If you want to feel like you’ve stepped into an animated film from Studio Ghibli, “The Road to Laputa” in Kyushu is one place you won’t want to miss.
As the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, Kyushu is a world away from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. With abundant hot springs and several active volcanoes, the area has some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country, particularly around the Mount Aso region in Kumamoto Prefecture.
Mount Aso is an active volcano with one of the world’s largest calderas, which measures up to 26 kilometres in diameter and 100 kilometres in circumference. A caldera is formed when a volcano collapses into itself after an eruption, resulting in a large, basin-like depression and an outer rim that makes for an unusual landscape and some stunning scenery.
Here on Mt. Aso, the road that runs through the expansive grasslands along the ancient rim is known as “Milk Road”, due to its large population of grazing cows. If you know the way, it will also lead you to one of Japan’s best-kept secret locations: the Road to Laputa.
Fans of Studio Ghibli’s 1986 animated film Castle in the Sky will know Laputa as the mythical island that floats through the clouds. When the caldera basin fills with cloud, this particular patch of road appears to vanish into the sky, earning it the name “The Road to Laputa”. If there’s anywhere in Japan you might catch a glimpse of the magical world, this is surely the place, but with no signposts, you’ll need to follow some insider directions to get here.
About ten minutes after heading south on the Milk Road (marked as number 339) from Aso Skyline, you’ll come across this Jizo statue on your left. Turn left and immediately on your right you’ll see a cleared area where you can park your car. Get out here and it’s a short walk to the scenic spot.
▼ The only tourist sign here is a large rock with “Raputa no Michi” (“Road to Laputa”) scrawled across it.
From here you’ll be able to look out to the road that leads off into the sky. Even without the early morning cloud cover, the view is breathtaking.
Beware, though! Proving that the pathway between heaven and earth is perilous, the area is prone to falling rocks and other hazards, particularly during times of strong winds and rain.
The area is slowly becoming more well-known through word-of-mouth, so if you’d like to enjoy a moment to yourself in the world of Laputa without crowds of selfie-snapping tourists, be sure to add this to your Japan bucket-list!
Road to Laputa
Address: Road to Laputa, Kario, Aso-shi, Kumamoto Prefecture 869-2235
〒869-2235 熊本県阿蘇市狩尾 ラピュタロード