japan, but Mt. Aso is the only active volcano where the general public can easily and safely enter the crater of an active volcano that is still active and emitting smoke. Aso is a core resource of Aso-Kuju National Park and Aso UNESCO Global Geopark, as well as an important resource in terms of both nature and history, and culture, as it has been held in awe by people for over 2,000 years and has become a symbol of mountain worship and farming rituals in Aso. Most of the city lies within the Aso-Kuju National Park, where visitors can enjoy up-close views of the city's unique natural scenery, including Mount Aso, an active volcano that is still smoking today, the world's largest caldera topography, and grasslands that have been maintained for over a thousand years. The Aso area was certified as a member of the Global Geoparks Network in September 2014. Visitors can experience the topography, geology, history, culture, and people's lives that have been nurtured by the Aso volcanic activity since ancient times. 

    (2) Millennium Grassland The thousand-year grassland, which people have maintained sustainably for more than a thousand years, has been passed down in a sustainable style through the agricultural activities of Aso such as "Noyaki (controlled burning) ", "grazing," and "grass gathering," and is selected as one of the Important Cultural Landscapes of Japan. 

    (3) Rural Villages Located at the foot of the outer rim of Aso, Teno Village has a history of more than 2,000 years, and the farming villages that have continued to cultivate the grasslands in the caldera and outer rim of the mountain are alive with scenery and lifestyle that can be called the original landscape of Japan. Visitors can experience the livelihood and lifestyle of the Aso people by participating in the village walking program.

    Entertainment in Aso City 

    (1) Agricultural rituals Tourists can observe the "Hifuri Shinto Ritual" (hifuri means to brandish torches) held at Aso Shrine in mid-March to pray for a good harvest, and the "Onda-matsuri" in July, when 12 gods enshrined in Aso Shrine form a procession on four portable shrines and visit the green rice fields around the shrine to see how well they are growing. 

    (2) Nakae Iwato Kagura Nakae Iwato Kagura, located in the Namino area, is a form of kagura that has been handed down in the Nakae area for more than 200 years and is designated as a National Selected Intangible Folk Cultural Property and a Prefectural Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. The Nakae Kaguraden, where regular performances are held, is said to be the closest reserved seat to the gods, and tourists can also watch the performances from the outdoor spectator seats.

    (3) Uchinomaki Onsen "Night Street Walk" Uchinomaki Onsen, with its many hot spring accommodations, is also home to a collection of restaurants catering to local residents. These Uchinomaki eateries and restaurants can be enjoyed by tourists in a safe and casual atmosphere. Please check the English menus, photos, and prices on the map in advance, and enjoy walking the streets at night and mingling with the locals while looking at the map according to your preferences. With hospitality that responds to the voices of travelers such as "How much does it cost?", "I want to visit various restaurants", and "I want to have a few drinks", even travelers unfamiliar with Japanese culture can easily experience Japanese Izakaya and Snack Bar culture.