Kuju Mountains: Explore Kyushu’s Volcanic Mountain Range
Hiking through a Living Palette
If I had come to the Kuju Mountains some 40 years earlier, I might have met Heiji. She might have accompanied me on the trails, setting the pace until we stopped for lunch. Or she might have led the way up to the nearest peak, where we would enjoy the view from the top. And just in case I got lost or injured, she might have famously appeared out of nowhere to support and guide me back down to safety in Chojabaru. Heiji was never born to be an official search-and-rescue dog; everything she did was of her own initiative. The well-known Akita was a lovingly adopted stray, an altruistic guide, and a free spirit who spent her entire life roaming and patrolling the Kuju Mountains.
Heiji may have passed away in 1988, but I am all the more inspired to explore this volcanic mountain range that she called home. With several peaks at more than 1,700 meters above sea level, the Kuju Mountains are nicknamed the “Roof of Kyushu,” situated a buzzard’s flight away from the massive Aso Caldera, all within the Aso-Kuju National Park straddling Kumamoto and Oita prefectures.