Volcano scares: Aso (2 days) Leave the main island of Honshū for a few days and visit its volcanic neighbour, Kyūshū. Head to the centre of the island to explore the area around Aso-san: it is the biggest active caldera (more or less rounded area left by a volcano crumbling) in the world.
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201 Kms from Aso
Intense history: Hiroshima (1 day) This city’s name is forever linked to the atomic bomb that hit it on August 6th, 1945. This is not bound to be an easy experience, but definitely visit the Peace Memorial Museum and walk out of there forever convinced of the necessity to eradicate nuclear weapons on a global scale. Hiroshima is anything but a trapped in its tragic past though: it’s actually a city with a pretty chill vibe. Head to Okonomimura — 3 levels of small stalls serving the exact same thing — to taste the region’s signature dish, the okonomiyaki (sort of shredded cabbage pancake), then collapse in a food coma. Cover yourself in as many layers as you can (the wind is freezing), and get up close with an active volcano! The fumes rising up from the pale green lake at the bottom of the Naka-dake volcano are toxic, which is why access to the park can be closed some days. If you brought your hiking boots, cross the black sand desert and climb through the cold lava stones, marble-like rocks and bright orange summits to reach the top of Taka-dake — a hike you’ll never forget.
182 Kms from Aso
Resting cozily between the Ishizuchi mountain range to the south and Takanawa Mountains to the north, Matsuyama is a perfect example of sleepy countryside city. If you are a hot spring enthusiast, Dōgo Onsen won’t disappoint you. This allegedly oldest public bath in Japan is a star attraction of the city. The highlight of the city lies in the literary chattels thanks to a native called Masaoka Shiki who is attributed with revitalizing Japanese poetry and modernizing its themes. The French inspired architecture of Bansuiso was constructed in Taishō Era in 1922. The once venue of many elite parties is now used as the Museum of Art's annex. The two floors proudly showcase ink paintings by Shiki, Sōseki, and other Ehime residents. Dōgo Kōen is an important part of Matsuyama's identity because it harbors the ruins of Yuzuki Castle. The 14 years of excavation over 30,000 square meter successfully retrieved castle, gardens, and residences.