I was in Mt. Aso last week and met some very interesting people and learned a new word, "caldera," not to be confused with a volcanic crater. Mt. Aso's caldera measures 25 km. north to south. The whole city is inside it. You look up and see the giant rim everywhere you go. as Wikipedia tells us caldera are know to host rich mineral deposits, and Mt. Aso certainly does. They dig it up with bulldozers, a wonderful yellow ore, a pigment, and a vitamin supplement. It looks like Raw Sienna from Italy, and if you roast it it becomes a strong iron red color. Japanese call the color "bengara." They gave me some to play with, raw and roasted.
There are great hot springs, great water, and remarkably sophisticated food. I have eaten a lot of hot spring hotel food. It always looks great, but does not always taste that way, not always fresh. The meals I had in Mt. Aso were remarkably good.
And a final discovery, on my way out of town I stopped at a little stationary store, wonderful place, bought some ink for my pen. The guy suggested a bamboo pen. I didn't laugh in his face, but come on. I have been whittling bamboo pens before he was born. But then I bought one, 600 yen, what the heck. It is great, ten times better than I have ever made. It was made from the bamboo they used to use for the samurai's arrow shafts. Never doubt a Japanese crafts person.
I received an email: 阿蘇の松谷文華堂でアルカイック工房のBAMBOO PEN をお買い上げくださいましてありがとうございました。
it recommends for now buying the pens from Aso, Matsutani, Bunhana-do. It is the fine little shop where found them.