On the trail of Kyûshû volcanoes (Part 1/2)


The end of my woofing was very quiet as the hostel was closed on December 23rd and 24th. On the evening of the 23rd we went to see the Christmas Festival in Beppu as planned. Alas it was raining, which made the evening gloomy. I was expecting a real “ matsuri ” (Japanese festival with parades and people in traditional costumes) but not really. It was exactly the same as in France. In a big shopping center, there was a scene where different groups paraded dancing and singing. The most interesting was a group interpreting Christmas carols using bells of different sizes. And on the waterfront was a succession of stalls selling food (called “ yatai“: outdoor catering stand). Irasshaimase! from all sides.

Irasshaimase means “welcome” in Japanese. We hear it everywhere and all the time: at the entrance to a store, a restaurant, a hotel, a bus, a temple … The waiters in the street promoting their restaurant or bar or the vendors stalls or gargottes constantly shout to attract the customer … 

Sounds of Beppu – Christmas Festival:


The firework (shot from the sea) was nice but the music accompanying it spoiled the show a bit. Blend of trendy Japanese and American songs including three songs from Frozen! I thought there were not many people compared to the size of the city. On the seaside, yes but nobody in the rest of the city. Did people stay at home?

Fireworks - Christmas Festival - Beppu - © Claire Blumenfeld


The next day, Christmas Eve, I climbed the Yufudake volcano at 1,584 meters above sea level. The only eruption of Yufudake dates back to 200 BC The crater is bordered by two peaks: Higashi-mine  East, culminating at 1,583 meters above sea level and Nishi-mine in the West at 1,584 meters above sea level.

The climb was very nice with a beautiful view of the valley. Hardwoods and fir trees in the first half then large yellow grasses in the second half. It was hot but when we got to the top the wind got up. The crater was wrapped in the mist. The ascent of the peaks surrounding the crater was quite risky. The path to reach the Nishi-mine was steep, consisting of chains and ropes. Almost climbing. I took the “easy” path to the “Higashi-mine” where I stopped for lunch. A gentleman eating next to me was looking at the map of the area (I have been looking for hiking maps since I arrived in Japan), so I started the conversion. Very friendly, he gave me a lot of explanations on where to buy the famous cards. He was on vacation, alone and was climbing the different volcanoes of the region.

Valley view from Yufudake - Yufuin - © Claire Blumenfeld

I came down another path that was much more difficult and long than the one to go! The first part was a fairly steep descent with climbing areas using chains and ropes! The second part was a long drive in the deciduous forest. Quite a few people pass by, the path was very small. I lost it at one point and it took me a long time to find it.


On Friday, December 25, I left Yufuin and the Country Road behind me to set off again on the roads. Direction Mont Aso. Culminating at 1,592 meters above sea level, the volcanic Mount Aso complex is home to Japan’s largest volcano and one of the most active. This volcanic complex is made up of around fifteen volcanic cones within a caldera of 25 km on 18 km. The latter contains among others the city of Aso  (…). Of all the volcanic cones, the largest are the Naka-dake (1,506 meters, the most active in historical times), the Taka-dake (the highest, which rises to 1,592 meters), the Neko-dake (1,408 meters, estimated the oldest), Kishima-dake (1,270 meters), Narao-dake (1,331 meters) and Eboshi-dake (1,337 meters).


While boarding the bus in Yufuin, I found the gentleman with whom I had discussed yesterday! He was going to climb Mount Kuju, a volcano rising to 787 m, whose last eruption was in 1995 and located between the Yufudake and Mount Aso. The bus ride to the city of Aso was magnificent. Pass through the mountains, on beautiful plateaus covered with yellow grasses. The arrival at Aso was very impressive. The caldera is really gigantic. (A caldera is a vast, generally circular depression caused by a very large volcanic eruption). I quickly dropped my bag at my hostel and took a bus to see the peaks and crater of the active Naka-dake. Last year there was a fairly large eruption and since the access to the crater rim by cable car is closed. I was a little disappointed. But I could still go to the base of the cable car, see the smoke coming out of the crater and put the feet in the ashes. A small sanctuary next to the station was covered with ashes.

I then went for a walk through the plateau. Despite the strong and cold wind, the place was beautiful, completely covered with large yellow grasses as on the Yufudake. These are actually large green grasses in summer that turn yellow in winter. To keep these large spaces only covered with grass and to prevent the forest from regrowing, every summer, the inhabitants burn the grass so that it is renewed. I admit that I find it a little barbaric to burn nature to shape it at our image but it is true that these large expanses of herbs are beautiful.

 Mount Aso on the Kishima-dake and Narao-dake - Mount Aso - © Claire Blumenfeld I climbed Kishima-dake (1270 meters above sea level). A path goes around the ridge of the crater with a completely fantastic view on one side the caldera below and Mount Komezuka (small volcanic cone culminating at 900 meters whose round shape is geometrically perfect) and on the other side the plateau with the different peaks and the smoking crater. I felt at the top of the world.

View of the plateau and the smoking crater of Naka-dake from Kishima-dake - Mount Aso - © Claire BlumenfeldThe next day I took the bus back to the plateau. I wanted to climb the Eboshi-dake (1337 meters) before leaving Aso. But unlike yesterday, it was all gray and the plateau was covered with haze and frost. The ride was less beautiful. By cons, waiting for the bus that went up to the plateau, I met Celine, a young French working holidays like me and Japan for 8 months! We quickly sympathized and went for a walk together. It was an opportunity to share many details and anecdotes. She did a lot of woofings too and worked a lot of time in Kyoto. It was a very nice meeting. It is with regret that I left Aso. The place is full of great hikes that I would have done more with pleasure.

To read the rest of the article, click on page 2.


  1. Salut Claire, les photos que tu as pris des volcans sont vraiment magnifiques ! Je trouve que ça pourrait limite ressembler à certain endroits de France !! 🙂

    1. Merci Pierrot ! Les lieux étaient vraiment très beaux. Et oui effectivement ça ressemble aux volcans d’Auvergne ou à certaines randonnées en montagnes que l’on a pu faire !

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