Although Kumamoto City has nearly three-quarters of a million people, that’s generally considered small by Japanese standards. Indeed, rural life is bountiful here, with Aso-Kuju National Park, Kikuchi Gorge, and plenty of aesthetically pleasing rice paddies. One hour away from Kumamoto City on the train and you’re entering the giant volcano caldera of Mt. Aso. Located on the western edge of the bowl, Akamizu Station can be reached by taking the JR Houhi Line straight from Kumamoto without transferring for 820 yen. I also recommend taking the deluxe Aso Boy train operated by JR. Aso Boy is an express train that connects Kumamoto Station and Aso Station. In between, it stops at several other stations and Akamizu is one of them. It costs an extra 1,100 yen but is definitely worth it. There is a lounge, panorama seats, café, reading room, etc. Instead of just sitting on the train, you can have a table to enjoy the drinks bought on the train while reading a book. If you have kids, they can play in a pool filled with tiny wood balls.
Akamizu Station itself is a very simple station. But I personally like the simplicity of it; it’s a great opportunity to see a charming countryside station reminiscent of a Miyazaki or Ozu film. There is only one platform and one entrance. Unlike the stations in Tokyo, there is no electronic wicket. Instead you buy the ticket directly from the station employee. You can freely go on the platform to take a picture of the train with the vast view of mountains and rice fields that surrounds the station.
Despite the station being very simple and located it a rural area, there are several attractions in the vicinity. Sarumawashi Theater is located less than 10 minutes away by taxi. Sarumawashi is an old Japanese performance originating in the Nara period more than 1,300 years ago. This performance involves monkeys performing tasks such as jumping through hoops and dancing along with music. Aso Farmland, a 7 minute taxi ride from the station, is a park where you can rest, stay, eat, play, and buy. There are many excellent hot springs available within the park to relax and relieve your stress. You can also enjoy a variety of activities for both adults and kids here, take a look at their large stock of souvenirs, and spend the night at their dome shaped hotels. There are also a couple more onsen near the station, five nice golf courses, and Hayataka Tenman-gu, a shrine to the north of the town.