|The Largest Caldera in the World Offers
Rich Pastoral Scenery
Mt. Aso, which lies almost in the center of the island of Kyushu, is an active composite volcano. The crater, which measures 18 kilometers (11 miles) from east to west and 24 kilometers (15 miles) from north to south, is not only the world's largest caldera; it is also said to be the most beautiful. Aligned on an east-west axis within the caldera there lies so-called five peaks of Aso: Kishima-dake, Eboshi-dake, Naka-dake, Taka-dake, and Neko-dake. Naka-dake is still active and regularly emits volcanic smoke and, occasionally, ash. Except for these peaks, however, the inside of the caldera is a green and gently rolling landscape of broad grassy plains that are grazed by cows and horses. Particularly famous are the plains known as Kusa Senri, on the northern foothills of Eboshi-dake, where the mountains, the greenery, and the ponds form a beautiful landscape.
To the north, a somma forms a bastion 300 to 500 meters (954 to 1,640 feet) high in the crater wall. Completely covered with green, it is also called the "Green Niagara." Further north huge plains stretch out across a plateau, while in contrast the south side of the crater features precipitous landform. The caldera has a long history of habitation, and today about 50,000 people live in its long-established towns and villages. No other caldera in the world has such a large community.
In preparation for cattle grazing starting in spring, at around the time of the vernal equinox every year, the dried grass is burnt to kill off harmful insects. The grassy plain, one of the famed sights at Mt. Aso, was kept by this burning, which also contributes to the verdant beauty of the crater.
Photo: Kusasenri on the north side of Mt. Eboshi (Kumamoto Prefecture).
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