Lying in the centre of Oita Prefecture, located north of the onsen Mecca, Beppu, and south of the city of Usa, Ajimu is nestled in a green valley that harbors hot summers and cold winters. Ajimu, despite its small size and inaka status, has a convenient expressway entrance/exit that makes traveling to or from the town relatively easy. For those wishing to travel on the curvy, narrow roads that Japan is famous for, there are multiple highways going through the town to take one to points north or south.
Ajimu is famous for its specialty turtle meat, suppon, which supposedly grants increased strength and endurance to those brave enough to eat the carefully prepared reptile meat. For someone seeking simpler meals, there is also a local Lawson convenience store and a Joyfull family restaurant in town. The Joyfull is of particular note because it offers a Chinese buffet in the evenings.
Just beyond the town's borders, one can enjoy a mix of Japanese culture and scenery. Only about 2 kilometers from town are the dramatic Cliffs that provide a nice snapshot and provide a stunning view of the surrounding area once climbed. Another few kilometers from there one spots a five-storied pagoda stretching out from the tree line and marking the spot of a shrine and small museum.
In the opposite direction outside of town, along Route 500, one will come across the ancient "Hell and Heaven", a Buddhist creation that has inspired visitors for hundreds of years. This site is a series of small caves filled with statues of Buddha and demons that eventually exits at dangling chain. This marks the exit of hell and the passage into heaven if visitors are brave enough to attempt to climb the chain up the stone shaft leading to the top of a hill that symbolizes heaven (there is also a staircase to take one to top of the hill).
A few more kilometers down Route 500, one discovers the highest waterfall on Kyūshū, Higashishiiya taki. A truly scenic place, the walk through the woods to reach the falls allows visitors to step into a natural world bordered by tall trees and clear water. The waterfall itself roars down into a deep pool that provides visitors with a cool, refreshing swim.
Ajimu, an inaka town with all the scenic beauty of rural Japan, not so far removed from civilization that trips into nearby cities is an arduous task. A visit to the local sites is sure to restore one's spirits and leave one longing for more of the mythical countryside of Japan.
Justin Shaddix - ALT in Ajimu, 2005-2007