This weekend was a holiday weekend in Japan with Monday off work due to Marine Day (see separate post).
I did a 2 day hike from Sasa-ga-mine to Tsubame Onsen passing over 2 of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains.
I first travelled to Nagano, the main town in Nagano Prefecture and host to the 1998 Winter Olympics on Friday night. I got out of work, had a very quick turn around at home (already all packed) and caught the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano. It was late but I had some soba noodles and tempura and stayed in a hotel close to the station.
On Saturday I got up early and travelled further into the hills. My travel involved a train to Myoto Kogen and then a bus to Sasa-ga-mine. I have the Lonely Planet Guide to Hiking in Japan that helpfully tells you how to get to all these hikes – otherwise I’d be lost!
I got walking around 1015. Most of the walk was on boards. These hills are known for their wild flowers so the boards are to prevent erosion and to protect the flora. Most of the walking was forested but there was a very nice swampy area with many lovely flowers and good views up of Hiuchi-yama.
The weather was good for walking, a bit overcast with sunny and showery intervals.
I stayed the night in Kurosawa-ike Hut. My first Japanese mountain hut experience. The place was fantastic, a kind of space dome with room for 100 – best explained with a photo!
I made several etiquette errors in the hut
1. Wearing the slippers up to my room – these were outside slippers! (I was followed up and slippers were removed.)
2. Picking up the bamboo foot massage that was supposed to live on the floor when someone tripped over it!
Still they were friendly and gave me some lovely postcards including some very cool art ones. I think I was a novelty, for a while I was the only Gainji (foreigner) in the hut. Later a French/Swedish couple arrived and the three of us got the kind of ‘top table’ with some free sake at the end if the meal!
I arrived there about 1500 after about 13.5 km with plenty of steep climbing. It gave me plenty of time to relax, write my blog and enjoy a beer. Observing local hikers they were all older and had come prepared with plenty of alcohol, at least for late afternoon drinking!
Bed was early, as soon as dinner was done (served at 1800) then nearly everyone headed for bed. I was in bed by 1930.
On Sunday morning the lights went on at 0400 to get everyone up for breakfast at 0430. It had been raining all night but stopped by 0400 and the day turned out nice, hot and sunny. It was a much more challenging climb on Sunday compared to Saturday including a fairly stepped snow slope and plenty of rocks to get over where hands were required. I had started walking at 0500 and arrived at the peak (Myoko-San) just before 0700. It was beautiful, lovely early morning light and views across to the Northern Alps.
The walk back down was also good, a few places with chains and ropes and quite a long way down through bamboo and then along the edge of a deep ravine before coming out of the trees just above Tsubame Onsen. I stopped just above the village to use the free open air Onsen (called a rotenburo). It was perfect, I was there alone at first so could clean off the last 2 days mud and sweat before relaxing in the hot waters looking back up at the trees.
I was lucky I quickly got a bus down to Sekiyama station and headed back to Nagano.
It was a really great weekend.