April 14th. 2023
Michi no eki Otaki onsen
We spent the night at michi no eki Otaki onsen. It was a Thursday night so the onsen was closed as was the restaurant. There is a F. Mart open until 10 pm but that is on another level up there with the road. The michi no eki car park etc. are below, deeper in the gorge. The first impression of the place is grim concrete, especially as a section of the parking is under the parking for the convenience store above. The michi no eki is connected to the F. Mart by a rusting spiral staircase. The facilities are also under the store and are rather grim and neglected but the seating arrangements are modern and comfortable.
On closer acquaintance, the place is not so formidable as it at first appears, and we spend a comfortable night. We leave later than usual as we walk down to the river in the gorge bottom. It is not very picturesque and there is a concrete dam just upstream. This is not visible from the michi no eki parking and we breakfasted overlooking the gorge.
Daizenji – Grape Temple
Leaving, we follow Route 140 to Karisaka Tunnel. This links Saitama to Yamanashi and was only opened in 1998. At 6.6 Kilometres in length it is one of the highest passes in Japan and the longest non highway tunnel in Japan So we have now driven the 3 longest tunnels on ordinary national roads. Kanpusan in Shikoku and Erimo Ogon in Hokkaido completing the set. So what, I hear you thinking.
We are on our way to Daizenji in Katsunuma. This is a very old temple founded in 718, apparently the birthplace of viticulture in Japan. The temple is interesting and has some splendid statues of the 12 heavenly generals who somehow double as the 12 animals of the Japanese Zodiac.
The principal image is the Medicine Buddha with a bunch of grapes. This is very old and sadly we missed it, as it is only displayed once every 5 years.
Its much-vaunted garden, supposedly a cultural asset, did not seem much to write home about and had an uncared-for air. There was activity around the temple vineyards as the temple makes and sells its own wine.
＊Karisaka tunnel ; 740 yen
＊Daizenji ; 500 yen
From Daizenji we make for Shosen-kyo. Here, there are walking courses and I imagined following a trail along the edge of a rushing torrent. Not to be, as we park at the entrance to Shosen-kyo (free carpark near Tenjinmori bus stop) but find we are walking along a tarmac road some metres above the water the called Shosen-kyo promenade. We can look down and view the water, foliage permitting, and up at the towering cliffs above us and on the opposite side but we are still walking along a road. There are indications of a path lower down nearer the stream itself but is definitely disused. As we are short of time, it is 4.5 kilometres to Sengataki the main waterfall and walk uninspiring we abandon it.
There are other walking courses and the viewing points also the Senga ropeway. Cars can drive the promenade on weekdays but only oneway. So if you have enough time there are more options here.
But it is getting late, and we still have to hit the shops. Due to the lateness of the hour, we finish up taking the highway to Shinshu Tsutajkiuku. This michi no eki has an excellent onsen, flat parking, rubbish bins and a restaurant. It is popular with shachuhaku (sleep in the car) and trucks. It is Friday night and rain is forecast for the weekend, so we do not expect many vehicles come the morning.
＊Tsuta no yu onsen ; 700 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.