Kumamoto Prefecture‘s stunning “Road To Laputa“, which looks like Studio Ghibli’s Castle in the Sky come to life, may close permanently.
Mount Aso is a volcano in Kumamoto Prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu. On one ridge of its caldera, which is one of the largest in the world, can be found a narrow path which in the right weather conditions seems to weave its way through the clouds, as if whisking you off to the beautiful floating island of Laputa, seen in Studio Ghibli’s 1986 Hayao Miyazaki-directed anime film Castle in the Sky. The resemblance is so strong that the path has been dubbed “The Road to Laputa“, a little-known scenic gem we were lucky enough to visit and that warrants a spot on anybody’s Japan bucket-list.
▼ The path has glorious views across the caldera and much of Kumamoto Prefecture,
rural beauty a world away from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s major cities.
According to the Kumamoto Nichi Nichi Shimbun Newspaper, on August 22 Aso City Council announced that it is considering closing down the Road to Laputa despite its popularity with tourists. The path and the road that leads to it, known as the “Milk Road”, took extensive damage during last year’s Kumamoto earthquakes and also landslides caused by the period of heavy rain which followed. If repairs were made, it’s estimated that it would cost the city over 10 billion yen (US$91.6 million).
While technically still accessible (although with large signs forbidding entry) the damage has left both the road and path in a serious state of disrepair and further landslides still a possibility. These Twitter users braved the walk to record the damage, but I imagine even they wouldn’t be foolhardy enough to try it during the misty weather that gave the Road to Laputa its name.
阿蘇、天空の道。の見えるあたり。 なんか前に来た時より道が歪んできた気が。 早くガードレール側だけでもコンクリとかで埋めんと、雨で削ぎ落とされて完全に崩れてしまう #ラピュタの道#天空の道 https://t.co/bpIahCl8zQ—
R (@r_ajing) August 15, 2017
ライダーの皆さん 現在ラピュタの道はこの様な状態です。 #ラピュタの道 https://t.co/uoVUxowVWj—
ウッチー (@redbull0506) August 02, 2017
The Aso City Council has applied for the case to be assessed by the national government. If the government considers the damage to be disaster-related and sufficiently important, the city may receive financial support, although the council has already stated that even with subsidies the cost of repair may be more of a burden than the city can bear, suggesting that the best chances to see the Road to Laputa might be behind us.
▼ When the caldera fills with clouds, the scenery is breathtaking.
世界の絶景・癒される風景＠相互フォロー (@abcde4963) June 25, 2017
If the road does end up being permanently closed and you (quite rightly) don’t fancy taking your chances on the landslide-susceptible hill in foggy weather, there is an alternative in the form of the beautiful ruins of Takeda Castle in Hyogo Prefecture which caught at the right time appear to be nestled by a sea of clouds, and can also lay claim to being the real-life Laputa.
▼ Rival for the title: Hyogo Prefecture’s Takeda Castle
「兵庫県」竹田城 またの名を"天空の城"と呼ばれる。ジブリが好きな方はご存知かな？ここは"天空の城ラピュタ"のモチーフになった。たまにしか雲海ができないので根気強く見に行こう！見れたら一生目に焼き付くこと間違いなし！ https://t.co/cRvbcUCfok—
1度は行ってみたい日本の良い所！ (@kkbbtt8) July 10, 2017
Takeda Castle is also a little off the beaten track, to the north of Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture, surely the only reason it didn’t make it into this year’s top twenty castles.