03 Apr 2019 in Discover Japan
Looking for a spring break with a difference? Discover the seasonal treasures of Kaga and Aso!
Imagine walking through fresh green pastures on volcanic hillsides, a magnificent carpet of pale pink azalea at your feet and views of wispy smoke rising from conical peaks in the distance. Or sailing down a river lined on both sides with pink sakura from the comfort of a traditional hand-paddled houseboat.
Easily accessible from Tokyo by plane or train, the regions of Aso and Kaga offer an alternative take on spring rejuvenation, closer to nature and far from the seasonal crowds.
Rampant reawakening in Aso
Spring is one of the most fascinating times to visit the region of Aso in Kyushu, Japan’s southern island. The area’s volcanic landscapes transform from golden grasslands to black wastelands following the grass-burning tradition of noyaki, and then quickly take on fresh green hues dotted with swathes of ebullient Alpine flowers.
This luxury ryokan is composed of stylish private villas, each with its own outdoor hot spring bath, and stands just 3 miles from a major trailhead – the starting point for exploring the stunning scenery of this beautifully-preserved wilderness.
Shrouded in pink blooms
One of the most iconic images of Kyushu in the spring is the tapestry of fresh pink and purple flowers weaved into green hillsides. These are Kyushu azaleas, a unique variety of the shrub known as miyamakirishima in Japanese, meaning “azalea that blooms high in the mountains.”
The peak time to admire these vibrant flowers is mid-May to early June, with Hoshino Resorts KAI Aso organizing special outings during this period to guide guests to the best spots. And if hiking is not your thing, staff can organize a horseback trip, even for novice riders.
Nature on a grand scale
From the dining room of Hoshino Resorts KAI Aso, you can admire the craggy peaks of mighty Mt. Aso. If you’re a hiker, you’ll want to clamber on its rocky slopes. But the must-visit site for all is the Daikanbo observation point, which offers a dramatic vantage point on Aso’s enormous caldera, a 15-mile crater dug out by a volcanic eruption some 90,000 years ago.
Further south, the Takachiho Gorge is a spectacularly deep chasm that can be navigated in a rental row boat or hiked from above.
Either way, you’ll see the 17-meter high Minainotaki waterfall surrounded by the young foliage of spring.
Kaga: a brief history of Japan
Looking for another idea for your spring trip?
Nestled between the Sea of Japan and the towering peaks of the Hakusan National Park, Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga is just 3 hours by train from Tokyo.
One of the most famed spring attractions in the Kaga area is the view along the Daishoji River, where Yoshino cherry trees flaunt their photogenic pink blossoms, huddled up in lines at the edge of the water. During peak sakura season, Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga offers guests a private chartered houseboat along the river, steered by a local boatman.
As you cruise gently along the water, you’ll be offered the local roasted green tea, Boucha, with wagashi sweet cake. Away from the crowds, there are few better ways to appreciate the ephemeral beauty of spring.
Some of Japan’s most celebrated sights are close to Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga. The Kenrokuen Garden, a free shuttle bus away, is known as one of Japan’s 3 most beautiful landscape gardens – and spring is one of the best periods to admire its flowering expanses.
At night, the sakura are lit up to magical effect.
A little further out, the remote mountain regions of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are famed for their thatched, sloping-roofed farmhouses, a style known as gassho-zukuri. Surrounded by rice fields and dominated by forested hills, the villages come to life in spring after the snowy winter, embellished by budding horsetails, lilies and cherry blossoms.
And don’t forget to visit the nearby city of Kanazawa, where you can discover historical districts once known for their geisha and samurai, not to mention Myoryu-ji, an Edo Period complex built in ninja style with hidden floors and secret staircases.
And, of course, you’ll be able to admire cherry blossoms aplenty as you wander the city’s streets.
Like to enjoy this kind of experience yourself?
Book yourself into Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga, a hot springs ryokan where immersive relaxation and gourmet Japanese dining make for a memorable experience.