Of Japan's four largest islands, Kyushu is the smallest island, located at the south end of the archipelago. Many people visit Kyushu for its historic treasures and cultural experiences, but the rich natural splendor of the island is not to be underestimated. Green and mountainous, much of Kyushu beckons to hikers to explore its enchanting scenery. Take off to Aso-Kuji National Park, one of Japan's oldest national parks, featuring the imposing volcanic crater of Mount Aso, which is also the largest active volcano in the country. Hikers with a taste for adventure come to enjoy the contrasting scenes of rugged volcanic landscape, green grasslands blanketed in springtime flowers, and mountains of moderate to challenging hiking difficulty that offers delightful views of the surrounding countryside. One of the finer peaks is Mount Unzen, near Nagasaki, which delights travelers with a primordial landscape of active volcanoes often wreathed in smoke or fog. The area is also rich with seasonal change, offering a delightful hiking experience whether you want to behold the bright floral palate of spring or the rich reddish hues of autumn. In Kagoshima you have the culturally appealing region of Kirishima - a breathtaking land of dense forests, mountain trails, and hot spring towns. The hike is appealing to history lovers as well as hikers, for it celebrates the myths that established Japan's imperial dynasty. For a nature hike through a mysterious forest as enchanting as any landscape in a Studio Ghibli film, travel to Yakushima Island, home to a protected rainforest of Japanese Sugi cedar trees - some of which are thousands of years old! The hikes are not terribly taxing, and even average hikers can enjoy the lush, verdant scenery. Explore the best hikes in Kyushu for an unforgettable adventure through the island's natural treasures.
The Kyushu region offers the quality hiking trails through Aso-Kuju National Park, for hikers seeking the thrill of trekking near an active volcano. The park is named for Mount Aso - the largest active volcano in Japan. The hiking trails run around the active crater and through the adjacent Kuju Mountains. Hikers to Aso-Kuji National Park enjoy dramatic scenes of rolling mountains covered in green grass and forest, grasslands blanketed with pretty flowers of myriad colors, and volcanic landscapes wreathed in smoke, while enjoying easy to moderate hiking trails. Adventurous trails lead over the tallest mountains of Kuji and around the main Aso Crater, leading to some delightful vistas. Those looking for more relaxed walking experiences can be found at places like the Kuju Flower Park. Aso-Kuju National Park is open year round, and each time of the year holds unique charms in store.
Aso-Kuju National Park
Hike the mysterious, primordial landscape surrounding Mount Unzen, where adventurous hiking trails run around an active volcanic area. Mount Unzen still sends up streams of sulphurous smoke in the air from its caldera, covering the landscape for a more dramatic hiking atmosphere. While there are moderate-level hiking trails leading up the mountain from the bottom, there is also a ropeway leading partway up the hill for those who just want to enjoy the scenery. One of the top hiking trails begins as the ropeway ends, leading along an excellent path up to the highest climbing point of the mountain, where travelers can view Heisei Shinzan - a newer peak that rose from Unzen's most recent eruption. While Mount Unzen is known for volcanic activity, the slopes up the mountain include seasonal beauties, including springtime azaleas and bright autumn colors.
Kirishima is a region in Kagoshima prefecture that includes Mount Kirishima, Onami-ike, Mount Takachiho, and Ebino-Kogen - some of the prettiest portions of the Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park. Bond fans will recognize an iconic setting from the Japan portions of "You Only Live Twice", and it's beauty and dramatic volcanic landscape make it a favorite destination of hikers to the Kyushu region. One of the most popular hiking trails are the Onami-ike Crater Lake Trail, which loops around breathtakingly blue Onami-ike Lake. The trail connecting Ebino-Kogen Plateau to Takachiho will interest not only nature lovers, but lovers of Japanese folklore, since it was in Kirishima that the grandchild of the sun goddess set foot on land to establish Japan's line of emperors. This Kirishima Ridge Trail is a about a 6-hour hike that covers much of the Kirishima Mountain Range, offering hikers unforgettable visions of sloping volcanic scenery.
Yakushima Island is a fantastic island destination in Kagoshima prefecture that is home to a forest of rare Sugi cedar trees. Moss-covered rocks coupled with twisted ancient trees, some over a thousand years old, make one feel as though they have stepped into a prehistoric rainforest. One particular tree, the Jomonsugi Cedar, is estimated to be between 2000 to 7000 years old. Well-marked trails in Japanese and English keep hikers from getting lost in this exotic fantasy scene, which was used as inspiration for the setting of the acclaimed Studio Ghibli film, "Princess Mononoke". While one may not see any of the forest spirits from the film, hikers may encounter tanuki raccoon dogs, Sika deer, and Japanese macaques. Many hikers challenge the climb to the top of Miyanoura - the highest point of Yakushima Island, for some dazzling views of the forest canopy. The climate is often rainy, keeping the forest of Yakushima Island green and growing for all who come to enjoy the ancient cedars.
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