Michi no eki Hakuba
Michi no eki Hakuba was busy as expected and the facilities are small for such a popular place. However, new toilets were under construction.
One group of overnighters with two vehicles had commandeered a third parking space and set up tables and chairs until a biker arrived and pointed out the error of their ways. At which, they contritely freed up the space that was quickly filled.
We set off earlier than usual to drive to Tsugaike Shizen-en. Well, to the car park for the gondola which takes you to the ropeway. This combined ride is about 30 minutes. Quite thrilling, with superb views of the autumn colours and distant peaks. Even though we are riding by 8.30 or so, the peaks are already becoming enveloped in cloud.
This hike at Tsugaike Shizen-en we have done before, that time was in July. Then, there were abundant flowers, fog and snow. This time, drifting mists obscure and reveal vistas by turn, but the high peaks are stubbornly shy.
It being a weekend, there are far more people than our previous visit but not like the procession climbing of Happo-one. This is a circular course, firstly on wooden boardwalks through marshy pond areas and banks of sasa (bamboo grass). At the further edges the going becomes rougher with steep, stony paths and rocky ups and downs and, eventually, steep steps. The hardest of the going is well compensated by the quality of the scenery. The Koyo (autumn colours) here was spectacular and the views down into the gorges just stunning.
Although hard work in a few spots, this is really an easy hike and well worth the hefty outlay on the gondola ticket.
Once down we drive to Marmelo no eki Nagato. This is a large michi no eki with a spacious onsen, a restaurant, a Lawsons and the usual farmer’s market.
＊Tsugaike Shizen-en entrance fee + Gondola + Ropeway ; 3,700 yen / adult (return)
＊Nagato onsen Yasuragi no yu ; 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.