DAY 5: I’ve stayed at 三愛高原ホテル (SAN’AI KOGEN HOTEL).
On the 5th night of my nomad-style TOUJI trip, I’ve stayed at 三愛高原ホテル (SAN’AI KOGEN HOTEL), which is located at the east of central district of 黒川温泉 (KUROKAWA ONSEN), just 10 minutes distance by free shuttle. Different from the central district of KUROKAWA ONSEN, it’s the highland of 920m above the sea.
The site area of this hotel is approx. 165,000 square meter. There’s only prairie and sky around here, and what is special about this hotel is the outdoor bath where you can view night sky filled with shining stars.
This hotel is located at the west side of くじゅう連山 (KUJU RENZAN / KUJU Mountains) and north side of 阿蘇山 (ASO Mountain) in 熊本県 (KUMAMOTO Prefecture). Although I as an ONSEN RYOKAN fan usually don’t choose this kind of modern hotel, but I had no choice because I couldn’t find any vacancy at central district of KUROKAWA ONSEN. Having said that, it was right choice to stay at this hotel to be surrounded by great nature.
But it was raining…
Although what is special about this hotel is the amazing view of night sky with shining stars and the outdoor bath where you can see it, it was completely raining when I stayed at this hotel. OMG!
However, I also love the nature in rain. When it rains in our daily lives, we cannot hang the laundry out, we feel uncomfortable to commute, feet get wet, and traffic jam becomes worse… We often feel negatively like that because of the rain, but it’s just selfishness of human beings. Thinking of the nature in the center, it rains whenever necessary, and thanks to this working of nature, we human beings as one of the animals are allowed to live in the nature. When we live in our daily lives in the urban city, we often forget it and tsk-tsking for the unexpected rain. Being in the nature reminded me of this important thing. This time the rain gave me good opportunity to think of it.
This hotel offers guests the stargazing program every night at 8:00pm, but when it is raining or cloudy, they do it inside the hotel instead, by showing the slides. The staff explains the stars which can be seen in each season, and it was really worth joining for me. Since we couldn’t go outside, they do some quiz games and lucky draw instead, and luckily I won the towel of “くまもん (KUMAMON)”, a famous and popular mascot of KUMAMOTO Prefecture. I bathed in ONSEN with this towel of KUMAMON. It’s really cute.
Take a walk and ONSEN in the morning.
In the morning, the hotel offers another program to take a walk around the highland. It started very early morning, and the fresh air in the morning is really refreshing. But it was raining again… But no choice, this is how nature goes.
We walked around the highland with the guide. Although it was May when usually getting warmer, the highland was still so cold but it was really relaxing to see the beautiful valley and the fog around the mountain as if the mountain is breathing.
After coming back from walking, I went to ONSEN to warm my body which had become very cold while walking outside. The outdoor bath “絶景鼻の湯 (Fine-view HANA NO YU)” is located a bit away from the hotel building and you can fully enjoy the landscape of ASO’s grassfield right in front of you. It is surprisingly full of the sense of openness and you will feel how overwhelmingly huge the nature is. The hotel weakens the light at night so that the guests can enjoy the stargazing while bathing in ONSEN. There’s 寝湯 (NEYU / laying spring) as well so that you can enjoy viewing the shining stars with laying on hot spring.
I want to come back here again when it’s sunny. Surrounded by the great nature in ASO which changes season by season, I want to fully enjoy the panoramic view of nature during the daytime, and natural planetarium during the nighttime.
The spring quality is alkaline simple spring at pH8.14. The water temperature at source is 49.7°C and it’s 源泉掛け流し (GENSEN KAKENAGASHI / Free flowing ONSEN directly springing out from the source). Although 49.7°C seems a bit hotter, it is naturally cooled down to the proper temperature when provided into bathtub.
This hotel is also one of the places where you can use “入湯手形 (NYOTO TEGATA / ONSEN-hopping pass)” of KUROKAWA ONSEN.
When weather is fine, you can see such beautiful scenery at this hotel.
Then, I moved to 阿蘇 (ASO).
After check out the hotel, I took a bus to head to 高千穂 (TAKACHIHO) in 宮崎県 (MIYAZAKI Prefecture), my next destination. I knew that 阿蘇 (ASO) is located on the way to TAKACHIHO, so that I’d decided to stop by “草千里 (KUSASENRI)” which is a vast prairie of ASO.
2 hours later, the bus arrived at KUSASENRI.
草千里 (KUSASENRI) is the huge prairie located at the best place to view 阿蘇山 (Mt. ASO) which is sending up the smoke. Mt. ASO is an active volcano which has 350km2 of caldera, and it’s the symbol of KUMAMOTO Prefecture. KUSASENRI is a crator, which was made 20,000 years ago, and it consists of vast prairie of 78.5km2 and a pond with a diameter of 1km which was made of rainwater. A lot of cattle and sheep are grazed in this vast field. Although it was very cold and the ground was wet because of the continuous rain, I felt really good. Stepping closer to the horse, climbing up the hill, viewing the smoke coming out from Mt. ASO, I spent really slow and peaceful time with nature there. This pastoral grass land looked like never-ending green horizon for me. I didn’t get bored of seeing it.
There are the rest house named “New KUSASENRI”, the volcano museum, and cafes around here, and I spent a relaxing time there till the time bus comes to pick me up.
Now, it’s time to go to holy place 高千穂 (TAKACHIHO), where gods descend.
Read next article: My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU – DAY 6
Read the articles about this trip:
Introduction: My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU
Day 5 vol 1: My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU – DAY 5 – vol 1