Kumamoto, Kyushu to Hiroshima, Honshu, Japan

Sorry for the delay. I have posted the last 4 days of our trip without photos at this stage, I will hopefully get to do this in the next couple of weeks. I will let you know when it is done. Thanks for sharing our journey from home. We look forward to talking to you about it when we see you all. Love Fiona and David

Sunday 2nd June 2024
After our big day yesterday we were feeling a little tired today. Firstly we decided on a quick walk to the Kumamoto Castle which was right near our hotel. A little walk along the river and around the castle was all we really had time for before we checked out. The castle was damaged in the earthquakes of 2016 and a lot of damaged was sustained. They are still reconstructing walls and buildings, although it is open to the public. It was very busy as we walked around the area.

We then decided on a drive around the Aso caldera area along a route called the Milk Road, a popular road for motorcyclists and fast cars, even though some of the speed limit was only 30-40-50kmh in some areas. Our first stop was the Kabutoiwa Scenic Overlook which has a spectacular view of Aso, it’s 5 peaks and the caldera. It was a very large area with a town, farms, houses and rice paddies all within the caldera. (A caldera is a large depression formed when a volcano erupts and collapses.) We drove around the rim which was so beautiful and green. There were so many people out and about today. David had hoped to walk on the volcano of Mt Aso, but it wasn’t open to the public due to its volcanic activity.

As we were driving along we came to Semmbazurushika Park, which is an incredible display of topiary (artistic trees). Then on to Aso-Kuju National Park’s where we did a quick walk on the boardwalk of the wetlands, this had a spectacular view of Mt Aso. From here we decided to head directly to Hiroshima via the expressway as we still had 352km to drive this afternoon. I don’t know how David stays awake to drive, I had many little and long blackouts along the way. I drove another 110km today. We arrived at Hiroshima at about 7pm. We have a hotel which is only 9,780Y for 2 nights plus 2800Y for parking. This is an amazing price and the hotel is lovely. We are directly opposite the Peace Park and most of the other tourist attractions.

We went out for dinner and there were English speaking tourists everywhere. David wants to go back to the country as all of the people we have been for the last 10 days are Japanese. We have only seen 2 Americans in Nagoro Scarecrow Village and 2 Australians at Wakayama. It has been very quiet in the places we have been visiting and often we are the only people in a restaurant. Oh well, we are back on the tourist trail again, so we will have to get used to it for the last couple of days.

“Kumamoto Castle (熊本城, Kumamotojō) is one of the most impressive castles in Japan. With large castle grounds and a variety of buildings, Kumamoto Castle offers its visitors one of the most complete castle experiences in Japan. Only a few structures have survived the centuries since the castle’s construction in 1607 intact. The castle keep and most other buildings are modern reconstructions, but the reconstructions are mostly of a high quality and new buildings are continually being added. With about 800 cherry trees, the castle becomes a popular cherry blossom spot usually in late March and early April.
Kumamoto Castle suffered serious damage in the earthquakes of April 2016. Many roof tiles fell, foundations were damaged, walls crumbled and entire structures collapsed. Five years later, on June 28, 2021, the interior of the castle’s main keep was finally reopened to the public, but several other parts of the grounds, including the castle palace, remain off-limit. Repair works on the castle grounds are expected to continue until around 2038.”

“Mount Aso (阿蘇山, Asosan) is an active volcano in the centre of Kyushu which most recently erupted in 2021 and 2016. Aso’s ancient caldera ranks among the world’s largest, with a diameter of up to 25 kilometres and a circumference of over 100 kilometres. In the centre of the caldera stand the mountain’s active volcanic peaks, including Mount Nakadake, whose spectacular crater is accessible to tourists. Note, however, that the crater area is often partially and sometimes completely closed off to visitors due to poisonous volcanic gases, bad weather or the risk of volcanic activity. So, make sure to check the volcano’s current state before traveling there. Even when the area around the summit is open, gases can be intense, and people with respiratory problems should refrain from approaching the crater.
There are five mountains, Mt.Nekodake, Mt.Takadake, Mt.Nakadake, Mt.Eboshidake, Mt.Kishimadake  called “Aso Gogaku” at the centre of the caldera. Mt.Nakadake is still active and its crater is 600m in diameter, 130m in depth and 4km in circumference. You can see the huge crater emitting white smoke and the magnificent scenery up close. When the level of volcanic activity is high, you may not be able to approach the crater.”