Mount Aso is an active volcano in the central Kyushu island in Japan. Volcanic activity started about 270,000 years ago and is still active today. As part of the Aso-Gogaku mountain range, also known as the Five Mountains of Aso, the active volcano has five peaks: Nekodake, Takadake, Eboshidake, Kishimadake and Nakadake, which has one of the world’s largest volcanic crater.
While getting up close and personal to the active crater is not possible due to increased volcanic activity, there are many hiking trails and activities that you can enjoy on the Aso volcano.
And visiting Mount Aso from Kumamoto City is easy, with efficient public transportation to the active volcano. You can take either the train or bus from Kumamoto to Aso, which are excellent options for solo travellers, especially if renting a car is impossible.
In this guide, I will show you how to travel from Kumamoto to Mount Aso without a car and all the best things to do on Mount Aso.
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Kumamoto to Aso volcano: what you need to know
Before visiting Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of information, including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Here are some additional travel tips that you may find useful for visiting the Aso volcano:
- Even if you don’t have a car rental, travelling from Kumamoto to Mount Aso is possible with public transportation.
- Hiking up the mountain from Aso Station is possible, but it is a very long walk. Take the Mount Aso Bus, a dedicated bus that will take you to the top of the mountain from Aso Station.
- Bring a snack and some water for the hike on Mount Aso. Even though there are a few stores on the volcano where you can get drinks and snacks, it is always a good idea to be prepared.
How to travel from Kumamoto to Mount Aso
Kumamoto to Aso Train
Japan Railway travels from Kumamoto Station to Aso Station on the JR Hohi Line. The express train goes directly to Aso Station, while the regular train requires a change of train at Higo-Ozu Station.
- JR Hohi Line (express or regular train)
- Time: from 1 hour 16 minutes
- Cost: from ¥1,130
- Check the Hyperdia website for the schedule and cost
Kumamoto to Aso Bus
Another way to reach Mount Aso is by taking the highway bus from Kumamoto to Aso. Kyushu Odan Bus starts from Kumamoto Bus Terminal and goes all the way to Aso Station.
Make a reservation the day before your trip to ensure you have a seat on the highway bus from Kumamoto to Aso. You can buy the bus ticket at the Kumamoto Bus Terminal.
- Kumamoto to Mount Aso / Oita Bus
- Time: 1 hour 13 minutes
- Cost: ¥1,530
- Check the Kyushu Odan Bus schedule here
Mount Aso Bus: from Aso Station to Mount Aso
Once you arrive at Aso Station by train or bus, you should take a dedicated Mount Aso bus from Aso Station to Mount Aso.
Buy a return ticket for the dedicated bus to Mount Aso from the ticket machine inside the bus station next to Aso Station.
The Mount Aso bus stops at a few places, including National Park information Centre, Kusasenri (in front of Aso Volcano Museum), and Aso Sanjo Terminal which is the last stop.
- Time: 35 minutes
- Frequency: one bus every 1 – 2 hour
- Cost: ¥1,300 (muliptle rides between Aso Station and Aso Sanjo Terminal)
- Check the Mount Aso Bus schedule here
How to get around Mount Aso
The best way to see Mount Aso is by hiking various trails. Once you are at the top of Mount Aso (at the last stop), follow the signs for hiking around the mountain. The main path is parallel to the main road.
There are several trails between the top of Mount Aso and Kusasenri. It will take several hours to complete all of them — more information about the hiking trails is below.
What to do on Aso volcano
Planning a day trip from Kumamoto to Mt Aso is easy, especially if you follow my guide. I included all the sights on the Aso volcano so you can enjoy a day on the active volcano.
You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.
1. Visit one of the world’s largest volcanic craters at Mount Nakadake
Take the Mount Aso bus from Aso Station and get off at the last station called Asosan Nishi-eki (Mount Aso).
