Komezuka is a volcanic cone in the Aso region of Kyushu Island in Japan. It’s only 50-meters tall and because of its small height and grass coverage, it is often referred to as the cutest volcano in Japan.
In the summer and warmer periods of the year, the volcanic cone is covered in a blanket of green grass. On mornings with some low-level fog and golden lighting, it can be a truly spectacular landscape. I visited in the winter and it was still pretty epic, although it was a golden coverage of the entire caldera.
HOW TO GET TO THE KOMEZUKA VOLCANIC HILL
The Komezuka Volcanic Hill is located right near Mount Aso. It’s almost certain that if you are in this region, you will also be visiting Mount Aso and doing some trekking or at the very least, visiting the volcano viewpoints. That means that you will inevitably pass by Komezuka Volcanic Hill en route to the active volcanoes. It’s a perfect little stop-off. There are several viewpoints on the road above Komezuka that look back down into the Caldera or you can park right at the base.
It is currently fenced off as there are cracks appearing after an earthquake a few years ago although people have climbed it for years. In order to climb it, you would need to be trespassing, and assuming there is a danger with the cracks in the rim of the volcanic hill, you would be putting yourself at risk. However, there are a lot of fences, signs, and ropes in Japan and I found it a bit of an overkill at times.
I have embedded the Google Map Location of Komzuka below so you can easily locate it en route to Mt. Aso.
KOMEZUKA VOLCANIC HILL MAP LOCATION
MY EXPERIENCE AT KOMEZUKA VOLCANIC HILL
I’d seen a few photos of Komezuka Volcanic Hill and it was actually one of the spots I was most excited about visiting in Kyushu. It was just so different from anything I’d seen before. However, I hadn’t predicted how much of a difference winter vs. summer would make in this location. Instead of green grass and low-lying fog, it was a field of gold. While the golden color was still unique in its own right, it just left things a bit bleak in the middle of the day when I visited. I’d highly recommend this spot when it’s green but it’s still ‘worth a stop’ on the way to Mt. Aso when it’s gold (dead grass). Some times of the year the grass is actually entirely black after it is burnt off so there is always something different to look for at different times of the year in this region.
I visited on my way up to Mount Aso. I prioritized the good light for Mount Aso rather than Komekuza (once I found it it was dead grass). Therefore, I visited in the mid-morning. I’d read it was possible to hike and many do so. However, it appears that information may be a bit outdated as there were fences up and it seems they are due to cracking around the rim. There is the discussion it may be at risk of caving in from the top down due to recent earthquakes.
It would be wise to view this one from afar but I found this out all afterward and had only been told and read online about the hike, which had been done for years to the top. There’s even a defined path straight to the top. Therefore, I jumped the fence and headed on up. Japan had a lot of fences to a lot of hikes so this became quite the norm throughout my adventurous three weeks in Kyushu.
Komezuka Volcanic Hill is only 50m in height apparently but my watch calculated an almost 100m vertical climb to the top of the rim. The path is well-defined and you can see the black line that leads straight up along a steep, muddy trail. At the rim, it folds inside and there is a small pot of muddy who knows what. I hung out on top and flew the drone for a look around the region. You can see the smoke from Aso billowing out in the distance.
All up it only took us fewer 45-minutes to get up and down including looking around at the top. It’s a good little stop-off on the way to Mount Aso but probably best viewed from the view-point or the road.
In case you are wondering what Komezuka Volcanic Hill looks like in it’s prime, here is the photo that had me most excited to visit this interesting natural formation… slight difference!
KYUSHU TRAVEL TIPS
WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?
Here’s a checklist for you to start:
- Fukuoka: If you want to be in a vibrant city scene and a central base, you may want to stay in Fukuoka.
- Kumamoto (my pick): If you’re looking to get away from the bustling city life and be centrally positioned for all hotspot tourist locations then visit and stay in Kumamoto.
- Beppu: If you want to check out a lot of hot springs, mud baths, and sand baths, Beppu in Oita prefecture is the best place for you.
- Kagoshima: If you are eager to go hiking in Kirishima and see Mt. Sakurajima, head to Kagoshima prefecture.
