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.