Japan's Deep South – Kyushu Aso, KUMAMOTO 4 Days 3 Nights
  • Day 1
  • Arrival at Fukuoka or Kumamoto
Arrive at either Fukuoka airport or Kumamoto airport. You will be met by your driver and transfer to Takefue by private car. The drive is 2 hours from Fukuoka airport and 1 hour and 30 minutes from Kumamoto airport.

*From Fukuoka airport you may take an express bus for 3 hours to the town of Kurokawa Onsen and transfer to Takefue. The ryokan has a free shuttle service from Kurokawa Onsen, which takes 10 minutes by car.

*From Hakata station you can take the very cool-looking Yufuin no Mori limited express train. Takefue’s driver will pick you up at Yufuin station.

Kurokawa Onsen is one of the most famous onsen resorts in Japan. The pretty little town is a good size for strolling around. A good first stop is the Kurokawa Onsen Hotel Association Information Center to pick up a map and some sightseeing information.

Check in at Takefue.

Takefue maintains a refined rustic style, with farm-type buildings, black beams and straw-and-plaster stucco. Interiors are likewise rustic, but with modern luxury, including huge windows that provide gorgeous views of the lovely surrounding forest. The onsen hot springs get their heat from the same geological processes that keep nearby Mt. Aso rumbling. There are numerous ryokan in the neighborhood, but the bamboo forest effectively muffles all sounds from outside of the grounds, preserving the feeling of privacy and deep-forest tranquility.
  • Day 2
  • Day trip to Mt. Aso

Take a day trip to Mt. Aso by private car.

On the way, stop at Nabegataki Waterfalls, where you can stroll amid the beautiful nature, and admire the lovely falls; you can walk around behind the cascade to see how the water has carved the rock over the centuries.

Visit Oshitoishi Hill, an area known as a sacred place and power spot. When the weather is clear you can enjoy a panoramic view from the top of the hill. You will find many big stones beautifully placed on the hill, which look as if they must have been placed there by some ancient civilization – there are numerous cracks, scars from lightning strikes, and erosion patterns on the surface of the stones that look like ancient writing and carvings. But, geologists tell us, they are entirely natural – the creation of the great volcano, Mt. Aso.

At the edge of the mountain are Aso Shrine and Ichinomiya Monzen town.
Aso Shrine has a rather long history – it is believed to date back some 2,000 years to the Yayoi Period (300 BC to 300 AD). Today it is one of the most important shrines in Kumamoto Prefecture. The shrine includes the impressive two-story Romon Gate, as well as a famous pine tree on the grounds, which is said to bestow luck in marriage.
Monzen literally means “in front of a gate,” and usually refers to a town that develops spontaneously around a powerful shrine or temple. This is a great place for a short stroll.

Proceed to Kusasenrigahama.
This is a flat plain that spreads over the foot of Mt. Eboshidake. The gorgeous pastures, which change color with the season – deep green in summer and silver in winter – of Kusasenrigahama have inspired numerous songs and poems.

Mt. Aso is an active volcano in the center of Kyushu. It huge caldera is one of the biggest in the world, with a circumference of some 100km. Inside the caldera are active volcanoes, including Mt. Nakadake and its spectacular crater, and Komezuka, a beautiful volcanic cone.
Access to the area is sometimes restricted due to the mountain’s activity – it is closed to visitors if the rumbling gets too intense.

The drive up the mountain is one of the most beautiful roads in Japan, with breathtaking views of the mountains of the Mt. Aso range on one side and vast ocean vistas on the other. If you arrive at night you will be treated to both the lights of the towns in the valleys and, in clear weather, a blazing expanse of stars.

Return to Takefue and relax.
  • Day 3
  • Day trip to Yufuin
Take a day trip to Yufuin by private car.

On the way, drop by Kokonoe “Yume” Otsurihashi, the longest suspension bridge in Japan, at 390 meters long and 177 meters high. It is designed to withstand the weight of up to 1,800 people, and offers spectacular views of the surrounding nature, including Shindo-no-taki, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Japan.

Drive along the scenic Yamanami highway to Yufuin. This beautiful road, which runs from Kurokawa Onsen to Yufuin, crosses a wide, open plateau, past spacious plains, steaming volcanoes, natural forested mountainsides and other magnificent scenery.

Then you arrive at Yufuin, one of the most popular onsen hot spring resorts in Japan. This historic town has a variety of little museums, boutiques and restaurants, as well as, of course, places to bathe. It’s also a great place to just stroll around the old streets and admire the scenery, with the beautiful Mt. Yufu serving as the backdrop.

Return to Takefue and relax.
  • Day 4
  • Departure
Check out from Takefue.

Today you depart from Fukuoka or Kumamoto airport.

If you take an evening flight from Fukuoka airport or spend one more night in Hakata city, you may spend some time in Hita, a 1 hour and 15 minute drive, on the way to Hakata. HIta is another fascinating little town, known as “Kyushu’s Little Kyoto” because of its rich historical background, and it has plenty of interesting museums and a lovely old town. It also is the scene of the spectacular Hita Gion Festival in July, as well as a variety of other fun events throughout the year.

Continue your way to Fukuoka. On the way you may also drop by Dazaifu Temmangu, which enshrines Sugawara Michizane, a renowned poet, politician and government official who lived during the Heian period (784-1185). According to legend, at his funeral, the ox that was carrying his coffin suddenly stopped and refused to move. So Sugawara was buried where the ox stopped, and it became the site of Temmangu. Today, Sugawara is revered as the patron saint of scholarship.

Departure from Fukuoka airport or Kumamoto airport.

*For those who spend one night in Hakata city:

Here are some suggestions for sightseeing:

You might want to visit Kushida shrine, dedicated to Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess) and Susanowo no Mikoto, the god of the sea and storms. During the Hakata Gion festival, held every summer, local residents carry beautiful mikoshi portable shrines and kazariyama floats though the streets of the town.

Canal City Hakata is a large shopping complex nearby – a good place to buy souvenirs.

In the evening, you could try dining at some of the yatai food stalls that line the riverbank. Hakata is famous for its yatai, and they have become a symbol of the city. You can find lots of these stalls in the Nakasu district. Enjoy yakitori and the famous and delicious tonkotsu ramen noodles made with local ingredients.