A lot of fast moving cloud this breezy morning but the sun breaks through now and again. The top of the mountain is in cloud and white horses crest the Nihonkai(Japan sea). The temperature is about 11°C but the wind is cold. It is well before 8am but 3 or 4 hardy Pokémon hunters are already absorbed at michi-no-eki Kisakata.
Chokai Blue Line
Finally we leave, and meander through the inland islands which we have to admit are not up to much when driven through. After picking up lunch supplies at a Max Value we head up Mt.Chokai. This is a drive from sea level to over a 1100 meters by Chokai Blue Line. Not sure really that figure is correct – but you get the ides. We arrive at Hokotate viewing spot about halfway up the mountain and as far as you can go by car. To reach the summit one must walk a 16 kilometer round trip. Taking around 5 to 5 and a half hours. D. and I are not up to this. We spend quite a while looking at the view from different points.
The Akita coastline presents a wonderful picture even muted by the haze. Closer to hand, the view of the deep valley created when the volcano violently erupted is truly spectacular; a steep drop down to a sliver of stream in the bottom of the valley or rather, ravine. There are still splashes of colour of the remaining leaves and stark leafless branches as well.
It is interesting to see the myriad trickles of water linking into rivulets and finally joining the main stream as it flow off the mountain. It is something you know happens but rarely have a chance to see the process laid out so clearly.
This mountain is noted for its abundance of springs, due to the inordinate amount of rain and snow it collects from the Nihonkai.
We eat lunch admiring the view of the sea from a great height and then head down to a yet another road station. D. looks at the produce I look at the people. We think about going to view a local waterfall but give up the idea and head to a bird of prey exhibition centre on the other flank of the mountain. On our way, however, we realize we pass the waterfall ‘Tamasudare no taki’ so decide to go there after all.
This is fortunate, as the waterfall turns out to be much more spectacular than the average, famous, local waterfall. Set behind a shrine or rather the shine is set in front of the falls, it plunges from a cliff of columned lava – basalt, I assume. The falls are surrounded by massive trees mostly sugi (cedar) but also a species I am unfamiliar with but a type of chestnut I would guess.
On to the raptor protect centre which is nothing special so doubly glad to have seen the waterfall. Then we check into our hotel. The odd night in a hotel is a welcome change from sleeping in the van though the quality of sleep often proves to be inferior.
The hotel is a strange construction. I feel it has elements of a Swiss chalet and a maximum security prison. Our room is quite large and has a big picture window with a view of the mountain hidden in cloud. The bath, another reason to stay at the occasional hotel, is fine, a little small and not so warm considering the cold wind literally howling outside. To wash in comfort, I move to a position away from the draught from the door to the outside bath. As I soap and elderly gentleman come in and makes a beeline for the outside bath leaving the door open. I have to interrupt my ablutions to close the door. I finish washing and soak in the inside tub but the gent still wallows in the outside bath and as it is rather small I have no desire to share it with him so give up. D. reports from the women’s side, that the outside bath is hotter than the inside tub and very good because the outside air is so cold.
Dinner is booked for 6.30 and I have low expectations as these places, I feel, usually place form well above taste let alone sustenance but my cynicism is misplaced and I am very pleasantly surprised. The meal features a lot of fungi and is really good. I find myself enjoying things like chawanmushi which I normally have little interest in. Our course features 3 different kinds of local sake which is very nice. To me they were pretty much the same but D. had her favorite.
＊Choukai Blue Line free, about 35km. long, winter time close
＊Raptor Conservation Centre free, 9~16:30
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.