Nishiyama crater and Showa Shinzan at Lake Toya 西山クレーター
Day 32, October 2016,
Morning brings a day of very changeable weather, heavy rain and bright, warm sunshine in quick succession. After breakfast we pack up in the intermittent rain. But when we are ready for the road, the bright sunshine encourages us to walk along the lakeshore of Takarada campground.
The lake is beautifully serene as we follow the path through the trees along the shore. This path is made of bark or wood shavings, organic material that is soft and springy and with the moss growing on it and the sun shining through the leaves it is a magical, elfin path through an enchanted wood.
The magic soon wears thin, if not entirely dissipated, by the roar of dozens of jet skis that come racing across the lake. (The Jet Ski is, in my exalted opinion, one of the banes of existence that needs to be taxed to extinction.) We continue on our, now tarnished golden fairyway, until it opens into an area that we can sense, immediately, is the source of the Jet Ski menace.
Clear evidence is available of where the offending objects have been slipped into the, hitherto, unpolluted water. Large Hummers and other assorted huge American 4×4 vehicles with trailers are parked under cover of the trees. We turn and, retracing our steps, hurry away.
We head for the bird viewing area but, apart from a nuthatch, all wildlife seems to have flown. It is by now approaching 11 am and we are forced to rush back to make the check-out deadline.
We drive to see the area called ‘Nishiyama Crater Walking Street’. A volcanic eruption devastated this area in March 2000. After parking we begin to wander but it takes us a while to realize that the rough, undulating track we are walking along was, in fact, a prefectural road.
Eventually, you notice the 50 km. speed limit signs almost hidden in the undergrowth and that the uneven track is buckled tarmac with white lines, indicating at least two way traffic.
As we walk on, we come across buildings damaged by flying rocks and buckling ground. There is a small factory, twisted and bent, with huge holes in the roof, overgrown, abandoned; here a home, with a Nissan Skyline still parked in the drive. And then a kindergarten, with holes in the roof the walls crushed with its abandoned school bus rusting amid the abundant flowers.
On to Lake Toya, where we eat a bento lunch watching rainbows over the lake. After lunch, before getting very far, we have to stop to take pictures of what seems to us and, clearly, to other people around, a very strange phenomenon. That is, a sheet rainbow (if that is what it’s called) on the surface of the lake. To us it seemed very mysterious but perhaps it’s a common occurrence here.
Showa Shinzan 昭和新山
After catching rainbows, digitally at least, we continue on our way to view Showa Shinzan (New Mountain of the Showa Era). This is a cute, pink mound or an angry, pink pustule depending, literally, on your viewing point. We take the Mount Usu ropeway to view it. The gondola smells strongly of sweat and nervousness. The views from the top are excellent but the sudden, heavy rain showers continue to interrupt the sunshine. It is very windy and cold at the top and there are more bloody rainbows everywhere.
After descending by ropeway, we exit, as is usual in these cases, through a large gift shop selling souvenirs, toys and local foods. We try gobo (burdock), Ume (plum) and Shitake teas. We actually buy the shitake tea as it is very good or perhaps we are just very cold.
Moving on, we stop for the night at Oshamanbe Park campsite. The ground still very wet due to the constant heavy showers. We find a supermarket and dine on potatoes and sausages parked next to a lively stream.
Up in the night, a largish salmon surprises me as it struggles downstream, over the shallows.
＊Mt.Usu Ropeway 1800 yen/adult (return)
＊Oshamanbe Park campsite 600 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.