We boarded the Shinkansen to Kumamoto, an inland city on the south island of Kyushu. We met Peter’s friends Yuka and Kanji at the train station and immediately set off for Mr. Aso (5223’) a volcano at the center of the meeting of two volcanic chains. The caldera stretches 74 miles in circumference and is surrounded by a very steep wall, making this volcano one of the largest in the world. Massive eruptions between 80,000 and 300,000 years ago created this enormous caldera. Today the volcano is still active and recently created 4 additional vents nearby. At the center is Nakadake, a bubbling, steaming, molten pool of lava. We got as close as a few hundred yards from Nakadake, looking over the rim at the dark green acid lake, sporting temperatures of over 600° F. Sulfur fumes filled our lungs and we started to choke, so we hiked a little way from the volcano, but the high winds and very cold temperatures shortened our walk. To warm up we visited the Aso Volcano Museum and viewed photos of historic eruptions, seismic and scientific data and viewed a live camera and seismometer showing the current volcanic activity. Notice the photo of Yura standing in front of a talking robot.
After viewing Mt Aso, Kanji drove us to the crater rim where we could view the active volcano as well as the vast caldera. We hiked to the highest point of the crater rim.
Kanji treated us to Izakaya for dinner. We sat on the floor and indulged our taste buds in mackerel, flat fish, rock fish, squid, sardine infused rice, salad, stewed vegetables, vegetable meat stew, Yakitori, gizzards, chicken thighs, Tskune (meat ball on a stick), all washed down with Shochu, a potato vodka.