Mount Unzen   雲仙岳

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Head into Hell

Hiking and hot springs are on the agenda when visiting this volcano, which dominates the Shimabara Peninsula.

Mount Unzen is, while also being a privileged hiking location, a dangerous murderer. The scene of many eruptions in recent decades, it is with a wary look that the mountain is admired for its charms. A museum is also devoted to its misdeeds, close to the city of Shimabara.

Beauty and safety

For over 300 years, the area around Mount Unzen has been enjoyed for its natural hot springs. It is also one of the areas coveted by the first foreign visitors to Japan, popularized by many works which extolled the virtues of the place. This was before the Christians were martyred there and some of them thrown into the boiling waters.

That did not stop the volcano from being recognized for its natural beauty, along with the Amakusa Islands (southwest of Kumamoto) one of the largest natural parks in Japan. The climb is punctuated by the shimmering colors of pink azaleas that dot its slopes, and greenery that lines it. The palette changes color in autumn, which is later than the rest of Japan (late November).

Hike, then relax

Hikers normally take the cable car departing from Unzen. Hiking trails, well-marked and secure (there are shelters in case of danger), offer several observation points towards the three peaks of Fugen-dake (1359m), Myoken-dake (1333m) and Heisei shinzan (1486m). The latter emerged after the wave of eruptions and lava flows of the early 90s (Heisei era), giving it a completely anarchic form. 

During the hike, you mustn't miss the bubbling waters of Unzen Onsen, a village famous for its baths, rich in sulfur and minerals. Or visit Shimabara, and spend the end of your day by the seaside.

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