Mt. Aso is the largest active volcano in Japan, and we are in a
large valley where the "mountains" that surround us are actually
the walls of a another, very large, very old crater. The
rail line comes into the this old crater through a break in the
old cone. Aso (and Fukuoka) are on the island of Kyushu,
which sits on a string of active and recently active volcanoes.
Though Mt. Aso is a tourist attraction, this is a small town --
about 25,000 people. Perhaps because there is a
typhoon coming in and the sky is overcast, the town reminds me
of the town in Kawabata's Snow Country.
Sometimes Japan is efficiently difficult. We arrived in
Aso on a Japan Railways train, the station has no technology to
read our Japan Railway transit cards, only individual tickets
purchased for cash, so we had to pay our train fare in
cash. This also meant our cards wouldn't work until we
carry them back to Fukuoka (without using them because they have
been deactivated) and show the little paper receipts we received
in Aso. So, we must pay two train fares in cash before we
can use our cards again. That's a large, unexpected cash
outlay (the very nice and efficient hostel accepts credit cards
only for deposits, not for paying the balance, huh?) and
unexpected cash payments mean a hunt for the Japan Post
ATM. Sigh. It's like being in some backwards place
-- like New Jersey, for example.