Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hot Lava!

So I'm back from my vacation in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, on Kysuhu Island. Aso is a volcanic area, nestled in grasslands ripe for farming. And it's VOLCANIC!

We drove down in the new car, with my Mother-in-law, Brother-in-law and his daughter; it was a nice drive, made nicer by the car. Damn, I'm glad we bought that.

It only took a couple of hours, really to get in the area, and it is beautiful. Grasslands leading up to very dramatic mountains.
Here's the plain around the mountain:

It's dotted with cattle and sheep farms, and Aso Jersey Milk products are famous--got some great caramel!

Then there was the volcano. Aso mountain is an active volcano--not as in lava spewing around, but it tremors frequently and there is always steam boiling up from the caldera lake. Like this:

The water, when it was visible through the steam, was a brilliant blue-green. I wish we could have seen more, but the other three crater viewing areas were closed due to dangerous levels of volcanic gases. Sweet!

After the volcano, we spent the night at a very cool onsen. ON top of the classic hotsprings and Japanese style rooms, they had free Karaoke, free carnival events for the kids, massage chairs, gourmet dinners and wireless internet. Fabulous place...

And on the next day, we went to"Cuddly Dominion."

Yes, "Cuddly Dominion". Not "Cuddly Kingdom", oh no, that would make sense. Oh well. Japan.

So anyway, this place is a zoo famous for it's star Chimpanzee, Pan-kun, and his bulldog buddy James. They're on TV, and they really are quite clever. We watched their show, and the ladies played with some cats, and we watched a miniature pig race, then after an overpriced lunch we went home.

Oh, and we saw BEARS!

Enough bears to choke a moose...and tear its head off. These bears are cute, though, begging for food. And of course, this being Japan, the zoo capitalized on the cuteness of feeding bears and sells whole frozen chickens for people to toss to the begging bears...
Isn't that just so CUDDLY???

Also, for some reason, there's a fantastic temple in the middle of the zoo.

Inexplicable, but awesome.


Sailor said...

Nice report on Aso. I've visited the area several times in the past and can attest to the beauty of the landscape as well as the shear awe of the volcano.

Big Jim said...

Thanks, Sailor. Aso is lovely; I can't wait to visit in a more welcoming season.

Thanks for reading!