After leaving Michi no Eki Bandai, we drive the Bandai-Azuma Skyline to Azuma Ko-Fuji. We park at Jodo-daira, at a cost of 400 yen. Due to a landslide, the result of the recent typhoon, from this point the road was closed on the Fukushima City side so, the restaurant was offering all meals at half price. There was a substantial queue, even though it was barely 11am and the restaurant not yet open.
We planned to climb to the rim of the small crater and walk the perimeter. The weather, in the car park, was blustery cold with intermittent showers, so we broke out the light down jackets and 100 yen plastic raincoats.
By the time we reached the summit, only a matter of minutes, the wind was so strong it was an effort to stand and my 100 yen raincoat reduced to tatters.
D. declined to walk in such a gale so, we descended and took a more relaxed stroll, through the wetlands, on the usual, wooden walkway. Here, we spotted numerous pretty flowers but, of course, the season was over. The Susuki grass was almost in bloom. After walking as far as the Okenuma pond and giving it a good viewing, we head back to the car. Okenuma is rather overgrown.
Our next target is Ouchi-juku. This is a well preserved village of thatched tourist shops. The village was once a stop for the various travellers en route to and from Edo, to pay their respects to the shogun. Times change, and, as it is no longer on any major route, it remained unchanged. That is until it became a major tourist attraction. The thatched houses are pretty, though not as spectacular as those of Shirakawa-go. Both places now suffer from the same problem, of which we formed a part, too many tourists.
Outside the village, large areas, of what would have been arable land, are now car parks. The Porta Loo toilets along the approach road are an ominous indication of the traffic queues in peak season. Three years earlier we experienced these jams and U-turned a hasty retreat. Today, we arrive in late afternoon and the Obon holiday is over, so we have no problem. There are still quite a number of people about.
From Ouchi-juku, we move on to michi-no-eki Kirara 289 on R.289. This drive is a joy of winding or sweeping road, up and down with serious curves. The Stepwagon does surprisingly well, except uphill, of course. There is an onsen at Kirara 289 so the place has a number of shachuhaku(sleep in a car) people. A group of gents in a far corner are well established and appear to have some kind of tent.
＊Kirara 289 elevation ; 540m
＊hot spring ; 700 yen
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.