- Yakushima (Separate Island): If you want to hike through the stunning Shiratani Unsuikyo Valley, see ancient cedar trees, and waterfalls, Yakushima is the best place for you.
For a full article about how to split up your time between the popular regions in Kyushu, check out my guide about how to plan your Kyushu Itinerary: THE ULTIMATE KYUSHU ITINERARY: 5-DAY, 7-DAY & 10-DAY
WHERE TO STAY IN KYUSHU
Best Luxury Place to Stay in Fukuoka: Hotel WBF Grande Hakata (Value): This is by far the most popular hotel and one of the most luxurious in Fukuoka. There are a large public bath and an open-air bath on the top level of the hotel where guests can relax and enjoy the views.
Best Value/Budget Place to Stay in Fukuoka: WeBase Hakata Hostel (Budget): This stylish hostel offers a wide range of dorm-type rooms with shared bathrooms, sockets, and safes for your belongings. They also have a kitchen, a terrace, and is within walking distance to convenience stores, a subway station, ramen shops, and sightseeing spots.
Best Value Place to Stay in Kumamoto: Hotel The Gate Kumamoto (Value): Hotel The Gate is a well-situated accommodation in the heart of Kumamoto, just across the train station and walking distance to shops and restaurants.
Best Budget Luxury Place to Stay in Kumamoto: Kumamoto Hotel Castle (Luxury): Set near the infamous Kumamoto Castle, this luxury hotel features a wide range of carpeted rooms from standard rooms to suites fitted with plush amenities.
For a full list of the top-rated places to stay in Kyushu, you can check out my comprehensive guide: WHERE TO STAY IN KYUSHU: BEST REGIONS & HOTELS
HOW TO GET AROUND KYUSHU FOR ADVENTURERS
While the train may suit those in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and even in Fukuoka, it won’t cut it out here on Kyushu. The trains will get you from major towns and even into some regional areas with bus connection but almost all of the adventure sports I visited had no bus connection. When I searched on Google Maps and clicked the public transport option it would just say ‘not available’. It was very clear, very quickly that Kyushu island is best to explore by car, especially if you are doing hikes and activities outside of the city (literally everything on this list).
Renting a car wasn’t too expensive and I did it through RentalCars.com, finding them to be the best-reviewed and had the cheapest options. I flew in from Tokyo so picked the car up from Fukuoka Airport and dropped it back when I was done. If you click on RentalCars.com and then search to pick up at Fukuoka Airport you should find a range of options. I got a very small car as it was cheap but it turned out very handy as the narrow roads of Japanse suburbs where my Airbnb was made it impossible for big SUVs. There was also no time that I needed to be off-road or anything like that so a small, fuel-efficient car made it cheap and convenient.
*** It is extremely important to know that you MUST HAVE an international driver’s license to rent a car in Japan. In fact, they won’t even look at your actual driver’s license and only want to see the international driver’s license. Take that seriously as they genuinely will not give you the car and likely no refund if you don’t have that. To get one you need to be in your country of residence and you can get one on the spot or order online and receive in a week or so. Make sure you organize that in advance as I almost got caught out not knowing that.
Here is my little blue whip that I rented on RentalCars.com
ARE YOU FOLLOWING MY KYUSHU BLOG SERIES?
I spent over three weeks exploring Kyushu and visited some incredible waterfalls, hiked some amazing trails, and visited a number of epic volcanoes. I created a number of guides to help travelers find the best spots in Kyushu. You can explore the articles by clicking on the links below.
The Ultimate Kyushu Bucketlist: 30 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN KYUSHU
A guide to the best places to stay in Kyushu in each region: WHERE TO STAY IN KYUSHU: BEST REGIONS & HOTELS
How to plan your Kyushu vacation: THE ULTIMATE KYUSHU ITINERARY: 5-DAY, 7-DAY & 10-DAY
Interested in chasing waterfalls?: 12 AWESOME WATERFALLS IN KYUSHU
Keen for some epic hiking?: 11 AWESOME HIKES IN KYUSHU
Everything you need to know about Oita: 11 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN OITA
Your Ultimate Guide to Kumamoto: 13 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN KUMAMOTO
My favorite waterfall in Kyushu: TAKACHIHO GORGE – MOST BEAUTIFUL WATERFALL IN JAPAN