Thursday, 8 May 2014

Golden Week ( 3 ) Gunma: Yokokawa & Chosunokashira

With the short Golden Week a trip to Akita was unfeasible. As a last minute plan I booked a kokumin shukusha -  literally I guess "citizens' accommodation".  Kokumin shukusha are scattered about the country and are run by either local governments or affiliated with national parks.  We've stayed in them a couple of times before in Chiba and Iwate, and there's something both charmingly retro and ideological.  We often joke about Japan being a communist country and in someways the kokumin shukusha  epitomizes it.  
Much like a minshuku the rooms tend to be Japanese style - tatami  & futons,  and have common bathrooms. The food is strictly Japanese style and doesn't pander to taste preferences.  Thou shalt eat fish, though shalt have rice, there shalt be pickles.  In spring there will be mountain vegetables; there will be sashimi and tempura and some kind of meat for dinner.  
There's a quaint nostalgia in having government recreation areas; a benevolent government giving permission to the masses to go back to nature & relax. The  first kokumin shukusha  dates back to 1956, a time when Japan was on the up. The economy was recovering from the war and the idea of mass international travel for pleasure was unheard of.   Time away in the countryside, communing with nature is an ideal way to recharge the batteries.

We had done no research & a bushwalk around the local area turned into a more adventurous expedition than expected.

The kokumin shukusha Uramyogi
Well signposted walking paths

Steps at the beginning to lull visitors into a false sense of security
that this was going to be how it was.

The mountain  in the distance should have been a clue.

And this.. (Mt Myogi)

But the track was well marked with yellow paint
and signs

Beautiful foliage that would be stunning come autumn.

Chains to climb up the steep rockface

Beautiful spring flowers on the way up
In a few places there was running stream water, (not quite here - the water went
 both above and underground naturally) just as well since we didn't
take any with us... Hiro took his chances with dehydration over dysentery.
I have a "stomach of iron" tetsubara and had no hesitation drinking it.

More chains...

A sign clearly showing the way to the kokumin shukusha,
the station and a hike to a waterfall 2 hours along the ridge.

Yellow crosses warning not to take this route.
I didn't tempt fate.

A little stone shelter. If you look closely you
can see a sake cup on the left.  It was the only
thing resembling a shrine on the mountain.  Maybe in
olden times it wasn't a mountain people had much reason to go up.

Beautiful!  Mt Asama with snow in the background.

If you look closely, there is a man on that rock eating his lunch.
We climbed to there.

hard core ropes.

We could have climbed to the very top, but were content with staying on the ledge one below.

It was a tough climb, but a beautiful view. The people on the ledge were a father and daughter. She
was probably  10 and had remarkable resilience and an amazingly positive attitude to climbing.

Magnificent - Mt Myogi

Mountain azaleas, elegant and understated.
They lack the tartiness of their urban cousins.
I was using Hiro's mobile to take these since I forgot my
charging cable... Unfortunately this picture in particular
does no justice to the subject.

Safely arrived back to the kokumin shukusha.
It was good fortune & not good managment...

Walking map of the area at the station

Walking map at the station

More walking suggestions
    Taxi prices  to local attractions inluding Karuizawa station, the kokumin shukusha,
    and Myogi Jinja.
THe station. Yokokawa is the terminal station of the
Shin'etsu line.  The noodles next door were particularly good (and cheap).
I've had a tip from Allrite that the Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park in Yokokawa is worth
visiting.  It's definitely an area worth going back to.


allrite said...

Thanks for the mention Cecilia and that sounds like an amazing walk. If you or anyone is interested I put some information about my visits to the Usui Pass railway at Yokokawa here and here.

Cecilia said...

Thank you! I've only read the first one yet, but I'm very excited. I had no idea that Takasaki was home to 3 offshoot terminal stations. It's one of my goals to travel on all the Tohoku local lines but so far I've been looking at the macro lines rather than the micro lines.

Anonymous said...

153Lovely pictures, thank you.

I think that small cave is likely an early 20th century charcoal-making pit.

Cecilia said...

Interesting. Thank you very much.