Tag Archive: Mount Aso



When we reached Arden Hotel Aso in Minami-Aso, we didn’t have any high expectations. Lying in a village in Kyushu, Japan, the onsen hotel must have been neglected much throughout the pandemic judging by its peeling wall paint along the corridors. But its vast garden was well-kept and the resident rabbits look well-taken care of. The rooms are very clean though, and the food superb. The kitchen crew must have stayed along with the garden staff. This you can tell by the quality of its kaiseki dinners. As for the onsen and hot spring baths, we had the area nearly all to ourselves. A choice of indoor and outdoor onsen, as the mood dictates. Swell!

Arden Hotel Aso
The Garden is perfect for strolls and meditative breaks. Be prepared to meet the resident rabbits!

In winter, it’s agonizing to decide whether to try the outdoor onsen and hot spring baths or to simply check out the indoor onsen. Just walking from the hotel in yukatas to the spas within the complex — a very short walk, actually — can be an ordeal because of the freezing weather. But the indoor onsen is far from being a poor choice. My only complaint is that I could hardly tolerate the hot temps as I dipped in. That is why the outdoor onsen makes so much sense!

No cams allowed inside so these are photos from the hotel website.

We all enjoyed the onsen prior to dinners and breakfasts while we were here. And in the afternoons soon after our day excursions, the gardens provided some perfect breaks for meditation or just me-times. Our spacious rooms looked out to these gardens and the autumn foliage added much to the garden’s charm. In spring and summer, these gardens seem perfect for weddings. I can imagine round tables littering the beautiful rock garden, the food and cocktails served under the maple trees, a string quartet just around the garden rocks and many rabbits jumping around the lawn.

These are the covered corridors towards the outdoor onsen. Used by both humans and rabbits.
Cocktails in spring/summer temps should be good here. This looks out to the garden.

And yes, I mentioned kaiseki dinners. The breakfasts were good too! If one’s skipping the day excursions, staying in for these meals could even be a treat! Our first was topped by Aso beef, a kind of wagyu that may not be of the same quality as your Kobe or Matsusaka beef, but Aso comes from Akaushi cattle raised in this area. You’ve just got to try it!

Aso Beef is this omakase’s highlight!
While the Aso beef shabu shabu is good, I was drawn more to the sea bream carpaccio here. And that tempura is really gooooooood!

Takachiho Gorge is one beautiful consequence of an ugly, devastating tragedy that occurred some 90,000 years ago. This natural beauty was formed when Mount Aso erupted, leaving volcanic basalt columns lining the narrow chasm cutting across the Gokase river. The river waters eroded the lava where the rock formation resembles the scales of a dragon and from where a 17- meter high Minainotaki waterfall further enhance this beauty in the Kyushu mountains.

Takachiho Gorge
Takachiho Gorge

Mount Aso lies in the middle of the Kyushu Island in Southern Japan. It has five peaks of which Takadake is the massif’s tallest at 1,592 m (5,223 ft) in elevation. This is best viewed from the Mt. Aso National Park. Dotted with several craters, the Mount Aso caldera claims to be the largest in the world, spanning 25 kilometers in length and 18 kilometers in width. Laced with many trails, the area provides several hiking options. Interestingly, there are a few villages and towns within the caldera where one also finds Akaushi cattle and horses. Life here revolves around the Shinto Shrine where festivals are held to honor the volcano.

Aso Caldera
A Shinto Shrine

While here, we witnessed a procession of sports cars driven by car aficionados. So many Porsches in a few minutes parked side by side near the Visitors Center. Couldn’t resist having a photo taken. Don’t judge us 🤣

That Boxter!
We’re even missing a few here!