Aso sightseeing update – after the earthquakes

The first thing to know is that Aso is a huge area of which a small area has been affected, this means that though there are still a few road closures, there is still a lot to see and enjoy and the stunning natural beauty of the region has not been affected. The great news is the volcano is now safe and in March 2018 the ropeway up to the crater edge of the Nakadake volcano will reopen, if you cannot wait until then it is currently possible to take a helicopter flight over the crater.

The Damage

earhquake-asoThe Aso area was hit badly particularly in and around the Tateno area,  the deep valley entrance to the Aso caldera from Kumamoto. In the second major earthquake a huge landslide took out the Aso Ohashi Bridge, which connected the northern and southern parts of the caldera and a section of the main road, Route 57 which runs from Kumamoto City into Aso, in the same place it also destroyed a section of the railway line that runs from Kumamoto to Oita. . The good news is that reconstruction is well underway, in early September 2017 the route through Tateno to Minami Aso reopened. A new Aso Bridge is planned to be completed by 2019 and a new road into the caldera is also under construction.

 

Aso Shrine Romon Gateaso shrine post earthquakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aso Shrine, a shrine with one of the longest histories in all Japan took a severe blow, the double storied gate, a National Treasure, collapsed as did the Haiden – the hall of worship. However, the Honden – the buildings that house the Kami (Shinto Gods) survived. Aso Shrine is very much a working shrine and the heart of the Aso community, it is famed for its unique festivals. Though the full restoration may take 7 years to complete, a temporary Haiden has already been built and is being used for the ceremonies, the shrine can be visited and you can see both the damage and also the restoration work in progress.

Mizuki StreetMiraculously Mizuki Street, the little shopping street lined with water springs behind the shrine escaped damage and the restaurants and shops are open as usual (make sure to visit Tanoshu Patisserie home to the best chou creams in Kumamoto.)

 

 

 

Sadly, Laputa Road, an iconic and much photographed Aso viewpoint is currently not safe to visit. See below:

Laputa Road post earthquakes

 

The eastern route from Aso station to Mount Aso is open and the southern route from Minami Aso to Mount Aso will reopen on October 4th 2017.

Komezuka after earthquakes

The Volcano Museum has reopened and most of  the restaurants and souvenir shops at Kusasenri are open.

aso kusasenri horses
You may be wondering what other things you can do and see in Aso if so take a look at Explore Kumamoto’s Around Aso tour itinerary to get an idea and also check out the Aso Section to find more detailed information about places. Due to the increased difficulty accessing and getting around the area post earthquakes a tour really is the perfect solution if you cannot rent a car.

Mount Aso - Nakadake from Kusasenri

Hiking – You are free to walk around the beautiful Kusasenri plateau which offers wonderful views of the steaming crater. However,  because of  the earthquakes and the recent volcanic activity many of the  longer hikes around Mount Aso can not be done at the moment. You can pick up a hiking map in the lobby of the Volcano Museum. For example it is possible to take a 1.5 hour hike up to Eboshi dake from the Kusasenri area, and if you fancy something more strenuous the Kuju mountains are not far away. You could also take a stroll down the caldera wall on the old samurai road.

Getting to Aso

By car Aso can be reached using a back road called the Milk Road (ミルクロード), a beautiful route which runs from behind Ozu City up and over the northern caldera wall to Daikanbo the top view point of the Aso caldera. If you are heading to Minami Aso (the southern half of the caldera) or Takachiho you can take the route into Minami Aso via Tateno has now been retored.

Public Transport is a little more complicated as the trainline between Higo Ozu station and Aso Station is still under repair. There is a connecting bus service between Higo Ozu and Aso station by bus. The train line into Aso from Oita is now running as normal.

The best website I have found with information about public transport is on the Asovo website, scroll down to the bottom of the page to see bus timetables. http://www.asocity-kanko.jp/app/webroot/en/summer/

 

Use the map below to find out more about the sites around the region: