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KUMAMOTO
  • TOKYO
  • KUMAMOTO

WILDNESS & STILLNESS

Take a walk through a traditional Japanese garden at nature-rich Rikugi-en Garden, a strolling garden featuring manmade hills and a central pond, before heading off for a tour of Aso Volcano Crater, a uniquely Japanese natural locale with many different faces. See with your own eyes the grandeur and strength of nature.

Official Tokyo Travel Guide
https://www.gotokyo.org/en/

Local government official website
https://kumanago.jp/en/

TRAVELER

  • Traveled : October, 2018 Calara Ferrand
    Professional photographer, travel blogger, manager of the blog "wildroad.fr"
    Reside in France
  • Traveled : October, 2018 Samantha LASSAUX
    Editor
    Reside in Tokyo
    Home country: France

Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport

JAL046 Examine the directions from your country

  • Calara Ferrand

    As soon as you get on the plane with JAL, a Japanese airline, you feel how comfortable it is. When I usually fly economy class, I feel there's little leg room, but there was enough room with JAL's seat. For dinner, I had a choice between beef and chicken dishes and I chose the beef dish made by a wonderful Japanese chef. Of course, the flight landed into Tokyo on schedule.

Haneda Airport

Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Day1

TOKYO

Rikugien Gardensmore

RECOMMENDED DESTINATIONS

Rikugien Gardens

These gardens were constructed by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu on land given to him in 1695 by Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the fifth shogun of the Edo bakufu. Yoshiyasu spent seven years constructing a garden with paths around artificial hills and a pond. As the land was part of the flat Musashino region, when building the gardens he had to dig a pond, create hills, and bring in water from the Senkawa water supply to fill the pond.

  • Calara Ferrand

    Rikugien is said to be the most beautiful garden in Tokyo. In mid-November, the season of momiji (red maple), various trees turn into bright colors and in spring, tourists are welcomed with cherry blossoms. Next time, I would love to visit in warm spring and enjoy cherry blossoms and gardens.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    Rikugien Garden is the artistic expression of lovers of Waka poetry. The garden, close to the center of Tokyo, became the property of the City of Tokyo in 1938 and is open from 9am to 5pm. Free visits to the garden are organized during the weekends. A beautiful pond provides the setting for an easy stroll through landscapes straight from a Japanese print. The Japanese treats available in the tea house are even more enjoyable after a long visit.

JR Komagome-->Akihabara-->Ryogoku
Around 20 minutes/170 yen

  • Calara Ferrand

    At Chanko Kirishima, I experienced the world of sumo for the first time. Sumos' nabe (hot pot) dish after their training was splendid and rich in nutrition. On the back of the restaurant, pictures of sumos were displayed and charming calendars and board games were hanging on the walls.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    The restaurant, run by Sumo veterans, offers a traditional Japanese dish called Nabe. Chanko is richer in fish, meat and various vegetables for a good reason: it is the traditional meal of the sumo, to give them back their strength.

Sumida Hokusai Museummore

Sumida Hokusai Museum

Katsushika Hokusai, praised as a world-class artist, was born near Hokusai Dori in what is now known as Sumida Ward, and spent most of his 90-year life in the ward, leaving behind many excellent works.
In addition to showcasing Hokusai’s works, the museum conducts exhibitions and educational outreach projects with diverse themes that convey the relationship between Hokusai and Sumida in an easy-to-understand manner.

  • Calara Ferrand

    Hokusai's museum is easy to find even from afar. The architecture designed by Sejima Kazuyo takes in light and the building reflects the color of the sky. From the exhibited works, you can see the talent of the artist. While Katsushika Hokusai initially did not consider himself as an artist, he hoped that he would reach the level at which he will be famous in the world of paintings. You can see from his sketchbooks the precision and fineness of the lines as well as his overflowing imagination.

    Let's trace the history of Tokyo at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Life-size and miniature models make it possible to imagine the scenery of the city in the 17th and 18th centuries. As well as Japanese children learning about their country's history, I recommend this museum to history fans and families.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    The artist Katsushika Hokusai is best known for his famous paintings of The Great Wave or Red Fuji, both part of the collection of 36 views of Mount Fuji, but a visit to the Sumida Hokusai Museum will prove that there is much more to discover. In addition to his many works, we learn a lot about the life of this artist who lived until his 88th birthday.

    I would recommend taking the opportunity to visit the Sumida Hokusai Museum as well. The Tokyo Edo Museum brings together different historical replicas of Tokyo set during the Edo era. The full-scale models are scattered with the historical Tokyo frieze in English.

Toei Oedo Line Ryogoku-->Roppongi
Around 23 minutes/270 yen

Tokyo City Viewmore

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View, situated in the heart of Tokyo, features an indoor observation gallery 250 meters above sea level and an outdoor Sky Deck 270 meters above sea level. It commands a view of landmarks such as Tokyo Tower and TOKYO SKYTREE, and on a clear day even Mt. Fuji. The Sky Deck is a special space open to the sky and breeze.

  • Calara Ferrand

    The elevator goes up to 250 meters above sea level to the Tokyo City View. From here, you can see a group of tall buildings in line and the metropolis and the view is mesmerizing as if it is a show. After enjoying the panorama, you can enjoy the view at the open-air Sky Deck on the roof without obstruction of the scenery. During the day, visitors can supposedly see Mt. Fuji, Tokyo Bay and Yokohama.

    Mensho Taketora: This ramen specialty restaurant has private rooms. Their ramen is prepared meticulously and the soup gives the distinct flavor to the dish.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    The popular area of Roppongi Hills offers museums, a giant spider sculpture in the middle of its central courtyard, shops and restaurants. Tokyo City View is in the center of the megalopolis, and with a viewpoint that is 250 meters above sea level, the most popular districts of Tokyo are in full view. The Tokyo Tower is the highlight, its scarlet color hypnotizing visitors.

    Ramen has gained popularity in France in recent years, yet lovers of Japan still recommend tasting the authentic dish in Japan. Located in the heart of the popular nightlife district of Roppongi, there are hot, cold, spicy, mild ramen...

The B Hotel

  • Calara Ferrand

    The B Hotel is in Roppongi and is located about 20 minutes away from Shibuya and Shinjuku. The room is very comfortable and is equipped with a western-style bed. The hotel is equipped with internet access with LAN connection and mainly provides Japanese and western breakfast.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    Conveniently located in Roppongi, in the heart of Tokyo, the very active night district does not nevertheless prevent sleep. The hotel is located just away from the noisiest streets, but still only a minute's walk from Roppongi station itself.

Day2

KYUSHU(KUMAMOTO)

Haneda Airport

JAL (JAL Japan Explorer Pass) Show details

  • Calara Ferrand

    JAL: On the flight to Kumamoto, you can see Mt. Fuji as well as various mountains on a clear day. On the day of our flight, it seems that we were the only foreign people on board. Cabin attendants are very attentive and speak fluent English.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    JAL flights never disappoint: always on time, comfortable planes offering Wi-Fi depending on the aircraft type, attentive, smiling and accommodating staff. JAL flights are definitely proud representatives of Japanese transport: professional and warm. Armed with a delicious soraben, literally the bento of the sky, travelers will arrive at their destination rested and ready for adventures!

Aso Kumamoto Airportmore

Aso Kumamoto Airport

Situated 20km east of Kumamoto City, Aso Kumamoto Airport sits atop the Takayubaru Plateau on the western side of the Aso outer rim mountains. The airport lies within the municipalities of Mashiki (Kamimashiki District), Kikuyo (Kikuchi District), Ozu (Kikuchi District), and Nishihara Village (Aso District). There are few houses around the airport – instead you’ll find many farms, golf courses, and natural forests. With the smoky Aso volcano visible to the east, and faraway Mt. Unzen visible to the west, Kumamoto Airport occupies a truly scenic location in beautiful Kumamoto Prefecture.

Kumamoto Airport → JR Aso Station
Around 1 hour 1,200 yen

JR Aso Station→Asosan Nishi
Approx. 40 minutes 650 yen

Seeing the Aso Volcano Cratermore

RECOMMENDED DESTINATIONS

Seeing the Aso Volcano Crater

This magnificent caldera extends 24 km north-south and 18 km east-west, and craggy volcanic rock faces cover an area of 4 km around it. Aso Gogaku, the Five Peaks of Aso (Mt. Nekodake, Mt. Takadake, Mt. Nakadake, Mt. Eboshi and Mt. Kishima), soar upwards from the central part of the caldera; currently, Mt. Nakadake is continuously active, emitting white smoke. This caldera, located on Mt. Nakadake, is one of the largest in the world. This huge volcanic crater has a diameter of 600 meters, depth of 130 meters, and circumference of 4 km, and visitors can enjoy dynamic scenery and the “living” Mt. Aso here. When the volcano becomes particularly active, visitors cannot go near the crater.

  • Calara Ferrand

    Komezuka: This Komezuka, a shape of a cone in the volcano, is a very popular spot in the region. The road that continues from Mt. Aso offers a beautiful scenery created by this geological formation.

    Mt. Aso is an active volcano with one of the largest calderas in Japan. I viewed Mt. Aso from a helicopter and it was my first time to experience such an opportunity. After taking off, we feel all the maneuvers of the pilot before gaining height to pass over the forest. It was an unforgettable and wonderful experience. When we reach on top of the crater, the pilot makes the helicopter lean over and we observe the bubbles on the surface of the crater's water while feeling the thrill.

    At New Kusasenri, you can enjoy Akaushi, wagyu that was raised in the beautiful nature. The restaurant has a fashionable atmosphere and busy with customers. Families and groups visit the restaurant for lunch. To enjoy the breathtaking panorama of Mt. Aso, everyone chooses to sit near the window.

    Kusasenrigahama is part of the caldera of Mt. Aso. You can walk there freely on the surrounding paths or ride a horse to take a stroll. We enjoyed the walk for 30 minutes with a guide who told us about the scenery's changing of color according to the season and the inhabitant.

    Although the Aso Shrine's hall of worship was completely destroyed by the 2016 earthquake, it is still possible to visit the shrine. As the toriis at the entrance are facing the volcanoes, they are kept even more majestic. The cake shop on the small shopping street near the shrine sells very delicious cream puffs.

    Murakami Shoten has a retro atmosphere and the walls are decorated with retro posters. I recommend ordering several small dishes and share them with everyone at this izakaya.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    It is forbidden to climb Komezuka to preserve its fauna and flora but its peaceful appearance is easily visible from many angles by car thanks to the road surrounding it. It takes its name from its hollow cone that looks like a rice bowl.

    The Aso volcanoes area is one of the Geoparks sites protected by UNESCO along with its close neighbor, Komezuka. The Aso zone has one of the largest numbers of active volcanoes in Japan, covering 350 km². The main Mounts are: Taka, Naka, Eboshi, Kishima and Neko. If its volcanic activity is calm, indulge yourself in the ascent of Mount Taka. The 45-degree view from the helicopter over Mount Taka's crater is breathtaking, and there are no words to describe it. It is better to absorb yourself in the contemplation of the deadly turquoise crater and its surprisingly hypnotic shimmering reflections.

    An unobstructed view is available on the plateau of the Aso Kusasenrigahama area open to walks and close to Mount Taka. The restaurant is located just next to the museum dedicated to the Aso Geopark area.

    Here, on this plateau trapped between several active Mounts, the too quiet nature continues to slowly regain its rights after the various eruptions in the area. A horseback ride offers a visit in a somewhat surrealist environment of still life and silence interrupted only by quiet winds.

    Despite its collapsed worship hall following the strong tremors of 2016, the Aso Shrine remains one of the favorite spots for locals. It is a rare representative of Shinto Shrines throughout Japan whose main gate, the Torii, does not face the Shrine directly, but instead the volcanic mountain to which it is dedicated.

    Hidden in a small narrow alleyway that looks like post-war Japan, the Izakaya Murakami Shoten delights its customers with a lively atmosphere from the Showa years and a menu that is both delicious and very reasonably priced. Patrons are exclusively locals, television plays shows and videos from the 50s and 60s, the walls are covered with retro advertising and the music is from the Showa period.

Aso-san Nishi → JR Aso Eki-mae
Around 40 minutes 650 yen

JR Aso Eki-mae → Daikanbo Iriguchi
Around 40 minutes 500 yen

Daikanbo
Paragliding experience
more

Daikanbo<br>Paragliding experience

■ Daikanbo
This natural viewing platform is located on one of the highest peaks of Aso’s northern outer rim. From here, visitors can see the Five Peaks of Aso, making this the best viewpoint to enjoy a 360-degree panorama of Aso.
■ Paragliding Experience
The sunset is beautiful from the Minamiaso flight area, from Mt. Yomine to Mt. Eboshi. Walk in the air while gazing at the scenery of Nangodani Valley below you. You will receive careful instruction from the basics, and people who feel uneasy at gliding alone can take a course where they fly with an instructor, so we recommend this for beginners.

  • Calara Ferrand

    We were very excited to find out that we could go paragliding when we reached the summit of Daikanbo where the paragliding runway was located. We started descending from the summit with an English-speaking instructor and reached the ground in ten minutes. The terrain is perfect for the first-time paragliders.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    The team is professional, experienced and efficient, uncompromising on safety, and provides all the equipment. The takeoff with the customer is smooth and the flight begins. The Daikanbo paragliding experience is recommended for beginners, as it proves to be gentle and offers a breathtaking view of the beautiful Kumamoto region, even for the more squeamish. Once back on land, the rest of the team repacks the equipment and takes the client back to the top of Daikanbo.

5 minutes by foot

Bus
Campmura-iriguchi

Uchinomaki
Around 20 minutes/310 yen

Sozankyo Ryokan

  • Calara Ferrand

    Ryokan Sozankyo: We felt relaxed at the warm front gate and the lobby where jazz was playing. On the walls, the history of the ryokan's family is displayed. The spacious room overlooked a garden. The ryokan offers two private onsens, great for relaxing. You can enjoy the products of the region such as yogurt made with milk from Mt. Aso for breakfast.

    In Japan, a small shop called "konbini" sells delicious food so people can enjoy a wide range of Japanese snacks on the go. As we were planning to picnic while admiring the magnificent view of Mt. Aso, we were able to fully enjoy the nature.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    Ryokan Sozankyo is traditional and typical, managed by a diligent and committed staff. The highlight of the show is of course the baths, private and public, which are both available even though the private baths must be reserved on arrival.

    A few shops on site offer ice creams with various tempting flavors. It is strongly recommended to do your picnic shopping before heading to Daikanbo.

Day3

Sozankyo Ryokan

Cycling Experiencesmore

Cycling Experiences

See the views of Aso Kuju National Park as you travel around on a mountain bike (MBT).

  • Calara Ferrand

    Cycling experience: As this activity has many down slopes, you can enjoy it with ease. With a bike, it is also possible to make a stop and go through alleys. We found craft shops and passed picturesque scenery. Cycling is the best way to explore if you wish to enjoy Kumamoto's fantastic nature.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    A charming bike ride is a great way to discover Kumamoto, its nature, its small roads, villages and stalls. Departure is available from the Daikanbo Peak and offers a gentle descent, without too many hills and climbs for those looking to relax. Kumamoto's rural nature is ideal, if the weather is mild, for a small picnic in the fields. This unusual visit to Kumamoto will seduce both sports fans and ramblers and offers unique views of authentic Japan.

Uchinomaki (Kadoman-mae) → Kurokawa Onsen
Kyushu Odan Bus
1 hour 1,100 yen
*Reservation required

Kurokawa Onsenmore

Kurokawa Onsen

The charms of Kurokawa Onsen are the buildings of the many ryokan with their old-fashioned elegance surrounding the Chikugo River, and the outdoor baths, overflowing with ingenuity, of the different ryokan and hotels. If you buy an Onsen-hopping Pass, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor baths at your leisure. We also recommend the Kurokawa Onsen Yurutto Coupon for when you take walks or go around the different onsen. This coupon is a very good bargain, giving you six tickets for 500 yen that are useable at the shops that sell confections and croquettes in this hot-spring town. The coupons and the Onsen-hopping Pass are sold at the Ryokan Association (Kaze no Ya).

  • Calara Ferrand

    Kurokawa is a hot-springs district very popular to Japanese people and has 30 ryokans. We saw many families and couples visiting the hot springs to seek relaxation. Various specialty shops are in line in the district, and people visiting the hot springs enjoy exploring the area.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    The undulating village offers small alleys and bridges, running along a river and time slowly fading away. Japanese visitors walk around, relaxing in the street and laughing while tightening the obi of the yukata provided by their ryokan. Once you have finished visited an alley, you have an irresistible desire to turn back but the next alley already beckons with its own colors and scents.

Wakaba Hotel

  • Calara Ferrand

    We had dinner at our hotel. Ryokan Wakaba offers high-quality dishes and meat and fish are cooked in the sunken hearth on the table. The atmosphere where many guests spend time relaxing in yukata is very traditional. As the restaurant offers horse meat, I recommend visiting the restaurant if you wish to try a Japanese dish you have never tried.

    The highlight of Ryokan Wakaba is an onsen in the room, which makes it possible to enjoy the onsen alone. The ryokan has two onsens and people can make a reservation or use them as communal baths. The breakfast was "tapas" style and we were able to enjoy traditional Japanese food.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    There is a barbecue atmosphere In Wakaba, with a grilling area in the center of the table. The various dishes follow one another, the red Kumamoto beef, the tempura, the sashimi will satisfy the most voracious. After a short stop in the rooms to digest, why not take a late night bath, when the onsen is much quieter.

    The Wakaba offers two styles of rooms, one totally Japanese with its tatamis and traditional Japanese decoration, the other more Western-oriented with a small area of tatamis for the low table, but offering the option of sleeping in a bed. The traditional Japanese breakfast is composed of grilled fish, rice and salmon and its delicate and gourmet style will delight the palates of connoisseurs of great cuisine.

