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Tour de Nippon in Minami Aso

The Aso caldera is one of the largest volcanic features of its kind, measuring 25 km north to south, 18 km east to west, and 128 km in circumference. It stands in Aso Kujū National Park in Kumamoto Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu. Its peak is 1,592 metres above sea level. The valley is a global rarity home to fertile land, human communities, a national highway, and even a railway. Join us as we explore Minami Aso Village and experience the power of nature.


Shops that make you want to Stay at the Station

The Kumamoto earthquakes of April 2016 caused lasting damage. Suspension of the JR Hohi Main Line, connecting Kumamoto and Oita, means traffic is cut off from the airport to Minami Aso, which means that about half of the Minami Aso Railway, commonly called Nantetsu, also remains closed. Normally it runs between Tateno Station, serving as the gateway to Minami Aso Village and Takamori Station. Efforts are under way toward complete restoration in fiscal year 2022.

Nantetsu is known for operating the popular trolley train Yusuge. The Yusuge train line is infamous for having the longest station name in Japan: The Minamiaso Mizu no Umareru Sato Hakusui Kogen Station. The name is so long that people usually shorten it to Hakusui Kogen Station. The Yusuge line is charmming in that many of the stations have been re-purposed to not only accept passengers but also to offer special services. One, for example, offers a hot spring bath.

Choyo Station, serving a community that suffered severe damage, is home to Hisanagaya, whose proprietor, So Hisanaga, is keeping his fingers crossed for a quick recovery and railway restoration. On weekends and holidays, he serves chiffon cake—made from his mother’s recipe—muffins, and freshly ground coffee in the tasteful wooden station building built in 1927. It’s easy to see how So’s friendly personality would attract a crowd. Some customers come to simply sit on the platform and gaze at the rural landscape.

On weekends, Hakusui Kogen Station becomes Octopus Books. Emi Nakao says her first visit to the disserted station’s octagonal wooden building reminded her of an after-hours school library lit by the setting sun. The Village Hall approved of her idea to reimagine the space as a used-book market that would attract both locals and visitors. She and her husband Tomoharu, who was raised in Minami Aso, provide tourist information and manage the station while taking part in book fairs throughout Japan. The readers who gather in their store to visit and explore their books give them the energy to carry on with their journey.

*”Papersky Tour de Nippon in Aso” which was scheduled to be held on September 26(sat) and 27(sun) has been cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19. We are sorry about the inconvenience. Thank you for your understanding.

Papersky’s Tour de Nippon project is about finding the magic of Japan’s rural districts, their inhabitants, nature, culture and food. We travel to various prefectures and ride bicycles. Traveling via bicycle allows us a clean and healthy way to explore Japan’s rural areas.
Take a self guided tour of Papersky's Tour de Nippon in Minami Aso using the Strava route map and be sure to join the Papersky Club as well. You can sign up by searching ‘Papersky’ in the Explore menu ➡︎ Clubs section.