This is part of Mt. Aso, an active volcano in Kyushu. I believe this is called Naka dake, or middle mountain. I know, it's a lot of smoke... but do you see the cool greenish water through the smoke?
And these are the concrete shelters that you are supposed to run to and that are supposed to protect you if Naka dake suddenly decides to unexpectedly blow. HAHAHAHAHA.
After the volcano, we drove around the area, finally ending up going to see a famous cherry tree. The Japanese love their cherry blossoms, as they see them as a definite sign that spring is coming. During this season, people flock to parks to admire the blossoms, and to have drunken parties while sitting under the trees. Jeff and I understand this admiration of the cherry blossom. However, we were quite unprepared to become part of a Thursday afternoon traffic jam of people trying to get to see this ONE TREE. And we were even more unprepared to enter the parking lot for this ONE TREE... the parking lot with room for hundreds of cars... and TOUR BUSES.
Here is me, Mikiko, Emiko, and Uncle Yuji in front of THE TREE. Admittedly, this picture doesn't show all of THE TREE, so you can't get a full appreciation of THE TREE. But heck, we were there, and we still don't get what all the fuss is about. OK, there is the fact that it's been around since 1580, but hundreds of cars, loudspeakers blaring music, a string of food stalls, its own boardwalk,... and TOUR BUSES???
Yup, only in Japan.
And finally, here is Jeff and I with the family as we are saying good-bye. Here you can see Aunt Keiko and Obasan.