Kirishima Open-Air Museum
On a trip to see the eruption of Shinmoedake in Kirishima volcano, we discovered the Kirishima Open-Air Museum. This was a real surprise. As you wander around a large, pleasant park of grassy expanses and a woodland of spindly trees, you can view the work of a variety of artists.
Being an open air exhibition, it is sculpture based. The works are, however, of wildly different concepts. They range from the outrageous pop of Kusama Yayoi’s huge polka-dot shoes, to the enigmatic, sinister yet vulnerable “Insiders”. Antony Gormley’s frail figures lurking in the thin trees. There is perhaps something for most tastes, solid stone, spindly things that move and a corridor to the void. All good fun.
There is also an indoor gallery with a work by Yoko Ono among others.
This is a place for a great family outing, a date spot or for us miserable old pensioners to wander about.
As far as the volcanic eruption was concerned, we spotted a column of smoke in the distance and our car got covered in ash.
＊Kirishima Open-Air Museum; 320 yen/permanent exhibition. 800 yen/special exhibition.
Aoi-Aso Shrine 青井阿蘇神社
On this same trip, we also visited the 1200 years old Aoi-Aso Shrine. In front of this shrine, there is a rectangular pond with lotus plants and large carp drifting in the murk. I am told two dragons drink from this pond every night but have no direct confirmation of this.
The fine thatched entrance gate, dating from 1613, is a major feature of Aoi-aso. This gate is a national treasure as are some of the other thatched shrine buildings.
Another feature is a large camphor or Kusunoki tree. Its two trunks and spreading branches stretch out over the compound. However, a number of fine chickens wandering about enliven the usual patch of open gravel.
Yubari Nojiri michi no eki
On this trip we stayed two night at Yuparu Nojiri michi no eki. This michi no eki has the usual shop, an onsen, big botanical garden with impressive greenhouses and a hotel. As we were there to view the erupting volcano our car was covered in ask each night.
On the first morning, I washed the ash off the windscreen. this took some time, trotting back and forth to the toilet with a small PET bottle.
On the second morning, however, the gentleman from the hotel was cleaning the ash from the hotel guests cars with a hose. I was very agreeably surprised when he offered to hose off our car though he knew very well we were not hotel guests.
I think Yuparu Nojiri michi no eki is an excellent place to stay.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.