Aso-Kuju National Park

Non-profit Nature Service http://www.natureservice.jp/

Vast grasslands and smoky volcanoes

Aso-Kuju National Park spans the majestic Aso mountain range, the lush rim of a massive caldera, and the sweeping fields that stretch in between. From Mt. Nakadake, whose stunning blue waters in its crater steam gently, to the dense greenery on the mountainsides, this park encapsulates the beautiful contrasts of Japan’s volcanic landscapes. Read more about Aso-Kuju National Park.

Visiting Japan's National Parks

Aso-Kuju National Park, like all of Japan's national parks, has no entrance fees, no opening and closing hours, and no permit is required to enter or stay in the park. The national parks of Japan differ from national parks worldwide in that the land within the national parks is not exclusively designated for national park use and is made up of private property as well as public and protected areas. Visitors are free to enter and leave at any time. 

Komezuka

Park Highlights

Mt. Aso towers on a huge caldera and the Kuju mountain range spreads to the north, all surrounded by grasslands. Around Mt. Aso, see the fuming Mt. Nakadake crater, the beautiful volcanic cone of Komezuka, and the vast Kusasenri-ga-hama.

DON'T MISS

  • Viewing the blue lake and steaming vents of the Mt. Nakadake crater from the edge of the volcano or from a helicopter  
  • Horseback riding in the Aso grasslands
  • Trekking through the beautiful Kuju Mountain Range

Around the Kuju Mountain Range you'll see steam rising from vents in the mountainsides, the vast grasslands of the Kuju Plateau and the wetlands of Tadewara Bogatsuru marshes. In the north of Aso-Kuju National Park, Mt. Tsurumi and Mt. Yufu supply hot spring water to Beppu and Yufuin among other onsen areas.

MT. ASO

Mt. Aso has one of the world's largest calderas at about 25 kilometers north-south and 18 kilometers east-west. The lanscape is barren around the volcano, but as you go further from the crater rim, you will see pastoral lanscapes of grasslands. 

Nakadake Crater

KUJU MOUNTAIN RANGE

The Kuju Mountain Range has several peaks, each offering diverse scenery. Mt. Hiiji is home to huge communities of Rhododendron kiusianum. Trekkers on the Kuju Mountain Range have views of Bogatsuru Marsh, a registered wetland under the Ramsar Convention.

Kuju Mountain Range

YAMANAMI HIGHWAY AND MILK ROAD 

The Yamanami Highway connects the Aso and Kuju areas, while the Milk Road runs across Kita-Gairin caldera in the Aso region. Both have views of vast grasslands, the Kuju Mountain Range, and the five peaks of Mt. Aso.

Chojabaru Visitor Center on the Yamanami Highway

BOGATSURU MARSH AND TADEWARA MARSH 

The Bogatsuru Marsh and Tadewara Marsh have a combined area of 91 hectares.The marshlands were registered under the Ramsar Convention for its diversty of plants. Tadewara Marsh, which is adjacent to the Chojabaru Visitor Center, also features a wheelchair-accessible wooden path, allowing everyone to experience the nature of the area.

Tadewara Marsh

MT. YUFU

Standing behind Yufuin, this mountain is sometimes called Bungo Fuji, the "Mt. Fuji of Oita." The grassland at its base is maintained by controlled burning. Don't miss the brilliantly colored foliage on the hillsides in autumn.

Mt. Yufu

Plants & Animals

The ecology of this park is roughly classified into three types: solfataric wilderness with volcanic gas fumes; forests spread over the mountain base; and grassland that is maintained by controlled burning and mowing. Plants such as Rhododendron kiusianum and cowberry grow in clusters around the volcano. Many endangered plants grow in the grasslands, such as Echinops setifer and Viola orientails.

Endangered butterflies, like the Shijimi large blue (Shijimiaeoides divinus), and insects such as the Kyushu-ezozemi cicada and Daikoku-kogane scarab beetle live in the forests and on the grasslands of the park. Birds include the meadow bunting, chestnut-eared bunting, Japanese reed bunting, and black-browed reed warbler.

 

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    Miyamakirishima (Rhododendron kiusianum)

     

    This member of the azalea family is found on bare volcanic mountainsides in Kyushu. The mountains are covered in pink when the flowers bloom in May and June.

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    Echinops setifer

     

    This rare plant spread from the continent in the Ice Age. The spherical flowers bloom in azure blue in August and September and their leaves resemble those of the thistle and have prickles. As it lives on grasslands, it is susceptible to extinction as grasslands disappear.

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    Shijimi Large Blue (Shijimiaeoides divinus)

     

    One of the characteristic creatures of Aso-Kuji National Park is the Shijimi large blue (Shijimiaeoides divinus), a rare species of butterfly that eats grass.

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    Akaushi (Japanese brown cattle)

     

    This brown cow is used in agricultural work and hase been raised by farming households in Aso for hundreds of years. Japanese Brown Cattle are put out to pasture, creating an idyllic scene as they eat their way through the grasslands.

Culture 

In spring, this park's grassland is entirely burned off in a controlled burn called noyaki. This tradition has been carried out for over a millenium to ensure that the grassland would not become forested so that farmers could continue to use the area as rangeland. This is one of the many ways humans have lived in harmony with nature in this rugged, heavily volcanic landscape.

 

Noyaki: controlled burn in spring
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    Seasonal Information

     

    Aso-Kuju National Park is a top destination year-round. Kyushu azaleas bloom in spring and summer brings good weather for outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding and cycling. The mountains and forests turn red and yellow in autumn making it a wonderful season to hike in the Kuju Mountains or Mt. Yufu.

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    In winter, warm up in the many hot springs and try the local delicacy of steamed mountain vegetables. In May, when the rice paddies of the area flood, you can try paddy field kayaking with views of Mt. Asogogaku.

About the Park 

Aso-Kuju National Park was established in 1934 and is located in the center of the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. It is made up of Mt. Aso, sitting in a huge caldera, a volcanic group to the north including the Kuju Mountain Range, and the grasslands surrounding them.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Date of National Park Designation: December 4, 1934
  • Area: 72,678 ha (726.78 square kilometers)
  • Location: Kumamoto and Oita prefectures

VISITOR INFORMATION CENTERS 

The Chojabaru Visitor Center in the Kuju area of Aso-Kuju National Park has information about park's conservation efforts as well as exhibits on the practice of grassland burning and local flora and fauna. Take a walk through the Tadewara Marsh near the center, designated a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.

PARKS RULES & SAFETY 

As with any national park or conservation area, visitors to Aso-Kuju National Park are required to observe the following rules for safety and to protect the area's natural biodiversity:

  • Carry in, carry out: Take all of your trash with you. 
  • Do not pick wildflowers or damage plants. 
  • Do not feed the wild animals. 
  • Hunting is not permitted. 
  • No fishing unless with a certified guide.
  • No smoking while walking. 
  • Campfires are only permitted in designated areas. 
  • Keep off the grassland to prevent spreading disease to cows and horses.
  • Restrictions at Mt. Aso Volcano Crater: The Aso Volcano Disaster Prevention Council may temporarily restrict entrance into the site when the amount of volcanic gas coming from Mt. Aso increases and could have damaging effects on health. Check current conditions before visiting.