Mt Aso (阿蘇山), also referred to as Aso-san, is the largest active volcano in Japan and lies in the middle of Kyushu. A visit is highly recommended for its spectacular caldera, volcanic landscape and surrounding national park.
With an ancient caldera of 25 kilometres and a circumference of about 120 km Aso-san is immense and ranks among one of the largest volcano’s on earth. Much of the caldera can be explored, including the most famous crater of Nakadake, which is both breathtaking and still active. Sometimes it gets very active and part of, or the entire crater is off limits.
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What to do at Mount Aso
Visiting Mt. Aso is best done as (half) a day trip, this is due to the required travel and having enough time to explore the volcano. Here are our recommended spots to see!
Visit Nakadake crater
The crater of Nakadake is the most famous part of Aso-san and so iconic that it is often being taken as Aso-san in full instead of the wider region. It’s possible to make a hike around the entire crater with great photo opportunities all around.
Volcano museum and visitor centre
At the base of Nakadake is the Aso Volcano museum and visitor centre. The centre explains the history of Aso and inner workings of the volcano. There’s also a restaurant and resting area.
Aso-Kuju national park
Encompassing the wider area of Aso-san, and including towns like Beppu and Yufuin, Aso-Kuju national park is great to explore by car and view the volcanic landscape, mountain peaks and craters. There are plenty of good hiking and cycling trails as well for those interested in exploring the outdoor.
Located in the south-east of Aso-Kuju national park, the Kuji mountain range includes the highest peak in Kyushu. Here too are spectacular views around the area mountain hiking courses to explore.
Enjoy the special trains
JR Kyushu operated different special trains to travel to Aso, these include the Aso Boy!, Kyushu Odan Tokkyu and Sonic ltd. Express trains. All with their special thematics and seat layout. Train travel to Aso is included in the Japan Rail Pass and JR Kyushu Rail passes.
How to access Mt. Aso
Mt. Aso can be reached by train from either Kumamoto or Oita. For most visitors taking the JR Kyushu Shinkansen to Kumamoto, then using a local or ltd. express to Aso station, with some trains running all the way to Oita.
From Aso station express bus services run to the Aso visitor centre and Nakadake crater. The bus fare is 500yen one way and not included in the JR Pass.
Extra tips for visiting Aso-san
- Check the volcanic activity beforehand, sometimes Nakadake crater, or even the wider area is off limits due to volcanic activity.
- Bring good hiking boots if you’re planning on making longer hikes. The volcanic landscape can be rough.