Oshiba Kogen 大芝高原
At michi no eki Oshiba kogen we spend a wet night in a large desolate car park. The toilets are good but would not be adequate if the car park were any less deserted.
Our plan for the day is to visit an old wooden school building with a famous cherry tree, but first we wander around the lake at Oshiba koen. This is a very artificial landscape with severely manicured spherical bushes. The pond area is surrounded by pine woods and there are various paths through these woods, but I don’t think they extend more than a couple of hundred metres.
There are kids playgrounds and athletic areas plus mallet golf and baseball diamonds. A great family outing spot I would suppose.
Kinehara Shogakko 杵原小学校
From the park, we drive to Kinehara shogakko. The school is famous as a film location as it preserves a traditional wooden school building, so is ideal for period drama. It also has a famous cherry tree helpfully located in front of the wooden building.
The school is still active, but the film location area can be viewed. Inside are period classrooms which may or may not be in use. Some rooms are given over to photo exhibitions featuring the aforementioned tree in full bloom, in daytime, night time, sunshine and snow. For us, the tree is no longer blooming but showing fresh green leaves. A week earlier would have been ideal.
Achi Mura Peach Blossom 阿智村
From the school we head for Achi mura area in South Nagano. The village is on the Peach Blossom Road Route 256. We stop at Hirugami Onsen. Unsurprisingly, the place is famous for peach blossom. Here the sakura are well past their prime.
The peach blossoms stretch along a rocky Achi river of pale blue water. The blossoms are striking, ranging in colour from white to a deep red. Single trees sport flowers of different colours. A predominantly white tree will have a branch or two of bright red.
Up close the blossoms, I feel, are heavy and gaudy but viewed from a distance are an intense splash of colour against the muted greens and greys of the mountainsides just coming into leaf.
The peach trees stretch along the river walking course for 1.5km. Achi mura also boasts a Star Watching Tour. A ropeway takes you to the top of the mountain to view the stars.
Peach Blossom Road
From Achi mura we follow the Peach Blossom Road heading for Takayama. This is route 256 to 19 and 361. A delight of a road. Up and down sweeping curves and narrow sections with tight hairpins. There are also splendid views of wide valleys with agricultural villages, hillsides dotted with plum blossom, narrow rocky gorges and distant vistas of snow-capped mountains.
After the early section around Hirugami onsen there was very little traffic and we saw almost no other vehicle for kilometre after kilometre.
As we approach our michi no eki for the night, we see the illuminated cherry tree at Shinmei shrine (Asai district). This tree in a small local shrine and is very beautiful.
Our michi no eki Hida Ashahi mura is a couple of kilometres down the road and we pull in for a well-earned beer.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.