From michi-no-eki Shirasawa, we drive to Hatomachi touge (Pass) to begin our walk. The road, to the trail entrance, is open so we don’t need to take the expected shuttle bus but pay the unexpected 2500 yen parking fee. We have to wait about 15 minutes for a parking space. The attendant assures us one will soon become vacant. How he knows this is a mystery. A bluff based on experience?
While we wait, we watch a construction company helicopter take off, perhaps 20 meters from us. We are advised to close all windows as the construction workers hose down the area to lay the dust.
Parking place secured, as predicted, we begin our walk, surprisingly with a long downhill trek mostly on wooden boards or steps. These stout timbers bear the Tepco logo (Tokyo Electric Power Company) as it would appear Tepco has a long standing relationship with Oze. Some timbers are dated post Fukushima. This downhill stretch passes through mixed woodlands so is more open and less oppressive than the initial stretch on the Fukushima side.
On reaching the wetlands, there is a cluster of lodges, toilets, drink machines and rest spots. Here you can stay and, I think, rent tents. The walk across the wetland, on the usual boards, is easy and pleasant but we are out of season so no abundance of flowers. Some small water lilies and others, I cannot identify, but it is a beautiful day and the sky is high and wide.
The area is immense and virtually unchanging and, by the time we stop for lunch, we decide our goal, another 2.2 kilometres is not worth achieving. It being only a collection of loges and a toilet and the scenery between where we are and there is virtually the same. We turn around and retrace our steps. An eleven kilometre round trip.
Fukiwari Falls 吹き割りの滝
This decision gives us time to visit the Fukiwari Falls on R.120. Not a big fan of waterfalls as a rule but this one is unusual and the gorge impressive, towering yet smoothly rounded.
It is worth the 500 yen parking fee. There is free parking available further down the hill (depending on your approach) but it is limited and far from obvious.
After viewing the waterfall, which involves steps that are beginning to tell, we return to michi-no-eki Shirasawa. This time we take a bath. The onsen is excellent if a little small for such a popular place. D. informs me the view from the women’s outside bath is excellent but from the men’s side there was none. Perhaps they swop sides regularly as many onsens do. After a pleasant, if little crowded bath, we enjoy a well earned beer on a bench, on a grassy knoll watching the clouds grow increasingly ominous.
＊Bokyo no yu (hotspring) ; 610 yen
Rain is forecast for 3 days in Nikko which was to be our next stop. We planned 2 days camping. D. is now researching alternatives – like factory visits in Tsukuba.
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.