This is a three day walking tour of the Aso region of Kumamoto Prefecture, with a focus on Aso’s natural hot springs, local cuisine and nature spots. On the first day, we will take a walking tour to Nishinomiya and Yasaka Shrines, before heading to the famous Marukichi soy sauce factory and a sake brewery for a tour and tasting. The second day will be a tour of some of Kumamoto’s nature spots. We will walk around Higotai Park to the scenic Ogi Tanada rice terraces and around Ikeyama Fountainhead - a beautiful source of spring water. Lunch will be a feast of local wagyu beef. In the evening, we will watch a traditional kagura performance (subject to availability). The third day will be a tour of some of Kumamoto’s best onsen towns. This is an opportunity to get hands-on, cooking lunch using local produce over natural hot spring steam. We will then take a walk up and around the scenic Nabegataki Falls.Tour provided by Heartland Japan http://heartlandjapan.com/.
Day 1: Culture & Local Produce Tour (Lunch & Dinner Included)After meeting at Kumamoto Station at 8am, we will head to Nishinomiya Shrine by microbus, before heading to Minamiaso Village. From Nishinomiya Shrine we will venture in the direction of Yasaka Shrine for a 90 minute walk. Among the kami worshiped at Nishinomiya Shrine are the daimyojin, the “great shining deities” of Aso, Kosa and Takaki. Lunch will be at a soba restaurant in Minamiaso Village, followed by a tour of nearby Takamori. We will visit Hizenya, a craft shop famous for producing Marukichi Soy Sauce and Miso. Then to a sampling tour at Reizan, an iconic sake (rice wine) maker of Kumamoto.Day 2: Nature Hike Tour (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Included)We will depart for Ubuyama, a village located in the northeast portion of the Aso caldera. Our first stop is Higotai Park, famed for its collection of flowers, especially its higotai that bloom in summer. From Higotai Park we will walk to Ogi Tanada, a picturesque rice terrace highly esteemed in Japan. After lunch, we will continue to explore Ubuyama’s natural attractions such as the Ikeyama Fountainhead. The Ikeyama Fountainhead has been chosen as one of the 100 exquisite and well-maintained waters in Japan. From Ikeyama Fountainhead we will walk to Ikeyama Farm, home of aka ushi, a breed of small wagyu beef cattle known for its red coloring, tenderness and lack of excess fat. Afterwards, enjoy a performance of kagura at Namino Kaguragaen. Kagura is the oldest performance art of Japan. It vibrantly depict tales of Japanese mythology. You may also explore the kagura-den, the building within a Shinto shrine where kagura is performed for kami (deities) during ceremonies.Day 3: Kumamoto Hot Springs & Cooking Tour (Breakfast & Lunch Included)Today, you will be able to experience the relaxing Japanese custom of bathing in an onsen, or hot spring. First, we will head to Tsuetate Onsen town, located in the mountains that straddle Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures. Steam dances between the Japanese inns and shops. Afterwards, we will head to Waita Onsen village. With its collection of 6 hot springs located at the base of the 1,500 meter tall Mount Waita, it overlooks Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures. Here, you will have the chance to cook your own lunch with hot spring steam. A visit to the town of Oguni, Horai Yoshimi Shrine and a trek to Nabegataki Falls follows lunch. Horai Yoshimi Shrine is distinguished by its 700 year old towering twin cedars, while Nabegataki Falls boasts a 20 meter (65.6 feet) wide curtain of cascading water. There is even an accessible spacious area behind the falls. The final onsen of the day is Kurokawa Onsen, a village with an assortment of some 25 different hot springs and outdoor baths. Food stands, Japanese inns and souvenir shops line the streets, creating a charming atmosphere. We will return to Kumamoto Station at 8pm.