Michi no eki Yunishikawa is at once dark, a little miserable but also quite busy. Surprisingly, it has a DUCK (an amphibious vehicle) and a newspaper vending machine. But mostly dark and quiet.
Come morning, we leave the michi no eki and drive mountain roads to Kirifuri-kogen highland. Here we pass through an expanse of farmland with panoramic views of the highlands before arriving at Kisuge-daira.
Here, a staircase has been constructed on a disused ski slope. At the top, of the 1445 steps, are magnificent views over Niko and the blue mountains fading away into the distance. The information board at the top, informs you that on a clear day you can see the Pacific Sea coast, Mount Fuji and Tokyo Sky-tree. Alternatively, you can see the mist and low cloud enveloping almost everything.
As we arrived at the top, the cloud was sweeping in fast, but we had wonderful views all the same. On the descent, we eschewed the stairs and opted for the zig zag path which was altogether much more pleasant. There was some evidence of Koyo (autumn leaves) but mainly the leaves are shrivelled brown.
From Kirifuri-kogen Kisuge-daira we drop in at Suginamiki koen (park) for lunch and a brief look at the Edo Jidai Road. This is not really worth the effort, but ok for an easy walk under large trees.
Boat House on Lake Chuzenji
Next, we stop at the Boat House on Lake Chuzenji. This is a splendid place; I hesitate to advertise. A relic of the era when Europeans held some sway in the upper echelons of Japanese society and brought western leisure pursuits. The boat house providing a base for boating on the lake in perhaps, I am not sure, Edwardian fashion?
Since our last visit, it has changed but not too much. It now has a small coffee shop and steps down to water level, but you can still sit on the terrace with a view over the lake and eat your own picnic lunch should you desire. A rare free spot for you to enjoy. Remarkable.
Then over the mountains to Gumma prefecture. We make a brief stop at the bridge where D. takes pictures of Ryuzunotaki waterfall. A view worth stopping for.
Then past Senjogahara, a good spot for a walk, but today we press on to view the Yutaki waterfall. This lies at the end of the Senjogahara hike. We have never made it to the end of this trail, always turning back to the car park. It is 5km one way from Akanuma.
The waterfall is impressive. Well worth the 500-yen parking fee. I don’t think the scale is captured in pictures, not mine anyway. The perennial problem with this area is the profusion of school groups. They arrive at these falls, where their buses pick them up, after hiking through Senjogahara. Or vice versa.
At the falls, there are scores of school groups having group pictures taken. This tends to take the edge off the sublime.
As we are leaving, buses carrying yet more groups are arriving so fast there is a queue of them waiting to enter the parking area.
Leaving Yutaki, we are behind 3 buses which we don’t want to follow over the mountains, so we drop into Oku-yumoto to lose them. D. confesses to have been here on a school trip. Oku-yumoto is a serene lake (Yu-no-ko) with an active onsen at one end spluttering and colouring the water a milky white.
Finally, we drive on to Kawaba Daisen Plaza. This is apparently the most popular michi no eki in Japan. Voted number one! We park in car park 2., there are at least 7 and walk to the nearby onsen ‘Rakuraku no yu’. 5 minutes down the road 800 yen. Simple modern and very welcome.
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.