Michi no eki Ikarigaseki
On a grey, chilly morning, a wander around behind the sheeted building reveals the elusive onsen and a large sign indicating its position. Darkness does things like that.
Ikarigaseki is a good michi no eki for an overnight stay. Good parking and very new, modern facilities. The onsen, sadly, I cannot vouch for.
We depart for Hachimantai, stopping at michi no eki Kazuno. This again has very new, very large toilet facilities and offers fresh vegetables and omiyage (souvenirs). It has a huge parking area but none adjacent to the toilets.
Approaching Hachimantai, there are signs of incipient koyo (autumn colours). Nothing spectacular, pretty but not mind blowing. We stop at Hachimantai visitor centre and try to walk around Oonuma but our attempts are hampered as there is some construction work in progress. So, we are able to walk only a short distance around the lake.
Driving the Aspite Line is fun and, as we approach the summit car park, we encounter the first snow of the trip. The firs and sasa (bamboo grass) are dusted white and, when we stop to take pictures, note the bushes are encased in ice. The blasted firs, the bursts of red leaves and berries dusted with snow and glistening with melting ice are very pretty indeed.
On to the main parking area at the peak, 500 yen for the privilege, where we don warmer clothing as it is 5 degrees and very windy.
Soon after we set off, we decide to take the longest route at the peak, around the largest pond (Hachiman-numa) and on up to the summit then down past the smaller ponds to the car park. This should take about two hours. We took a little longer, pausing to take pictures and mistaking the way at one point. The wooden walkway was treacherous with snow and ice so careful placing of each foot was important.
We were very glad we decided to do the full circuit. The fast-changing clouds and colourful vegetation creating magnificent scenery for the hike. Cold at first, but once in the lee we warmed quickly. By the time we were descending from the summit, the sun was breaking through fitfully creating sunny vistas as fast as the clouds could destroy them.
After our hike we go to the nearby Hachimantai Onsen ‘Yurara’. The serious sulphur onsens in the area tend to close by 3pm but ‘Yurara’ is open until 5pm. It is a functional place, and we need a bath. It is not a tourist spot, and I had the bath to myself. Nevertheless, it is a genuine onsen.
Clean and warm, we take the long drive to michi no eki Misato. The mountains, though beautiful, do not host supermarkets or convenience stores and we need dinner. After shopping, we pull into Misato. The parking area is large but close to the toilets means close to the road. The facilities are excellent but no rubbish bins. Prefectural policy?
＊Hachimantai Fureai Yasuragi Onsen Centre ‘Yurara’ ; 500 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.