Ebino Plateau and the 3 Lake Course Hiking えびの高原
A bright full moon and a very cold night.
We set off on a beautiful morning for the Ebino Plateau, making sure to buy supplies on the way before getting into the mountains. It is often difficult to buy food in very rural areas. Around midday, we arrived at a large car park of Ebino Eco Museum Centre. From here we could see the snow on Mount Io and Karakunidake glistening in the bright sunshine, there was, however, a bitterly cold wind whipping across the open space.
The 3 Lakes Course 池めぐりコース
We had planned to hike around the three crater lakes, but part of the route was closed due to volcanic gases in the area. A circular route out of the question, we decided to cover as much of the course as we could. A walk around Byakushi-ike (白紫池) and part of Rokkanon-miike（六観音御池） is possible but Fudo-ike（不動池） is out of bounds.
The start of the course, from the car park to the right of the Ashiyu no eki Ebino Kogen, was tarmac but after a while the steady upward incline degenerates into large and very rough stones. Not easy to walk on.
Initially, the trail passes through mixed woods with glimpses of the snow sprinkled mountains behind you. Soon, there is a branch off to the left to a viewing platform offering a splendid view of the peaks. The next fork presents you with a choice, to head down to the lakeside or upwards towards the top of Shiratoriyama. Up is the best choice as to ascend this small peak from the other side is by a very steep and rugged path. Something of a scramble. It is much easier to go down this path.
On the way up, there is another viewing spot with views of the two snow covered mountains, the lake below and the hazy distance. A little beyond this point we came across two young deer grazing just off the track. They were less concerned by our presence than we were excited by theirs. Later, we saw three more and realized that deer are almost as common here as hikers.
As we approach the summit of Shiratoriyama the vegetation becomes sparse, and we are walking on rough shale and loose boulders. A communication tower is showering down it’s covering of ice, melting off in the bright sunshine. The view from this point is spectacular. Again, the snowy mountains and lakes but the distance is now a panorama. Sakurajima and the sea are visible far away to the south.
Rokkanon-do Shrine 六観音堂
We now plunge down the steep, rugged path on the other side of the mountain. It would be a really hard slog coming up from this side. Once down, we turn left and skirt the edge of Rokkanon miiike down a long, steady descent. Suddenly, huge Sugi trees announce we are approaching shrine territory. Sure enough, we soon come across a small, dilapidated shrine down by the water. This is Rokkanon-do shrine. Here there is another fine view of Mt. Io across the lake the water very blue due to minerals.
At this point, we turn around and head back to Byakushi-ike. Skirting this, we meet our original path and drop down to the car park. As we have a reservation at the nearby hotel Pico Lanai, nearby as in you can see it, we have some time on our hands. Consequently, we wander through the Flower Walk. It is the wrong season for any flowers but a pleasant stroll.
Hotel Pico Lanai
For us, the hotel is a luxury and the onsen a warming delight. There appear to be very few guests and I have the onsen to myself. The outside bath a bit of a disappointment as there is no view and the plumbing is making a lot of noise. The hotel room was large and well equipped. Strangely, the hotel was promoting camping equipment with displays in the lobby. A little self defeating I thought. Unusually, the hotel has a skating rink.
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.