Great Walks in Kumamoto

ByJustin Hanus
Mar 27, 2023

Great Walks in Kumamoto

As we approach the warmer weather, savoring the great outdoors becomes a must for most. The volcanic island of Kyushu is arguably the best in Japan for hikes, many located around Kumamoto. The prefecture is blessed with mountains, gorges, and picturesque nature trails to thrill everyone, from experienced hikers to those just wanting a casual stroll. Here are a few you might like to try.

Mount Aso

Something of a hiker’s dream, Mount Aso is the largest active volcano in Japan. Located about an hour’s drive east of Kumamoto city center, it consists of five mountain peaks – Takadake, Nekedake, Kishimadake, Eboshidake, and Nakadake – rising to a summit of nearly 1,600 meters. It also has one of the world’s largest calderas, measuring around 380 square kilometers. Needless to say, hiking routes are abundant here. You’ll need to be in reasonable shape to tackle most, as they inevitably involve a bit of climbing. The most popular is probably the Nakadake-Takadake loop which is around 10 kilometers and takes about three hours. You’ll see some spectacular sights and traverse the depths of a 130-meter crater.

Website: Aso Geopark

Ezu Lake

This accessible and flat walk not far from the city center circumnavigates a beautiful lake in Kumamoto’s Higashi ward. Accessible from the nearby Suizenji Gardens, the Ezu Lake walk is 2.5 kilometers long and takes around an hour. It’s a walk that can be done at a sensible pace and is suitable for all. The greenery surrounding much of the lake is great for picnicking in the summer. During the warmer months, you can also indulge in a spot of swimming, fishing, rowing, or spotting the water birds that populate the shallower parts of the lake.

Address: 3-Chome-11-8, Higashi Ward, Kumamoto 862-0942

Kuju Mountains

The Kuju mountain range is located in the Aso-Kuju national park in the south of the Kumamoto prefecture. Like Mount Aso, there are several peaks to scale, although these are more challenging and consist of rocky paths that can get slippery when wet. At nearly 1,800 meters, Mount Kuju is the highest peak on the island. You can see Mount Aso in the distance from the summit. The hike is around 12 kilometers and takes 6-7 hours to complete, so it should only be tackled by fit and experienced walkers. More accessible trails can be found around the base of the mountain range.

Website: Kuju Mountains

Kikuchi Gorge

From mountains to valleys, this picturesque forested walk comes with health benefits. Kikuchi Gorge is one of Japan’s designated forest bathing sites. Its clear blue waters and phytoncide chemicals released by the trees are reportedly good for health and well-being and boost the immune system. The gorge is about an hour’s drive from Kumamoto city center and is on the outer rim of Mount Aso. There are two walking routes – a 30-minute and a 60-minute loop. Both are quite accessible, with a few mild inclines and awkward rocky paths as tricky as it gets. The walks take you past a few mesmerizing waterfalls, and if you want to make a day of it, you could also visit the city’s castle or onsen.

Website: Kikuchi Gorge

STA3816, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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