6 Stunning Natural Sceneries in Kumamoto - Escape the Busy City Life With Mesmerizing Views

Kumamoto Prefecture is located in central Kyushu, one of Japan’s four main islands in the southwest of the country. While it is quite off the beaten path and may not cross the minds of most Japan-bound travelers, the prefecture is one of the best places to immerse oneself in the stunning nature Japan has to offer. This article will introduce six of the most breathtaking natural sights in Kumamoto Prefecture, all created with nothing but the majestic beauty of mother nature.


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Where Is Kumamoto Prefecture?

Kumamoto Prefecture is located in central Kyushu. The local airport, Kumamoto Airport, can be accessed by most major domestic airports, and even accommodates flights from South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Kumamoto Station, the largest train station in the prefecture, is only a 40-minute train ride from Hakata Station, Fukuoka Prefecture’s major station.

It is home to several natural wonders such as the Aso Caldera, which in turn host beloved man-made tourist attractions such as the popular Kurokawa Onsen. It has every type of environmentーfrom mountains to grassy plateaus and beachesーso there is something for everyone to enjoy!

1. Nabegataki Falls

Nabegataki Falls is an impressive waterfall located in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, only a 20-minute drive from the famous Kurokawa Onsen. The water flow almost appears as a 20-meter-long curtain, and the light streaming through the trees illuminating the water is truly a mystical sight to behold. The falls are surrounded by lush vegetation, creating a serene environment, and the meshing of the natural scenery with the rushing sound of the falling water is quite meditative.

The area behind the waterfall is also quite spacious with a bank, allowing for visitors to get a relatively unseen perspective from behind the water curtain and even get photos that are sure to impress many! The falls are even illuminated with lights during the Golden Week holiday in Japan (early spring), creating an even more fantastic atmosphere!

2. Kusasenri Plateau

Kusasenri Plateau is part of the Aso Geopark, a UNESCO Global Geopark, with rolling grassy hills in front of a mountainous backdrop. The impressive mountain terrain includes Mt. Nakadake, an active volcano with smoke rising from its crater. Horses and cows can be seen grazing on the grass in front of crater ponds reflecting the towering mountains, creating charming scenery that feels wonderfully far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. During the winter, the green grass turns to silver, offering sights of another magical landscape.

The plateau itself is lovely during the daytime, the beautiful greenery making the scene appear as if it had jumped out from a picture book. However, come nightfall, the sky is illuminated with twinkling stars and other celestial bodies. The fantastic night view will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to another world!

3. Sea of Clouds at Mt. Aso

A “sea of clouds,” or “unkai” in Japanese, is a phenomenon when a thick layer of clouds looks like a body of water to those standing at high elevations. Mt. Aso is a great place to be able to see this fantastic sight, as the clouds seem to fill the Aso Caldera, and the rising sun sends magical rays down upon the ripples of the clouds. Standing at any edge of the caldera should offer prime views, but the Daikanbo Lookout with its panoramic views is the most popular location to try and see the sea of clouds.

The sea of clouds is only visible under the right conditions and can be hard to catch. There are three main factors for the sea of clouds to appear: large changes in temperature during morning and night, proper humidity, and fairly still winds. If you are able to see it, it is certain to leave an impression that will last a lifetime! However, even without the sea of clouds, the Aso Caldera is stunning enough in itself that it makes any trip up there worth it.

4. Kikuchi Gorge

Located in Aso Kuju National Park, Kikuchi Gorge is a popular stop for those who are looking to lose themselves in some breathtaking nature. There is even a Japanese word for such an experience - “shinrinyoku” - which means “bathing in the forest,” and Kikuchi Gorge has been selected as one of the 44 best places in Japan to do this. The gorge is beautiful throughout all the seasons, and it is particularly popular for its autumn foliage during the fall and its cooler temperatures during the summer.

The Kikuchi River flows through the gorge, surrounded by trees and moss that let in ephemeral rays of sunlight. The mist from the river feels cool to the skin, and the lush flora gives off a desirable forest fragrance that almost feels as though it is cleansing your soul. There are several walking trails around the park, offering easy access and allowing visitors to easily make their way around to see the lush vegetation and even glimpses of wild birds. 

5. Okoshiki Coast

Okoshiki Coast is known for the stunning wave-like patterns that are naturally drawn into the sandy coastline by the ebbing currents of the Ariake Sea. These ephemeral natural designs are visible during low tide and are most beautiful on clear days when the sun shimmers atop the water. The view speaks for itself, and it has gotten the coast designated as one of Japan’s Top 100 Beaches.

The mesmerizing natural patterns are captivating at any time of day, but are especially breathtaking at sunset when the sun dyes the scenery in fiery colors, almost seamlessly merging the ocean and sandbank. Hence, not only is it one of Japan's Top 100 Beaches, but also Top 100 Sunsets. It is almost impossible to not take a stunning photo of this natural phenomenon, and people come from all over to capture this awe-inspiring scenery for themselves.

6. Nakadake Crater

Mt. Aso is made up of five peaks at the center of the caldera, one of them being Mt. Nakadake. Mt. Nakadake is an active volcano, and the seafoam green lake at the bottom of the massive crater is consistently emitting white smoke, all of which can be seen up close! It is undeniably a rare opportunity to get so close to an active volcano, the most active one in Japan, at that!

Visiting the crater of Mt. Nakadake is certainly an amazing way to remind ourselves of the immense power of nature. However, access may be denied depending on the weather and activity of the earthquake. Updates can be found at the link in the information box below.

Escape the Busy City Life at These Natural, Scenic Wonders!

With the strain of city life, it can be easy to forget the fantastic natural wonders quietly sitting with their fantastic phenomenons that can’t be experienced in urban areas. Kumamoto is the perfect place to experience many different aspects of nature, undisturbed by development and urbanization. If you are looking to get back into nature and lose yourself in what feels like a different world, be sure to visit one of the many natural sites nestled in Kumamoto!

Explore the Kyushu Area

Kumamoto may have many beautiful natural phenomenons to ogle at, but there are also many more captivating natural sceneries all around Kyushu! Be sure to explore more of Kyushu and see all the natural wonders it is home to!

Visit Kyushu Official Website: https://www.visit-kyushu.com/en/

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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Kim S.

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