Higashikawa michi no eki turns out to be an ok place to stay. Even though the parking is a little separate from the michi no eki building and, therefore, the toilet, it is closer than many. It is also busy with buses in the morning and has no rubbish bins.
On the other hand, it is quiet and handy for Asahidake which is our first objective for the day.
The weather is debatable, so we decide to drive to the ropeway station and check the weather at the summit from there. On the way, we see another Northern Fox (Kitakitsune).
At the ropeway station, we learn that, although the weather is cloudy, the view is reasonably good. We also learn that significant snow remains on the 1-hour circular trail. This course is all we are prepared for, having no serious equipment.
This is better than expected, so we take the ropeway to the top, an exhilarating ride with good views all around.
D. lost her sole hiking on Rebun so has no boots. However, rubber boots are available for hire at 300 Yen at the upper ropeway – Sugatami station. This is as well, as there was more snow than expected and, for long stretches, slushy snow squelched and crunched underfoot.
The view was indeed good, even if the higher peaks were cloud covered and the lower distances distinctly hazy.
We passed a large group of enthusiasts, with massive cameras, hoping for a shot of the Pine Grosbeak. This is one of the few spots for such an opportunity. Unfortunately, there were also several very noisy groups, so bird sightings seemed unlikely. We did spot a Siberian Ruby Throat and possibly an Indian Tree Pipit despite the snowball fights, laughter and selfies.
In all, a wonderful and unusual walk, with the snow melt forming pools in the craters and gas pouring from sulphur ringed vents under grey skies and patchy sunshine.
We spend too much time on what we expected to be a short walk and consequently have no lunch, making do with an energy bar.
＊Asahidake Ropeway; 2900 yen / return for adult
Tokachidake Onsen ‘Ryounkaku 凌雲閣
After shopping in Asahikawa, we head off to Tokachidake Onsen Ryounkaku. This boasts murky “iron” water but is as picturesque as an underground car park blended with a public convenience. You find yourself in a concrete and tile bunker with a large lava boulder as a centre piece. The boulder, I admit, is impressive.
The outside bath was tepid and the view unexceptional, possibly due to low cloud. Overall, I was not convinced. D. liked it.
After the bath, and it is a long way up the mountain to get clean, we head to Minami Furano michi no eki. This place is popular for shachuhaku, apparently, as we are the 3rd Kyushu reg. vehicle in the place.
＊Ryounkaku onsen ; 800 yen / adult
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.