Mount Aso (Minami-Aso), a day before the earthquake

South Aso (Minamiaso) is one of the prettiest place I’ve seen in Japan, but also happened to be the scene of one of the most terrifying events of my life.

Minamiaso is located to the south of mount Aso, an active volcano. The mountain is surrounded by fertile land due to previous eruptions of mount Aso, which made it particularly suitable for agriculture. The landscape is simply superb with fields and deep rivers surrounding mount Aso (the photos shown here were taken around Choyo station).

On April 17th 2016, in the middle of the night, as we were staying at hotel Chikurakutei in Minami-aso, the ground shook. An earthquake was affecting the region of Aso. Its epicenter was right under us. The ground shook for many minutes at a time, then followed by brief interruptions, and then shook again. The electricity gone, in complete darkness, we protected ourselves with pillows and blankets, occasionally hearing tiles falling from the hotel roof and breaking on the ground. It is hard to tell exactly how long it took between each tremor, but one thing is sure, they were too frequent and too strong to our taste.

An employee of the hotel finally came to help us. We evacuated to the parking lot and were able to spend the rest of the night in the employee’s own car. The hotel lent us blankets to stay warm during the night but we were barely able to sleep since the ground shook repeatedly all night with frequent alarms from the town’s emergency sirens.

In the morning, we were able to hitch a ride to Miyazaki airport with other guests of the hotel and got tickets to fly to Nagoya, cutting short the trip we had planned around Kyushu.

I will forever remember the kindness and hospitality of the staff of hotel Chikurakutei, who stayed up all night to make sure of our safety and comfort throughout the night. Thank you! Despite the scary memories, we will, for sure, return to Minamiaso in a near future.

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Mount Tsurumi in Beppu

Mount Tsurumi, an ancient volcano, is an unmistakable geological landmark of the region of Beppu. The summit of the mountain is accessible by the Kintetsu Beppu Ropeway. Many small shrines are located around the summit but the main attraction is, without any doubt, the amazing view of the bay of Beppu.

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Coast of Beppu

Other than being famous as a Onsen town, Beppu is also a port that can accommodate cruise and cargo ships. The Shoningahama Park, easily accessible by the Beppudaigaku station, is located next to the Bay of Beppu. The park offers a nice view of the city of the bay and the city of Beppu surrounded by mountains. The Beppu Beach Sand Bath is also located at the Shoningahama park. There, customers are buried warm sand for a relaxing experience.

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Hells of Beppu: Shibaseki District

The Shibaseki District is one of the two sites where the Hells of Beppu are located, the other being the Kannawa District. Two Hells are located in this district. The nicest, in my opinion, is Chinoike Jigoku “blood pond hell”. It is tought by some to be the most photogenic of all Hells. The other one, Tatsumaki Jigoku, is a geyser that erupts at a regular time interval (twice per hour).

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Hells of Beppu: Kannawa District

Beppu is renowned as one of the best hot spring towns of all Japan. Thanks to the region’s volcanic activity, plenty of hot water heated deep in the Earth’s crust flows to the sufrace and supplies the many Onsen resorts of the city.

The hells of Beppu (jigoku) are found in two districts, the Shibaseki district and Kannawa district, which is shown here. They are tourist attractions featuring hot springs. While some of them are quite impressive, their quality is not equal and one may wish to choose to visit only some of the most spectacular.

In my opinion, the Kannawa district has the nicest hells and is much easier to access compared to the Shibaseki district. My top picks are without hesitation the Umi Jigoku (sea hell) and Oniishibozu Jigoku which are located to the West of Kannawa District. In addition to the hot springs, the two hells boast beautiful gardens.

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Hot Spring Cooking in Beppu (Steam Cooking Center)

The city of Beppu is known as one of the best hot spring cities of Japan. As part of the cultural heritage of the hot spring culture, cooking in the steam coming out of the springs is still practiced nowadays. Visitors may try hot spring cooking at the Jigokumushi Kobo Steam Cooking Center in the vicinity of the hot springs of the Kannawa hot spring district.

Various vegetables including potatoes, corn and mushroom, meats and a variety of seafood can be purchased on site. A volunteer instructor will supervise you throughout the cooking process and make sure that each ingredient is cooked the right amount of time. The center has an indoor eating area and a terrace for its visitors.

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Ohori Park in Fukuoka

The Ohori Park is a lovely park located in Fukuoka. The park features a large pond at its center and a thin strip of land in the middle with a footpath that can be accessed by two stone bridges. A pavilion jutting out from the island offers a nice view of the park and the city. The pond itself is encircled by a footpath that is popular among runners.

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