Saturday, 16 May 2015

Shirakami, the unexplored Akita side. Buna no Mori Koen

At Teihazaka there was a sign for Buna no Mori Koen a few kilometres down the road.  Since we'd already come an hour to Tehaizaka, it seemed a pity to miss the opportunity to see what was at the "Beech Tree park".  According to the welcome sigh it was opened in in Heisei 9 (1997) when Shirakami Sanchi was registered as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage sight.  It was so pretty, and for Honshu, so remote. 
In Akita I am often dismayed about how little nouse the prefecture displays in showcasing itself. It's like a black hole on a tourist map.  Bunanomori koen doesn't even appear on Google maps. Despite being relatively close to the JR Gono line there is no public transport here.  Even local people don't know about it... Hiro's parents who are avid mountain climbers and mountain vegetable gatherers and read the local and national newspapers every day had no idea of it.  They were amazed at how beautiful it was.  

We drove as far as possible and then walked a few kilometres to a hut which had public toilets and an office for a park attendant, though there was none there. It was stunning path, lines with waterfalls, that traced the Mizusawa, a moutain stream that rises in the Shirakami and flows a short distance out into the Japan Sea.  From the hut there were walking courses into the mountains, but they were not particularly signposted and there was no attendant. Maybe the situation is different when the road is fully clear and cars can go through the whole way to the attendant's office.   Since we'd walked several kms to attendants hut, and we hadn't brought lunch, we didn't look for mountain paths.  Perhaps summer will give the opportunity to do so.

If anyone out in cyberland wants to start an eco retreat centre.  This is an area worth investigating (though it's inaccessible 4 months of the year with snow).

A welcome sign for the park which is 7 km down the road,
above Maezawa dam.
The road to Buna no Mor Koen.
There's not a lot of traffic there - keep in mind it was
at Golden Week one of Japan's biggest holiday seasons.
We  saw a couple of cars pulled up for fishing or mountain vegetable picking.
But that was it. No sightseers at all.

We walked upstream from here

The melting snow in the mountains meant high volumes of water in the Mizusawa River.

On the road near the bridge a backhoe, which had been used to
clear the road / pathway was  positioned to block the road.

Signs of spring

So pretty

Just as well the backhoe was blocking the road.
It wouldn't be a good spot for a U-turn.

Kogomi mountain vegetable

Spot the frog
A  bit easier in this one

A non edible mountain vegetable

Bits of snow still remaining

Looking down from the attendant's hut area.

A sign for a walking course.

The Mizusawa River

Shirakami map

At the attendants's hut.  The posts don't do much for the view


The sign to say that it's the Buna no Mori Koen...
In a country looking for places for the 20 million target tourists to go,
this area has potential, if anyone had the willingness to do market
research and invest.  My feeling in Japan is that a lot of investment takes
place without the scantest regard for what is actually needed.

There were many waterfalls.

We took our shoes off to walk through.
The water could only have been a few degrees
above freezing.

The Misuzawa

The park is above the Maezawa dam.
A dam whose merit is hard to see.
Other than for the construction companies who
built it.

The area

Monday, 11 May 2015


In Golden Week 2011, we visited the abandoned village of Tehaizaka in Happo, northern Akita.  At the time I was amazed how totally off tourism radar it was; it's still far far from the radar now.  In fact it's so far off the radar that my blog is still about the only thing that comes up for it in an English Google Search.... 
It was stark and forlorn before. and I wanted to come back when the peach trees were blooming. Spring came early to northern Tohoku this year. In Hirosaki, the sakura came and went well before Golden Week, the usual time when they bloom. This was much to the dismay of local shop keepers who missed the fortuitous timing.  But it was lucky for us. Tehaizaka has been filed away as a must return place. We returned and it was magnificient. Still forlorn, but not bleak. Forlornly  but charmingly decaying... somewhat akin to the passengerless Marie Celeste still having white linen tablecloths.

At the village entry sign, there is now an additional note to inform
where the nearest public toilets are..Japan truly is a public toilet paradise.

The river that runs behind the village. It's very full at this time
of the year with all the melting snow.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Golden Week: Iwaki san

Hiro's SIL and nieces came to stay for a night. We went on a trip to Iwaki san near Hirosaki in Aomori prefecture, about an hour and a half by car. It's apple blossom season at the moment, and Hirosaki is the capital of apples in all Japan. The day was a little hazy, and we couldn't see as far as Hokkaido, but it was a very pleasant day out.
Mt Iwaki

Shirakami Sanchi World Heritage Area from Iwaki san

Snow on the top

The summit of Iwaki san

We took the gondola. It was the first time for all of us but
Hiro's parents to take the gondola.  The first time I climbed
Iwaki san the wind was so strong I slipped as I grabbed a marking
rope and put a large gash in my head.....  This time was much smoother.

Beech trees on the way up the mountain.
There is a bus from Hiroasaki  via Iwaki Jinja, where I've walked from previously, 
that goes to gondolas at the 8th station

Snow by the gondola. Fuki no tou, a mountain vegetable on the gondola path

Magnificent Iwaki san and apple blossoms

Golden week: Fukushima and Yamagata

Golden week has been and gone. The unseasonably warm weather provided ideal conditions for biking. We left the expressway at Fukushima and travelled through the lesser travelled roads of Fukushima and Yamagata.
Mt Bandai, Fukushima
Ura Bandai
Lake Hibara which is apparently a mesotrophic lake, formed when Bandai san errupted
in the late 1800s.
Lake Hibara
We took the the road around the back of Bandai san  to Yonezawa, Route 2, via Lake Hibara.
The road is a bikers paradise, snaking its way up and around and down Tohachiyama
Bandai National Park
Still snow in the mountains
Lake Hibara

The Bandai area borders Yamagata prefecture, and we rode up towards the flat farmland of 
Yonezawa, and north along route 287 before rejoining the expressway that goes to Futasui.
A late blooming sakura at a michi no eki south of  Ohe machi.
Yamagata farmland. This would have been covered in snow when I was up there in March.