Yamanami Highway is a scenic route on the island of Kyushu spanning two prefectures, Oita and Kumamoto. It starts in Beppu, traverses the Kuju mountain range and ends in one of the districts of Aso city.
For the first time visitor there is so much to see along this route – starting with Beppu, the hot spring capital of Japan, following with more compact but no less famous hot spring resort of Yufuin and finishing with the volcanic wonders of Aso caldera – that it can easily take up a week. I just wanted to cross the Kuju mountains off my “never been” list of Kyushu locations. I stayed for two nights at Kuju Kanko Hotel, and had one full day to explore.
This trip turned out to be very spontaneous – I didn’t have anything planned, so I just followed the Yamanami Highway first up north, then down south, stopping wherever I felt like it. My whimsy took me all the way to Beppu Ropeway and up to the top of Mount Tsurumi (the views were spectacular), then to Yufuin’s most iconic public bath at Tsukanoma and, of course, I stopped at all the viewpoints and took a boardwalk stroll at Chojabaru Visitor Center, admiring the surrounding peaks of Kuju. The only downside of this trip was the lack of proper camera (it broke in Aso a couple of days before), so all the pictures were taken with cellphone.