11th. April, 2022
Michi no eki Kugami 道の駅国上
Michi no eki Kugami is an excellent place for an overnight stay. When we visited it was basically closed for renovation. Major building work was in progress. This explained the absence of light in the car park. The new building looked almost complete but there was no sign of work underway.
The toilets were open and splendid they are. The fine mirrors are, apparently, metal, to reflect the predominant industry of these parts (Tsubamesanjo). This explains why the other michi no eki hereabouts all have displays of scissors, knives and garden shears.
Our target today is Yahiko-san (Mt.Yahiko). A small mountain only 600 plus metres high but it is famous for wildflowers. D. follows a gent on Instagram who is very informative about the various flowers to be found here so she is eager to climb the mountain. Before we start to climb we visit Yahiko shrine. This shrine venerates Mt. Yahiko and dates back 2000 years.
Our research indicates that the climb takes about an hour and a half. Soon after we begin our ascent, we see a sign saying 2.5 kilometres to the summit. This information was misleading at best.
Yes, there are lots of interesting flowers in bloom and in the vicinity of a small stream, frogs were abundant and vociferous. We also saw a number of “Gifucho” a butterfly on the endangered red list.
What surprised me was that the climb was of almost unremitting steps. Utterly exhausting. It took us two and a half hours to reach the top. Yes, we stopped to take pictures of flowers and frogs – the butterflies wouldn’t sit still – but mostly we stopped for necessary rests.
By the time we reached the bottom, we had walked eleven and a half kilometres straight up and straight down. We did meet one athletic soul three times and he confirmed he was on his third ascent. He was not young, well over 50 I would guess.
Sadly, the summit of this climb is a disappointment. It is topped by a concrete shrine and 3 or 4 communication towers. I was surprised by a view of the sea, very close. Once the trees are in full leaf the scant views will be completely obscured, I suspect. But there are large patches of Katakuri flower in bloom.
You can, of course, attain the summit by driving up or taking the ropeway. Given the situation up there I can’t imagine why anyone would bother.
On reaching the bottom, very, very tired we didn’t look around Yahiko Park which is famous for cherry blossom. We make for Sakura no yu for a bath. The 27 degree heat, in early April in Nigata, has drenched us in sweat. Only yesterday, not far away, our route was blocked by snow.
The onsen is a delight. Only 500 yen weekday after 5pm. The outside bath offers a view of cherry blossom and narcissus. However, the appalling piped music takes the edge off any contemplation of vanity and the fleeting nature of existence.
We return to Kugami for the night.
＊Sakura no yu ; Fee will change to 600 yen (weekday after 5pm) from July 1st.
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.