Oct. 31st. 2022,
Michi no eki Konoka is excellent for an overnight stay. It has a restaurant that closes at 8pm as does the onsen. The onsen is very good, but I have no experience of the restaurant. I suspect river fish high on the menu as this is a fishing spot.
It is also close to the entrance to the UFO line, just before the Kanpuzan tunnel on R.194. We have driven this road before but only in thick fog, so we are here for the views.
D. has checked the weather forecast and planned to be here on this day. She and the meteorological office are correct as it is a magnificent, clear, if chilly morning.
The night at Konoka was cold as it is at a high altitude. We needed to break out the sleeping bags for the first time in weeks.
The UFO line early on a Monday morning is a delight to drive, narrow and serpentine, of course, but with outstanding views. The koyo (autumn colour) is wonderful in places but decidedly patchy. Too warm and too dry, I think. The leaves have, for the most part, just withered.
There are large white numbers on the tarmac surface of the UFO Line that, I suppose, mark the kilometres. Between points 16 – 17 we stop to climb Kamegamori mountain (1897m).
This has two peaks, male and female, and a loop hike covering both. We climb the female peak and then make a mistake and return the same way. Probably, following the circle to encompass both is the better option. The hike is not that long and takes about an hour to the summit of the female and higher peak.
The going varies a lot. At first a long flat section and then a steep ascent. Here the terrain is large stones sometimes a bit loose underfoot. There is also the occasional large step scramble but nothing difficult.
The views on this clear morning are very fine. Mt. Ishizuchi standing tall and a bank of cloud far off and far below. Blue ridges, rugged rock faces, sasa slopes and a distant sea. Worth the effort. The descent is easy but some large steps jarred my knees, so I was glad of my walking poles even though they were unnecessary most of the way.
Michi no eki Yusuhara
Next, we take a quick hike up Ibukiyama. This is literally a ten-minute hike. Fine if you are not up to anything more challenging.
Continuing on the UFO line, we come to Tsuchigoya, the place to begin an ascent of Mt. Ishizuchi. Then down the long decline of the Ishizuchi Skyline. We had planed to spend the night at michi no eki Tenku no Sato san san but it is too early in the day, so we decide to take another look at Shikoku Karst.
This is a wonderful highland, a plateau of susuki with magnificent 360 degree views. However, as we reach the top of the tortuous pass the way is blocked by construction. We are told we cannot proceed until after 5pm. As this is a wait of some 30 minutes, we U-turn and follow narrow lanes to Yusuhara intending to stay at the michi no eki and take a bath. It is still relatively early.
On arrival at michi no eki Yusuhara, onsen, hotel complex we discover that the 24 hour toilet has been demolished, so michi no eki Yusuhara no longer exists. (The website say it is under renewal till 2027) This is a shame as Yusuhara is a very interesting place, with many buildings designed by Kuma Kengo of Tokyo Olympic stadium fame. So, we head for the coast where Michi no eki are easier to find.
Our yahoo Navi. guides us, in the dark, over little used, tortuous passes and empty roads that alternate between smooth curving blacktop, long bright tunnels and narrow tracks in deep forest. We emerge, unscathed and to our surprise, at michi no eki Nakatosa which appears to be next to a fishing dock at sea level.
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.