The land of the Water Deity: Aso, Kumamoto (Part 1)
In the past Kumamoto only reminded me of the earthquake occurred in 2016 but now in my mind, this is the land of the Water Deity.
Admittedly, we need to go to a few places more than once during our wild youth to realize there are still so many things undiscovered and left out in our first time. Once you are there again, you are more knowledgeable with better observant skills, mature in thoughts along with new stories and lessons learned than the old you last time and all of them will make you experience things in a more intense way. My comeback to Kumamoto has told me so.
Admittedly, we need to go to a few places more than once during our wild youth to realize there are still so many things undiscovered and left out in our first time.
I had no plan to go to downtown but instead, I decided to visit Minami Aso located at the foot of the Mount Aso – the biggest active volcano in Japan. I observed extraordinary scenes of mountains at Tawarayama station, discovered the limpid and cool streams of Shirakawa river (白川水源), got lost in the railway tunnel which was fulfilled by water Takamori Yuusui (高森湧水トンネル公園) and enjoyed tasty Aso Milk at Mont Bell.
Heading to Mount Aso Volcano
The extremely special thing about this trip was that Aunt Fumie, my Japanese friend’s mom, drove me all the way more than 40 minutes from Mashiki to Mount Aso Volcano.
Thanks for her kindness, I had a chance to admire the beauty of the green terrace fields which were planted next to a piece of rich agricultural land in some areas. Along with a landscape of yellowy-green meadows on one side of the road, there was a chain of volcanoes in a very dark shade of bluish-grey as far as the eye could see while the other side was the spectacular scenery of high mountains and hills fully covered with yellow cogongrass.
For the first time of my life, I saw white wind turbines standing in line on the hillsides. Beautiful scenes were unfolded one after another just like clear and realistic scenes in a movie gliding through the side window.
Beautiful scenes were unfolded one after another just like clear and realistic scenes in a movie gliding through the side window.
Extraordinary scenes of mountains at Tawarayama station
The movie scenes were becoming more intense when aunt Fumie stopped the car at Tawarayama observation deck. With my eyes wide open behind the side window, my heart was racing but I could not even move my body momentarily when I was right in front of the panoramic view of the summits of five volcanoes. No later then a few seconds, I opened the door, jumped out of the car and ran as fast as I could to the breathtaking natural landscapes.
Standing there with the unobstructed view of the five peaks looking at the horizon did not make me feel small but conversely, it made me relish the very refreshing freedom. I did not waste any moments to embrace and make its indescribably picturesque beauty engraved on my mind.
The cool streams of Shirakawa river (白川水源)
My next stop after Tawarayama was the Shirakawa Source. One interesting fact about Minami Aso village is its large spring sources, namely Shioisha, Kawachigo, Terasaka,…which are relatively similar to Shirakawa river. They are formed by the rains occurred on the top of volcanic cones.
As a consequence of continuous airflow from the volcanic basins during 30 years, the rainwater absorbed into volcanic ash which was forcefully pushed down to the foot of the mountain then shoot out of the ground at a speed of 60 tons of water per minute. Surrounding the water stream surging from the underground, it took me some time to see the air bubble boiling at the very bottom of the river. The creatures living nearby were glittering under the magically blue water.
There is a fact that Shirakawa river is tranquil and gentle in the upper course then it starts to hum a cheerful tone in the middle and suddenly changes to a torrential flow with white bubble foam in the lower course.
Due to its "unpredictable personality", this spring is fresh, clean and cool all year round. You can find water ladles available at the headwaters. Every day, the local people always come here to carry buckets or washbasins of water for cooking, washing, bathing, etc. There are even brandless empty water bottles without a logo of "Shirakawa suigen" displayed for sale so that all tourists can purchase, fill with the spring water and enjoy it then.
As you may see, the Water Deity has brought the Shirakawa river to the people of Minami Aso village as a present. In the headwaters area, they built a temple worshipping the Water Deity to express their heartfelt gratitude towards this precious gift. Thanks to its pure water, they have fertile farmland and lush green fields which have resulted in better life, cultivation and harvest.
When I had not yet climbed to the peak of the Mount Aso, everything at the foot of the mountain was luxuriant with very fresh air. While still sitting in the car, I had wandered that whether in the underground, this land must have possessed something very special to well nourish all the things here? Unexpectedly, my vague question had been responded to very quickly and the answer was nothing but Shirakawa river.
The journey to discover the land of the Water Deity has not ended here. If you want to continue this trip with me, please wait till my next article!
All the destinations mentioned above are located in Aso Volcano area in Kumamoto.
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