Mount Aso is an active volcano in the centre of 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 an efficient bus system, the only form of public transportation to the active volcano.
And if you are travelling solo, renting a car might not be the most economical or convenient way to see Mount Aso. But in this guide, I will show you how to travel from Kumamoto to Mount Aso even if you are going solo and travelling without a car.
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What you need to know before visiting Aso volcano
Before you visit Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, take a 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 additional travel tips that you may find useful for visiting the Aso volcano:
- There was a train from Kumamoto to Mount Aso but the train is suspended due to the Kumamoto earthquake on April 14, 2016.
- The only way to get to Mount Aso from Kumamoto is by highway bus.
- It is possible to hike up the mountain from Aso Station 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.
Where to stay near Mount Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture
It is not necessary to stay near the Aso volcano for you 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 many great hot springs in the area. Stay in one of the accommodations close to Aso Shrine and Uchinomaki.
Hotels, guest houses & ryokans in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture
From my experience, Agoda is one of the best sites for booking hotels, guesthouses, and ryokans. The booking system is easy to use, and Agoda has excellent and competitive rates.
The website has a huge database of accommodations available in Japan, including a few options near Aso Shrine and Uchinomaki in Aso City.
If you want authentic Japanese accommodation, consider staying at one of the traditional Japanese ryokans. Typically, a room in a ryokan has tatami (floor made with rice straw), and the room is used as a sitting room and a bedroom. Some ryokans may include meals, and almost all of them have a traditional Japanese spa.
How to go from Kumamoto to Mount Aso
Even if you don’t have a car rental, you can still travel from Kumamoto to Mount Aso with public transportation.
Japan Railway used to travel from Kumamoto Station to Aso Station on the Hohi Line. However, the railway between Higo-Ozu Station and Aso Station is suspended due to the Kumamoto earthquake on April 14, 2016.
The alternative is taking the highway bus from Kumamoto to Aso, then take a dedicated bus, Mount Aso bus, to go up Mount Aso.
To make sure you have a seat on the highway bus from Kumamoto to Aso, make a reservation the day before your trip. You can buy the bus ticket at the Kumamoto Bus Terminal.
From Kumamoto to Aso
- Kyushu Odan Bus: from Kumamoto Bus Terminal to Aso Station
- Bus #1, #3, or #7
- Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
- Cost: about ¥1,500
- Check bus schedule here
Once you arrive at Aso Station in Aso, buy a return ticket for the dedicated bus going to Mount Aso from the ticket machine inside the bus station next to Aso Station.
The Mount Aso bus stops off a few places, including Aso Youth Hostel, Kusasenri Aso Kazan Hakubutsukan (Kusasenri), and at Asosan Nishi-eki (Mount Aso), which is the last stop.
From Aso Station to Asosan Nishi-eki (Mount Aso)
- Mount Aso Bus
- Time: 30 – 40 minutes
- Frequency: one bus every 1 – 2 hour
- Cost: about ¥1,200 (return ticket) or ¥650 (single ticket)
- Check 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 below.
What to do on Aso volcano
Planning a day trip from Kumamoto to Mount Aso is super easy, especially if you follow my Mount Aso guide. I included all the sights on 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 crater 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 is 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 seeing the active volcano.
2. Follow the signs and 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 do wear comfortable hiking shoes for the best experience.
Remember to return to Kusasenri where you can 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 and boiling many thousands of meters beneath your feet.
During warmer months, you can go horseback riding on the flat grassy field. The plateau covered with meadow is stunning during spring.
And you can learn about everything about Mount Aso at Aso Volcano Museum, which is 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 parking lot of the visitor centre.
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 up 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.
Are you ready to explore Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture?
I didn’t think it was possible to hike an active volcano until I did a bit more research. Hiking Mount Aso was one of my best memories of Kyushu and I loved every minute of it. 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.