If you want to see an active volcano, how about one which erupted as recently as 2016?! You’ll be happy to hear that the mountain has since simmered down, but it’s still a fantastic sightseeing spot to get a sense of the raw power of nature. The name Mount Aso actually refers to the gigantic, 80,000-year-old caldera formed by an eruption too large to imagine. The humongous crater stretches over 25km in diameter, and more than 70,000 people live inside it.
Within this area, you’ll find further peaks which are currently volcanically active. Mount Nakadake is the most popular for tourists. Be careful though — sometimes the peak is closed off when the gases from the crater get too dense, or when there’s a risk of an eruption!
Is there any more iconic image of the Asian countryside than terraced rice fields cascading down a hillside? This traditional style of agriculture seems to add to the pastoral beauty of a landscape, and the ones in Niigata Prefecture certainly make for a lovely sight (not to mention a fantastic backdrop for some top-quality vacation pictures).
One of the largest are the Hoshitoge Rice Terraces, located in the south of the prefecture. With over 200 terraced fields on the hillside, it’s also one of the most expansive in Kyushu. The best time to visit is probably the planting season (spring) at sunset or sunrise when the flooded fields reflect the colors of the sky.
The viewpoint itself is open year-round, and easily accessible by car. Just don’t think about heading down into the fields themselves to snap some close-ups; these are genuine rice fields owned and farmed by locals, who don’t need groups of visitors trampling their crops!