Tateyama Caldera Museum
We wake to bright sunshine around 7.30 after a quiet night at Tateyama station. To start the day, we visit the Tateyama Caldera Museum or exhibition centre. This does not open until 9.30 but a friendly gentleman allows us in, even though it is barely a quarter past.
Once inside, he explains to us the geological features of the caldera and the reason the government, local or national, both perhaps, I am not sure, have been working for 100 years to minimize the devastation that will occur if another eruption and destructive lava flow happen. It is obvious, from the scale models, that such an eruption could sweep down the valley, almost all the way to the coast, as has happened in the past.
It is all very interesting and the scale model gives one a much better understanding of the area than hiking over the actual terrain. I also learn, too late, that you can ride a little construction train to view the work being undertaken, to contain the next eruption, in the caldera itself. Maybe next time.
We have plans to visit the Shomyo Falls, the highest or longest waterfall in Japan at 350m., and the helpful gentleman implores us to note the fantastic gorge cut by the stream. He also indicates on the scale model how the waterfall has receded, or perhaps proceeded, up the valley, cutting the gorge over the millennia.
His focus is more geology than waterfall sightseeing and, as we approach the falls, this perspective becomes quite understandable, for this gorge is more impressive than a waterfall.
It is a short drive from Tateyama Station to the free parking, from where, the fall is a further 30-minute walk along a tarmac road. The waterfall is worth a visit, falling from a great height, and the gorge itself makes it imperative.
At one point, as you walk up the gorge, on a sheer cliff face there seems to be an almost perfect circle with a thick bar across it, looking like a manhole cover, or more perhaps like a vault door. Albeit a vault door of solid rock perhaps 2 to 3 metres in diameter. Directly above this “door”, the uneven rock surface forms an unmistakable skull giving the whole thing the appearance of some diabolical moon door. Has no one else noticed this? Unfortunately, there is no picture, as my camera stopped working at the waterfall.
I am again struck by the lack of wildlife in this area. I did see a nutcracker yesterday and a couple of monkeys as we drove away from the falls but most of the time the sky and undergrowth appear entirely empty.
Takaoka, Art in the Park
Leaving Tateyama, we head for Himi in Toyama prefecture, our destination for the night. As the Daibutsu of Takaoka is on the way we decide to pay a visit but, while we are trying to find somewhere to park, we catch a glimpse and decide against it. Instead, we go for a walk in a large park, Takaoka Art Park, which we discover has ART. There are several statues scattered around but only the monkey – “under green leaves” – takes our fancy.
Himi michi no eki
Back to the car and continue our way to Himi via an Aeon to pick up dinner. We find the michi no eki at Himi without the trouble we had on our first visit but, as before, the place is closing as we arrive. It is also getting colder and the wind whipping off the sea is getting very strong. We decide to take a bath for there is a new onsen next to Himi michi no eki. Although we remember it from the outside from our previous visit, a year earlier, comparing notes later neither of us found the inside of the onsen familiar. Bland?
Preparing for the night and writing this, the van is rocking in the wind and our lantern swinging.
＊Himi Soyu onsen ; 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.