Kyushu, Day 7: Kurokawa Onsen

The tour spots in Mount Aso though were still foggy so we abandoned the idea that we can still go here. Helen brought us instead to Nabegataki Falls.

We went to a good viewpoint after lunch and had a bit of good weather…

The tour spots in Mount Aso though were still foggy so we abandoned the idea that we can still go here. Helen brought us instead to NABEGATAKI FALLS. It is considered as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Japan, and it offers the experience of being able to go behind it.

It was a very fun experience despite the rain. At that time, I thought that if it was summer season, it would be tempting to have your feet dipped into the water.

Our next (and last) stop was KUROKAWA ONSEN, one of the popular hot spring towns in Japan. What is interesting here is that you can buy a tegata (wooden pass) which you can use to go to 3 different onsen in the town aside from the ryokan where you booked. There is a shrine in the town where used tegata can be used as an ema.

Near the shrine is a face steamer which we tried. Warning though that it gave off a bit of rotten egg smell.

Some more exploration of the town…

…until we reached this ryokan known for its hot spring with beautifying effect. They had a free ashiyu so we took a quick rest here. The temperature was bearable especially because it was very cold on that day.

Before going to Higo-ozu Station, Helen was kind enough to go to Ozu Central Park first so that we could check if Roronoa Zoro’s statue (One Piece) was already there. Unfortunately, nope.

We said our goodbyes then C and I had dinner in Ippudo. I tried the tantanmen – it was delicious but I still prefer my all-time favorite shiromaru. Hehe.

Kyushu, Day 7: Aso Tour

We met again with Helen (Explore Kumamoto) to do the full-day tour on Mount Aso. However, we had bad weather as it was raining and quite foggy. Good thing Helen was prepared with a back-up plan!

MARCH 10, 2020

We met again with Helen (Explore Kumamoto) to do the full-day tour on Mount Aso. However, we had bad weather as it was raining and quite foggy. Good thing Helen was prepared with a back-up plan!

We went first to SHIRAKAWA FOUNTAINHEAD, Southern Aso’s most sacred and beautiful spring. Helen shared that this was one of Japan’s top 100 water sources and we could fill our bottle with the spring water. It was really nice that there was no weird taste plus the water was cold. Helen said that the temperature never changes.

Next stop was KAMISHIKIMI KUMANO IMASU SHRINE. Quite a mouthful to say but Helen asked if we knew of Hotarubi no Mori e. I told her that I watched it and it was good for a short film. Apparently, this shrine was the inspiration for the setting of the film and the creator, Yuki Midorikawa, grew up in Aso region. Midorikawa-sensei is also the mangaka of Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume’s Book of Friends), which I am a huge fan of.

The gloomy weather made the shrine look mystical and straight out of a manga setting. After paying respect in the shrine, we trekked uphill and Helen shared another folklore involving oni.

The previous day, I shared with Helen that my most favorite manga / anime would be One Piece… and she told me we can visit the statue that was in Aso. HUHU SO NICE!!! We visited Usopp’s statue!

There was a local grocery nearby and I bought this Aso milk cheese pudding (¥300). Not a fan of milk but this was super yummy!

For lunch, she brought us to 鉄板焼 阿蘇まーぼー where we ordered akaushi teppanyaki (¥1,700). The owner cooked our akaushi to perfection (medium) and the egg was runny, yay!

We spotted a shop nearby selling Cremia (¥500) sooo what else to do but buy, right?

Kyushu, Day 6: Takachiho Gorge Tour

We availed a full-day tour in Takachiho via Explore Kumamoto and it was the best decision! While you can visit Takachiho (and even Mount Aso) on your own, it is difficult to move from one place to another due to lack of frequent public transpo.

MARCH 9, 2020

We availed a full-day tour in Takachiho via Explore Kumamoto and it was the best decision! While you can visit Takachiho (and even Mount Aso) on your own, it is difficult to move from one place to another due to lack of frequent public transpo.

Helen, our tour guide, was easy to talk to during the arrangement for this tour. My sister and I were very happy with her because she had a lot of stories to share during the tour. My favorite part was whenever she shared stories from Japanese myths and folklore. She also listened intently to our stories during the car ride and even if it was silent, it was not awkward.

We met her at Higo-ozu Station along with 3 other tourists. She brought a van so there was a lot of space for legroom and luggage.

Our first stop was a local farmer’s market with one of the best views of Mount Aso. That day was cloudy but thankfully, it was not raining.

Helen said that strawberries were in season so I bought a pack and finished it in one sitting.

We went to another area afterwards with a better landscape view of the area.

After a long ride, we finally reached TAKACHIHO GORGE. Helen said that this was formed due to violent eruptions of Mount Aso thousands of years ago.

She shared different stories including an oni being sealed in the area and the interesting rock formations caused by previous volcanic eruptions.

We eventually reached the spot where we can see the Manai Waterfalls, selected as one of the best 100 waterfalls in Japan.

After that, we saw a love shrine and a big pond with its center dubbed as the first island made.

Next was the moment I was waiting for – riding a boat on the river. A new boating fee scheme was implemented wherein a boat rental costs ¥3,000 + ¥1,000 per person.

One of our tour companions joined me and C since he was a solo traveler. We had 30 minutes to row along the river and return to the dock. It was a bit difficult for our new companion to row and navigate because there were other boats around. We ended up getting wet a bit because we went too close to the waterfalls at one point.

We still had fun especially because C and I did not have to row. Hehe. For lunch, we decided to eat in INAKAYA because they had chicken nanban (¥1,200) – karaage (fried chicken) with tartar sauce + a bit of vinegar taste. The restaurant beside Inakaya is the origin of nagashi soumen, wherein somen noodles flow down a bamboo with running water and you have to catch them with chopsticks then dip into the sauce.

The serving of the chicken nanban was huge! One order had 3 big pieces of fried chicken plus miso soup and pickled vegetables were also served. Perfect lunch after a looong morning.