Tsugaike Shizen-en, wetland flowers 栂池自然園
Hakuba michi no eki
Hakuba michi no eki is a very reasonable place to spend the night. The traffic does not bother us, but it does become very busy on Sunday morning.
A group of enthusiasts of an older model VW Golf show up and hang around for a while. We wait too, hoping the weather will clear. There is a thin drizzle, but the forecast is brighter or at least drier later in the morning and we are planning to walk Tsugaike Shinzen-en. This is a high plateau wetland noted for spring flowers.
Tsugaike Shizen-en(Nature park)
To reach the wetland hiking course it is necessary to take a gondola for 20 minutes. It takes only 5 minutes to the first station, but you sit tight in your capsule and pass through on and up for another 15 minutes. This is an exciting ride with, apparently, panoramic views, but we travel in thick cloud.
On arrival at the top of the gondola line, there is a short walk to the rope-way station. The rope-way whisks you up in an alarming fashion for another 5 minutes. A full round trip is 3300 Yen. This price includes entrance to the wetland walk.
At the top, visibility is limited and a fine rain falling. This is sad, as we miss the fabled views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks. Nevertheless, the walk is enjoyable providing a mass of strange flowers, mysterious, misty views and birdsong. There are also large patches of grubby snow in shady areas. At one point there is a small hole surrounded by ice with a cold draft of air blowing up through it. This cold blast you could feel distinctly as you walked past.
Most of the way, (it is possible to do short or long routes), is on wooden boardwalks in varying stages of repair. In some places, however, it becomes quite rugged walking especially if you opt for the longest routes. Again, the short courses are flat, but the longest routes require some steep climbing if only for short stretches. At the furthest point, there is a viewing platform but all we could see was mist.
This was a Sunday in flower viewing season, but, although there were people about, there was no impression of crowds. We started walking at about 10.30 and were back at the rope-way station by around 3 pm. A distance of only 5.5 kilometres. So we dawdled looking at the many flowers and misty views. We thoroughly enjoyed this walk-in poor weather conditions so if you are lucky enough to catch it on a clear day it must be superb.
Otari michi no eki
Once down we shop at the nearby Delicia supermarket before making for Otari michi no eki. This place has an onsen and a restaurant that is open quite late, so it is popular for shachuhaku. The toilet is small for such a large place and the parking right next to the main road.
The onsen is nothing special, the water is strongly iron, but the outside bath has no view. As if to compensate, it has a speaker blasting terrible music too loudly.
＊miyama no yu onsen ; 660 yen / adult (hydrogen carbonate spring)
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.