Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tambo Art, Inakadate, 2015

This year's theme at Inakadate's ricefield art was Gone with the Wind.  Hiro's father has a particular fondness for the movie and so we popped into see it on our way to Mt Hakkoda. The detail that they achieve through different coloured rice is truly remarkable.

The second feature was Star Wars.

A tribute to Ken Takakura

Hachimantai 3: Late summer flowers of Hachimantai

I don't remember the names of any except the white one in the top row - umebachi.  Locals are forecasting an early winter. The umebachi is an autumn flower and is already out, but to be fair according to the old Japanese calendar, autumn started last week.

Hachimantai 2: Hachimantai National Park.

From Fukenoyu we went on to the opening where you can climb Mt Hachimantai itself, but since you're already so high, the summit is a stroll rather than mountain climbing. We were there in the summer two years ago but the weather conditions didn't lend themselves to walking around then.  

Hachimantai National Park
The area is well signposted, though only in Japanese.
To be fair, it's not a place that tends to see foreign tourists
who are more interested in the well beaten path between
Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. (all of which are well
worth visiting). Tourist hotspots in Japan tend to reflect proximity
to a Shinkansen line which is not always the best indicator.

There were quite a few maps, but this one at the entrance
was in need of repair. Otherwise facilities were in very good nick.

Alpine scenery

There are many lakes on the highland

As can be seen on the map above

English here.
We could have hiked to here from Fuku no Yu

Where we stopped for lunch

Walking through the highlands

The cloud meant that were were unable to see far off mountains like
Chokkai san and Akita Komagatake

High level conservation with walking paths through most of the area we walked.
So few people....

Small lakes punctuate the highlands

A good place to escape the Tokyo crowds.

Logistics of Hachimantai

A big part of the reason that tourists don't go to the area, despite it being quite beautiful

 and despite it having terrific onsen

is that the transport is more complex and less frequent than the Shinkansen.   This give you some idea (picture taken in 2013) so don't use for accuracy.

Bus information is now online in English. It probably needs looking at with google maps in the other, but it's great progress to have the information readily available.
Japan Guide has made a  pretty good effort to show how places are connected to other places.

The updated English bus timetable for the area is below.

More work still needs to be done on getting hiking maps into foreign language. This would enable people to travel more easily across country on walking paths / hiking trails.
Walking paths from Goshogake

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Hachimantai 1 Visitor centre & Fukenoyu

Hiro's parents are avid mountain climbers, and were keen to go mountain climbing / hiking while I was up there. The first day we went to Hachimantai National Park. I have been to the visitor centre opposite Lake Onuma many times, but never to the volcano that is just behind it...
A mud volcano, a characteristic of the area

Steam rising from the mud

Hydrangeas in August!

Mud volcano
A rather self-evident sign to take care because it is hot...

Steaming mud volcano

From the volcano behind the visitor centre, we went to Fukenoyu, an onsen not far down the road, which I also hadn't been to before.

Fuke no Yu

A rotenburo with the onsen behind
Huts for lying in 

Volcanic activity at Fuke no Yu

Apparently the onsen used to be located in this area but was lost to a landslide after heavy rain.

Steam holes in the ground

Water from the onsen - it's milky water not polluted.

Obon - the way up

I have just returned from an Obon trip to Akita.  I'd considered taking the night bus, because it's more time efficient, but being Obon, seats were fully booked by the time I got around to inquiring. But the trains are fun. They were more crowded than usual, perhaps due to the route I took, but more likely because of the Obon season.  It was the first time to see people travelling from Tokyo to northern Tohoku on seishun 18 tickets with young children.
I arrived at the local station with 7 min to spare to catch the last train that would get me there on a single day. A comfortable buffer zone, until I couldn't find the seishun 18 on the ticket machine. The station attendant was amiable, and ambled out to help me... It's on the shinkansen ticket machine, not the regular one...  I caught the train with half a second to spare.

It baffles me why people tolerate this.
A young punk legs spread, bag on the vacant seat
next to him... Two people in their 60s standing in front of him...
It wasn't "silver seats" but a vacant empty seat being hogged by a bag.
When it happens to me I always ask people to move it...
And they do, usually apologetically (practiced at feigning methinks).


Rice crops on the way up.
This is so different to the winter scenery from my March trip up.

Between Fukushima and Yonezawa.

Fukushima - Yonezawa

I had an hour break at Yonezawa. It's a more interesting place to
wait than Shinjo, largely because there is a standing noodle bar just
outside the station. I indulged in a kakiage soba.
The tempura is cancelled out by the low fat soup broth ;).

A Yamagata University student holding a sign for
an open campus shuttle bus.  It was hot, and
Hiro's alma mater was Yamadai... so I bought him a bottle
of chilled tea. 

Going north near Shinjo


Mamurogawa in Yamagata

Mamurogawa, Mogami, Yamagata

The sun going down at Yuzawa, Akita

It was a quick change at Akita. Just enough time to ring Hiro's mother to let her know I hadn't missed a connection and would arrive at 10.19 as scheduled.  As usual the train was full at Akita city and gradually thinned out over the journey back to Odate.    By the time the train gets to Hachirogata, there are not many people left.  Two very respectable looking obasans took practicality into their own hands and stretched out to sleep.  In Tokyo when people do this they are invariably male and drunk, though they would probably also take off their shoes (social condition of the deepest kind?).