Wake to a beautiful morning in Ashino Koen(park). The truck gent has moved his parking spot for no obvious reason but the tent dispenses a youngish, obviously, homeless man who coughs and spits. Not the best of neighbors. We have forgotten to get bread so have no breakfast and have a spot of panic as I think I have lost my wallet but find it on the floor of the car.
We go for a walk across the (apparently) famous bridges. The first, is a floating bridge which is passable but is in a distressing state. What repairs have been carried out are very crude. The second, is a suspension bridge but is too decayed to use and is closed. This is all a shame as the Ashino Koen park with its pretty lake and famous bridges has obviously cost a lot of money but has been largely abandoned. It is overgrown and its equipment rotting though still very famous and popular for cherry blossom viewing.
There are lots of strange seed pods of the kind we find on the beach near our house but much smaller, washed up on the floating bridge.
Breakfast, finally, at a convenience store. The day is so fine, we can clearly see Mt. Iwaki and reverse our decision to skip it. This is a good move, as the approach to the mountain takes us meandering through apple orchards and the toll road (Mt. Iwaki skyline) that takes us most of the way to the top winds through deep beech woods; ablaze with gold, orange and brown with a dash of scarlet here and there.
At the summit, the colour is more drab, the trees stunted and mostly devoid of leaves. A couple of JSDF personnel and their vehicles, accompany us up the toll road. One in his own car and the other in a military vehicle. Are they sightseeing on company time and on our taxes?
On the way down we take lots of pictures before heading off to Hirosaki castle as a picnic spot for lunch. We don’t bother to view the castle but admire some impressive trees in the castle park.
Mt. Hakkoda, Jogakura Ohashi Bridge 八甲田山
After lunch, on to Mt. Hakkoda where we plan to stay. Again this is a very spectacular area, a deep thickly wooded gorge with beech and other trees. The colours are simply breathtaking, browns, golds, and yellows with just that brilliant dash of red. Just before reaching our campsite, we cross a bridge(Jogakura Ohashi bridge) over a narrow gorge with a sliver of river far below. Fabulous view, but the clouds are closing in so the scene lacks the brilliance of Mt. Iwaki. We vow to return in the morning if the sun shines.
The campsite is a clean, grassy clearing in the woods with only a couple of tents. There is a famous onsen (hot spring) Sukayu nearby that looks very busy but the bath is not crowded. There are only four people in the men’s side. This is just as well as the bath itself is very small. D. thinks most of the men will go to the famous mixed bath but I only find out about that when it is too late.
Back at our clearing in the woods, we prepare nabe (hot pot) for dinner; a little earlier than usual but darkness is falling as we begin to eat. The clouds, or mist, keep drifting in around the clearing giving the scene an air of mystery. But we wrap up warm and D. is happy with the situation – eating dinner outside in the mountains, surrounded by forest, in the clouds. The clouds bring the damp, however, and as it gets chillier we retreat into the van. I can feel the chill seeping into me as I write this.
＊Tsugaru-Iwaki Skyline 1600yen
＊Sukayu campsite 500yen/per. + 500 yen/freesite
＊Sukayu spa. 600yen/per.
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.