Cape Hyuga and Umagase 宮崎

Umagase is a must see for any visitors to Kyushu and any nature lovers who happen to be anywhere near Miyazaki prefecture. Feel free to Follow my Instagram @redheadkid

The Drive 

I packed up my international drivers license, a big bottle of water and a couple onigiris to head off and explore this beautiful jewel nestled off the cliffs in Hyuga. I started in Beppu, Oita so I had to take the toll roads which ended up costing me about 3000yen (27$) total. The toll roads make for a safer and faster drive but can end up being quite costly. However, if you take the regular roads you’ll end up having to go over some pretty gnarly mountain passes. These roads are supposed to be two ways but THEY AIN’T. I always am afraid I’m gonna get in a head on collision with a speed demon Ojisan.

I passed through Utsuki and Saki cities both of which were fairly prominent locations for the Otomo Samurai clan see my other posts hereHistory of Japan: Christians in Oita and Nagasaki for information about Otomo. I also couldn’t help but to wonder how the heck samurais used to march armies around up all these dang mountainous! Miyazaki’s geography is situated so that every town is basically sitting on an inlet/bay between two huge mountains on either side. This also happens to make for very picturesque scenery I’m sure it makes the local fishermen’s lives more convenient as well. The way the cities and villages blend in to the mountains and blue water are really quite serene.

 

 

The Cape

if your looking for Hawaii in Japan you’ve found it! This area also really reminded me of Okinawa but it has it’s own unique personality. The scenery suddenly changes from pine trees to a more tropical feel. You can park your car at the top of Umagase overlook (馬ケがせ) which means horse rocks. You then go for a quick 10 minute hike to be stunned by the magnificent views. This is also the highest “precipitous cliffs in Japan” meaning cliffs that fall in the ocean. The sign read “this place reminds visitors that the earth is spherical”. I wasn’t quite sure what they meant by that, but when I looked off in the distance into the vast expanse of the Pacific ocean I could almost see the curve of the earth. You can see and hear the powerful bright blue waves pounding away at the volcanic rocks. I highly recommend this spot if you need to clear your head and need some natural zen. Or maybe you are more into the thrill of seeing stunning landscapes either way Cape Hyuga is an unforgettable experience. BTW On the way back you can hike up to the white lighthouse for an even better view! I had a smile on my face as soon as I saw the beautiful water and felt the fresh air. there is also a little souvenir shop near the parking lot where you can pick up omiyages and a delicious vanilla ice cream.

If your looking for pristine beaches I also think Miyazaki is a great prefecture it can be a-little chilly but the water quality, wave quality and sand quality can even surpass Okinawa (in my opinion).  ぜひヒュが行きって下さい!

Trip to Mount Aso

The Journey to Aso San 阿蘇産

Me and my college buddies are in school in Beppu, Oita and we all desperately needed a break from our busy student lives. Luckily, our college APU (Asia Pacific University) was about to have quarter break. I did some basic research and found out Mount Aso is the biggest volcano in Kyushu and second largest after Mount Fuji in all of Japan. What better way to release some college stress than go on a road trip to look at a smoldering mountain? I had gotten my international license so went and rented a car in Beppu. Me and my buddies hopped in and we began the two hour journey to Kumamoto Prefecture.

the drive:

Typical of Japan we passed by serene rice paddies and curved up several narrow mountain roads. We eventually landed at some random monument that none of us could read because it was written in ancient kanji. We were sitting on the edge of a mountain so we figured it was a good place to snap some photos.

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We took this gem of a photo at that location unfortunately it was a little rainy. Notice the clouds in the background (because we are so high up)

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Arriving in Aso Town 阿蘇町

Aso is a tourist town, that gets it’s income off the travelers who come to visit and hike the beautiful volcano. There are many eco-lodges and spa resorts, I was surprised how thriving the town seemed to be. You also can’t help but notice all the Horse meat signs. Aso is renowned for it’s Horse sashimi, thats right raw horse sushi! Personally I’m from Texas and I’m more accustomed to riding horses than eating them. But the locals assure me it’s very tasty…

The Crater

There are several different craters around Aso san and 7 main peaks. The Volcano is still active and if you know anything about Japan you know Japan is one of the most active earthquake and volcanic zones on earth. All this seismic activity makes for some pretty dramatic landscapes (some of the most beautiful I’ve seen). Aso also has an azalea bloom every may which leads to the volcano being covered with lush purple flowers every Spring.

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The center of the crater offers tourist activities like horse back riding (an activity I found odd since Aso town is famous for Horse meat) and a museum that explains the natural phenomena in the local area. I also learned that there are several connected volcanos including the volcano in my city, Tsurumidake and also Mount Yufu in Yufuin. My buddies were in a rush because they had to get to their part time jobs by 5 so we decided to rush up to see the main crater. You can take a shuttle bus and go close to the crater but all you can see is smoke. (no lava viewing unfortunately)

Yummy Horsey… oh this one is for riding 🙂

The way home

On the way back we stopped and got juicy burgers from an American themed biker bar in Aso. The owner was an old Japanese biker guy with a thick ZZ top beard. We looked on the walls and he had pictures with various famous musicians including Micheal Jackson and the Carpenters. The bar had really cool wooden architecture (log cabin みたいな). Me and my American buddy, Micah were pretty happy to get our hands on some proper ground beef burgers and Hero enjoyed it too!IMG_4422.JPG

Micah enjoying the tasty burger at Strong Boss Burger in Aso City

We then had to go down some pretty gnarly one lane two way roads. Japanese roads are extremely curvy and narrow. Also I’m not used to driving on the left side of the road so it was a bit tricky. We all got home in one piece and had a wonderful day trip in Aso! I strongly recommend Mount Aso for anyone who appreciates stunning mountain views, hiking and/or Horse meat!

Cultural notes:

Japanese people call mountains “san” just like people… For example to say Mr. Sato in Japanese you would say Sato san to denote respect. It is a sign of familiarity between well know acquaintances or friends to stop saying “san” after several meetings. But Mountains are pretty important spiritually in Japan so denote respect they sometimes add “san”. So mount Fuji can be called Fuji san(富士山)and Aso can be called Aso san(阿蘇山)

Mountains also tend to be the location of holy sites such as shinto shrines see my earlier post about Mount Tsurumi Dake to learn more!

Instagram: @redheadkid