Return of the Thermal Explorer

Mt. Aso is a collection of small towns built around growing rice and raising cattle. They’re quiet farm communities, and they’re built entirely inside the caldera of a giant volcano. Within that caldera are seven peaks, six of which are dormant. The seventh one—Nakadake—spews sulfur gas continuously, and once in a while it explodes, most recently in 1979.

This being Japan, it’s a tourist attraction, with a cable car (“ropeway”) going right up to it.*

I left my bag at the nearby hostel that the guidebook recommended, had some lunch, and took the bus up the mountain. I only had enough money for a one-way ride on the ropeway, so I opted for up. Walking down looked easy enough. (The ropeway is a four-minute ride.)

There isn’t really anything to do once you’re up there other than take pictures and smell the sulfur and maybe buy a piece of sulfur as a souvenir. So I took some pictures and walked back down to the gift shop to wait for the bus.

And now I’m back at the hostel, which may be the single cleanest and most well-appointed place I’ve ever stayed. It looks like it was built yesterday. It’s tempting to stay an extra night, just to marvel at how nice it is, but I have to see if I can get to Kyoto by tomorrow night.

* That also sounds like something New Zealand would do, except that they would put a zip line over it too.