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An hour’s drive from Kumamoto, Aso-Kuju National Park contains the world’s largest volcano crater, an active volcano and a volcano museum.

Aso-Kuju National Park  includes two groups of volcanic mountains, Mt. Aso caldera and Mt. Kuju, the highest (1,79lm) in Kyushu.
Mt. Aso, an internationally famous active volcano, has the world’s largest caldera basin which marks its original crater. Its diameter is 16 km from east to west and 32 km from north to south, and about 128 km in circumference. There are 3 new craters in central cone area, and southern most new crater is very active, constantly sending forth black smoke, accompanied by underground rumblings.

A walkway over the black ash in the national Park

Mt. Kuju is famous for its foothills, which are covered with gently sloping and sunny grassland. The clumps of wild azalea which grow in this area  make it particularly beautiful to visit in early summer.

In and arround the park, there are many hot springs such as Beppu
, Chojabaru, Yu-no-Tani and Uchino-Maki. The highway linking Beppu- Kuju-Aso-Kumamoto ensures visitors very comfortable driving across the park and all around Kyushu.

A joint name for the five peaks which comprise the caldera, Nakadake, the most central of the peaks still remains a very active volcano. A cable car service to the crater’s rim provides the visitor with glimpes of the green lake at the bottom through sulphurous gases and sometimes portentous rumblings from within.

There are frequent bus services to the Aso-san-Nishi ropeway (cable car) from Aso JR station.

Beppu, on the east coast of Kyushu, provides Japan’s most popular hot spring resort. Over 3,000 springs heat the waters of the many public bath houses and private baths available in the ryokan and onsen inns.

A popular tourist destination are the eight hot springs known as jigoku (’Hell Pools’) which heat the water within to boiling point. Each pool has a specific characteristic such as colour (eg Blood Pond Hell, Sea Hell and Mountain Hell) and regular bus trips take tourists to these extremely popular but often crowded sites.

The tourist can experience the benefits of an array of baths in the onsen inns ranging from hot-sand to hot-mud baths.

A less commercialised (if slightly less spectacular) alternative to Beppu can be found on the Shimabara Peninsula between Nagasaki and Kumamoto. The town of Unzen-dake has many historical Christian links, sites  and artefacts as well as the jigoku themselves.


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