Unzen-Amakusa National Park in Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima
Unzen-Amakusa National Park consists of the area surrounding Mt. Unzen-dake in the middle of the Shimabara Peninsula and the islands of Amakusa. The Unzen area is a resort district built around Mt. Fugen-dake, which is famous for volcanic activity that occurred in 1990, and numerous local hot springs. The Amakusa area is celebrated for the beauty of its 120 islands, large and small, in the Ariake and Yatsushiro seas.
<Where to see>
Mt. Unzen-dake is the collective name given to the Unzen Mountain Range, called Sanpo-Godake (Myoken-dake, Fugen-dake, Kunimi-dake, the three crests and No-dake, Kusenbu-dake, Ya-dake, Mt. Takaiwa, Mt. Kinugasa, the five peaks).
In 1990, Mt. Fugen-dake began to show signs of volcanic activity and eventually erupted. Highly viscous molten lava formed dome-shaped volcanic blocks. Pyroclastic flow would emerge repeatedly as these blocks then collapsed. Both the mountain slopes and the built-up areas of Shimahara suffered tremendous damage.
The lava dome that was newly formed was named Mt. Heisei-Shinzan (1,483 meters above sea level). It became the highest peak on Shimahara Peninsula to constitute a key element of a new volcanic landscape along with the vacant lots cleared by pyroclastic flow at the foot of the mountain.
As the elevation of Mt. Unzen-dake as a whole is quite high, summer-green forests that are rare for Kyushu abound in this area. Throughout the green season, visitors can explore various types of flowering grasses, wild birds, and more. A wide array of trees that don autumnal colors, including maple, also grow here and their foliage helps to create superb landscape scenes in the fall. Frost is produced at the summit in around February of each year. This phenomenon is known locally as hana-boro ("flowery clusters of ice") and is beloved as a scenic attraction that symbolizes Unzen in winter.
-Colonies of Kyushu Azalea-
The Kyushu azalea is the official flower of Nagasaki Prefecture. This species of azalea consists of shrubs that produce magnificently beautiful flowers.
The Kyushu azalea grows naturally throughout the Unzen area. They are especially numerous in and around Ikenohara, Houbaru, the Nita Pass, and elsewhere. In these locations, the entire field is covered by colonies of azalea plants.
The best time to see these plants bloom every year is from the middle to the end of May. The period for enjoying these flowers is relatively long, however, since the plants in the vicinity of the Jigoku area, where the elevation is low and temperatures are high, start blossoming first, followed progressively by colonies further up the mountain to areas of higher elevation.
Water vapor containing hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide spews forth at various locations throughout the vicinity of the Unzen Onsen district. With vegetation unable to grow at locations with significant amounts of discharge, a desolate rocky expanse dominates here to form so called Unzen Jigoku ("Hell").
The offensive smell of sulfur fills the air throughout this place. The rocks near fumaroles either degenerate and become brittle or they become caked in sulfur and sinter. In addition to discharged gas, hot-spring water gushes out at many sites and is used to supply water to the Unzen Onsen district.
Since days of old, each individual jigoku site has been named according to details pertinent to its particular history. (Examples of these names include Hachiman-Jigoku, Seishichi-Jigoku, and Daikyokan-Jigoku.) This location is also famous as the site of the persecution of local Christians in medieval times. A monument to these martyrs has been erected here inside the Unzen Jigoku area.
Enkianthus cernuus and other varieties of azalea shrubs grow abundantly in fields surrounding Unzen Jigoku. These plants bloom beautifully at the beginning of summer.
Located between the islands of Amakusa-Kamishima and Oyanojima is Matsushima, one of the three great pine-wooded islands of Japan. It lies amid a seascape of numerous islands set like jewels in a tranquil sea and features a classic deeply-indented coastline. This view can be enjoyed from Mt. Takabuto or Mt. Sengan while the coast itself allows visitors to enjoy exploring tidal flats and beaches or engaging in sea bathing. The Amakusa Visitor Center presents information on how to obtain the most out of the natural environment at Amakusa.
Along parts of the eastern coast of Amakusa-Kamishima are steep cliffs that were created through fault activity and land upheavals. Other parts are characterized by a stretch of gently sloping land whose ridgeline is beloved by mountaineers as a Kankai Alps course belonging to the Kyushu Nature Trail. As you follow the course, you will come across Mt. Shiratake, Mt. Ryugatake, and Mt. Kura-take, peaks with peculiar forms marked by protruding giant rocks. Campgrounds have been built within these peaks to allow visitors to freely admire the landscape found here.
On the straight-line eastern coast of Amakusa-Shimoshima are sea cliffs eroded by the waves of the Amakusanada Sea. These cliffs rise straight up to provide a majestic view of the open sea. Myokengaura consists of a stretch of sea cliffs comprising alternating layers of sandstone and conglomerate rocks to a height of more than 80 meters. Offshore, places of unusual beauty can be found in the cave mouths and caverns of Myokengaura.
Tomioka is a peninsula that have come to connect with the land by growth of sandbar jutting out towards the northwest tip of Amakusa-Shimoshima. Flat, terrestrial sandbars are found here while amazing sand spits exist on Magarizaki at the tip of this peninsula. The southwest side of Tomioka conforms to a deeply indented coastline where shore reefs and sea cliffs exist. This area has been designated a Marine Park Zone where colorfully vivid Meristotheca papulosa (Montagne) algae flourish in the sea and schools of tropical fish can be seen.
The Tomioka Visitor Center has been built by the site of the Tomioka castle ruins. Drop by to find out more about the natural environment and history of Amakusa.
The seacoast of Ushibuka consists of many inlets and varies considerably while the mountains further inland are clad primarily in broad-leaved evergreen forests. This area is home to a huge diversity of coral, tropical fish, and other organisms. Nine distinctive Marine Park Zones have been designated. Visitors can enjoy scenes of underwater beauty by riding in glass-bottomed boats.
Nagashima is an island located in the southern end of the Yatsushiro Sea. The island boasts a topography and landscape that are defined by a heavily indented seacoast. Cape Takagushi constitutes an ideal vantage point from which you can see not only this landscape but also the Nagashima Strait, the islands dotting this strait, and Amakusa-Shimoshima on the opposite shore.
- Mountains at Unzen area and sea in Amakusa area across Nagasaki, Kumamoto, and Kagoshima