Wake earlier than usual as we plan to climb, well hike a bit, on Norikuradake Mt. Norikura. We drive to the Honoki-daira free parking area to take the bus to Tatamidaira by way of the Norikura Skyline. Tatami-daira is the highest bus stop in Japan, which was certainly news to me. The bus fare is 2,300 yen return and the shuttle bus runs every 30 minutes. Norikura Skyline is open from May 15th. to Oct. 31st.
From Tatami-daira there are various hiking routes, from the gentle stroll round the flower meadow, Ohanabatake, to the hike to the top of Mt. Kengamine, the highest peak of the group, which takes about 1 hour 30 min.
To my surprise, the altitude got to me as soon as I got off the bus and as we started up, I realized, I was in no state to continue. So, after a quiet walk round the alpine flowers of Ohanabatake, and a picnic lunch I felt well enough to climb to the top of Fujimi-dake which is only 100 metres higher than the car park but felt like some kind of achievement. Needless to say Mt. Fuji was not visible.
We walked towards Mt. Kengamine for a while until we could see the Nagano pref. side. There were many people enjoying snowboarding and skiing on the snow remnants in the valley below.
The weather was better than it had been and, although the rain did not start until we were waiting for the bus to go down, cloud still obscured most of the views. This was a Saturday of a 3-day weekend, so the place was busy, but I think at a less popular time and in better weather this is a good place to walk for the views. The ground underfoot is often loose rock and it’s quite rugged in places but not difficult walking. Be aware you may succumb to altitude sickness.
The road up is restricted, so you have to take the bus, but cyclists are welcome. A lot of hardy individuals were riding up and I suppose whizzing down.
Once down we head for Hirayu Onsen ‘Hirayu no mori‘ as it is the only reasonable choice for a bath in this area. ‘Hirayu no mori’ is so famous and popular that it has overflow car parks and people directing the parking. Once inside, it is big enough to accommodate all without too much inconvenience. The water is very hot, perhaps to encourage quick turnover.
Finally, clean, we return to Nanamori Kiyomi michi no eki in the rain.
＊Hirayu no mori ; 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.