Day4

Wakaba Hotel

  • Calara Ferrand

    The entrance to Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine is quiet and blends into nature. A cedar forest extends along the path that leads up to the main building. Some of the stone steps are not regular but its unvarnished state is part of the charm. On the way to the shrine, you reach an attractive hall of warship, which is a place for prayer. After that, we headed to a giant wind cave made of a rock called "Ugetoiwa," and from the cave we were able to enjoy the beautiful view on the other side of the mountain.

    It is a famous ramen restaurant in Kumamoto and we had ramen with local people and families. The rice bowl with roast pork which we ordered with the ramen enhanced the overall flavor.

    Kimono experience: When you arrive at the shop, you select kimono and socks for traditional geta (wooden sandals). After that, Japanese female staff help us dress up with their small hands in the fitting room. After changing into kimono, we took photos in the park next door while feeling like a true Japanese person. Along a circular path, you can take a walk in Suizenji Park, which is full of natural beauty.

    If you fly early in the morning or late at night, how about purchasing a bento box called "soraben" and eating it on the plane? The custom of soraben can be seen in flights all over Japan.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu is a Shrine known for its mystical atmosphere. The old stone lamps line up between the tall, tight trees, closely bordering irregular stone stairs. The small Shrine perched in the forest is not one of the most majestic, but its humble charm is in harmony with the nature that surrounds it.

    Ajisen Ramen offers the style of ramen that Japanese people love so much, simple, fast and delicious. The restaurant is always full, and for a good reason: it is rightly considered to be one of the very popular ramen restaurants in Kumamoto.

    There is a wide choice of colors to choose from, but once the kimono selected, dressing and hair styling are done in no time. The best thing about the boutique is its location right next to Suizenji's magnificent garden. Wearing a kimono in this idyllic setting guarantees not only photos worthy of a professional shoot, but of course unforgettable memories of a Japanese experience.

Kurokawa Onsen → Aso Kumamoto Airport
Kyushu Odan Bus
Around 2 hours 2,000 yen

Aso Kumamoto Airport

JAL (JAL Japan Explorer Pass) Show details

Haneda Airport

  • Calara Ferrand

    The experience that impressed me most during this trip was the helicopter ride over Mt. Aso. As the volcanic region in Kumamoto was attractive, I would like to stay longer to go hiking to the summit of the volcano. If you wish to see sights in Japan while enjoying activities such as sports, the course that I traveled on this time is highly recommended. Not only will you move your body, you will also be able to relax in onsen ryokans and the town of Kurokawa. The two days in Tokyo at the beginning of the tour will give you a glimpse of the city that never sleeps.

  • Samantha LASSAUX

    Tokyo is a breathtaking capital city that brings a new universe never before explored. Coming to Japan without seeing its capital would make the visitor miss a little bit of soul, and spending a few days in the megalopolis that never sleeps will provide experiences of all kinds, fascinating, relaxing, electrifying - in short, an undeniable adventure. And Kumamoto is love at first sight. This region represents both traditional Japan, with hot springs, beef or lush nature, yet a brief stop reveals a myriad of other aspects unexpected in Japan. Kumamoto literally has everything: nature, culture, local culinary specialties, seaside, mountains, volcanoes, hot springs... Oh yes, I forgot, there is something sorely lacking in Kumamoto: time. Time to discover more.

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHER TRAVELERS

In this travel program, I enjoyed the nature and sense of thrill. After enjoying the contrast between the metropolitan area and the history and nature on the first day in Tokyo, I went on a trip to Kumamoto in Kyushu, a region where I absolutely recommend visiting if you're visiting Japan. The itinerary of this program includes courses that are yet to be acknowledged widely, so I believe that you will enjoy a special feeling if you tour around this area.

Calara Ferrand
Professional photographer, travel blogger, manager of the blog "wildroad.fr"
Reside in France
  • Hobby

    Traveling

  • Number of visits to Japan

    Second visit to Japan

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHER TRAVELERS

Kumamoto, a small seaside prefecture in the heart of Kyushu Island, is definitely a must for Japan enthusiasts. Kumamoto brings together very traditional and well-known aspects of Japanese culture, but also offers unique and unforgettable experiences. Kumamoto, coupled with a short visit to Tokyo, will offer visitors a unique experience of Japan, away from the beaten track.

Samantha LASSAUX
Editor
Reside in Tokyo
Home country: France
  • Hobby

    Japanese culture, shinto, kaiseki

  • Length of stay in Tokyo

    Has lived in Japan for 9 years

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