Mount Nakadake, the tallest peak at Mount Aso, has one of the world’s largest caldera, a volcanic crater with emerald green hot water. The cavity measures 25 kilometres and has a circumference of over 100 kilometres. And the crater (inside and outside) is certified by Japan Geopark and the World Geopark.
Before the earthquake in 2016, it was possible to see the crater up close by following the Nakadake Trail. Due to increased volcanic activity, there is a no-entry zone one kilometre from the crater.
And since January 2019, the ropeway building has been taken down. There are plans to rebuild another structure in the future.
If you are planning a day trip to see the Aso volcano, check online and see the latest condition of the volcanic crater.
Even if you cannot see the Nakadake crater up close, you can see the volcano from Asosanjyo Shrine, the closest point to the active volcano.
2. Hike from the top of Mount Aso to Kusasenri, Eboshidake and Kishimadake
After visiting the top of Mount Aso, follow the signs that will lead you to the main hiking trail, which is parallel to the main road.
During springtime, you will see miyama-kirishima (Kyushu Azalea) in full bloom, where bright pink flowers cover the green grassy mountain. And in winter months, frost covers most of the hill, which may not be the ideal time for hiking.
It is possible to hike from Kusasenri to Eboshidake (takes 2 hours) and to Kishimadake (takes about 90 minutes). These nature trails are not difficult but wear comfortable hiking shoes for the best experience.
Remember to return to Kusasenri to explore the visitor centre and catch the bus back to Aso Station.
3. Horseback riding at Kusasenri and visit Aso Volcano Museum
The hiking trails will lead you to Kusasenri, the lush green grassland plateau with grazing cows and horses. The area is on top of a vast crater where lava is active, boiling many thousands of meters beneath your feet.
During warmer months, you can ride horseback on the flat grassy field. The plateau covered with meadows is stunning during spring.
And you can learn about Mount Aso at Aso Volcano Museum, next to the visitor centre. There are also live cameras showing the active crater.
At the visitor centre, you will find several cafes and shops — not a bad spot to sip coffee while enjoying the scenery of Kusasenri.
Remember to check the bus schedule and see when the next bus will take you back to Aso Station. The bus stop is along the main road just outside the visitor centre’s parking lot.
4. See Mount Komezuka on the way back to Aso Station
On the way back to Aso Station, you will see Mount Komezuka on the left-hand side. A series of volcanic eruptions form the unusual shape of the mountain.
If you missed seeing Mount Komezuka on the way up the mountain, make sure to catch a glimpse of it on the way back down.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to climb Mount Komezuka. But if you climb Mount Kishimadake, you can see an aerial view of the upside-down bowl-shaped mountain.
When you are back at Aso Station, there is a farmer’s market near the station where you can pick up a snack for your bus ride back to Kumamoto.
Where to stay near Mount Aso
It is unnecessary to stay near the Aso volcano to visit the grand mountain. Kumamoto has many excellent accommodation options and efficient public transportation that can take you from Kumamoto to Mount Aso in less than 2 hours.
However, if you want to explore rural Kyushu, there are hotels, guesthouses, and ryokans in the city of Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture. Aso is located in the centre of Kyushu Island, a land rich with geothermal activity from the active volcano resulting in many great hot springs.
If you want to stay near Mount Aso, check Agoda for hotels, guesthouses, and ryokans near Aso Shrine and Uchinomaki in Aso City.
Are you ready to explore Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture?
I didn’t think hiking an active volcano was possible until I did more research. Hiking Mount Aso was one of my best memories of Kyushu, and I loved every minute. And I did it all on my own! It truly is an amazing day trip from Kumamoto!
Do you want to get off the beaten track in Japan and explore the Aso volcano too? Let me know in the comments if you have any additional questions or comments about my post.
Thank you for reading my guide for Kumamoto to Mount Aso
You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Japan:
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- Things I wish I knew before going to Japan
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- One month in Japan: from Tokyo to Hiroshima
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- 25 Best things to do in Fukuoka Japan
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