Sukayu to Tsuta Onsen
Futasui michi no eki proved to be a good place to stay. Good facilities and a tatami space inside for bikers or cyclists to sleep. No rubbish bins are provided though.
Our goal for the day is Tsuta onsen. This involves a pleasant drive with views of Mt.Iwaki still capped with patches of snow. As we pass Sukayu onsen there are large areas of grubby snow around and the road (R.103) is running with snow melt. We also spot the skunk cabbage flowers that appear through the melting snow. I say spot, they were everywhere.
Tsuta 7 Ponds walk 蔦七沼
From Sukayu we drop down through the fresh beech forests, a joy in the bright sunshine, to Tsuta onsen. Here we park and walk the circuit of 6 ponds (out of the 7). This is a pleasant easy walk through the magnificent beechwoods for 2.8km.
The ponds are not that spectacular, rather swampy in fact, though one or two shine turquoise through the trees. Mostly they are overgrown and turning to wetlands choked with leaves and water plants. This area is primarily a bird sanctuary, so the woods are left in a natural state. But Tsutanuma(Tsuta Pond) is very famous and popular place in autumn because of the autumn leaves reflected in the pond.
We were surprised by the chorus of cicadas as we thought it too early in the year. This particular species, however, emerge in May/June. By the ponds, frogs added to the general crescendo. No birds to be heard or seen.
Our walk completed we head for the onsen. This is a famous traditional onsen but, at 2.30 on a Thursday afternoon, I am the only one in the bath. As this is a very traditional bath, there are no taps, just wooden buckets to splash water over yourself. Since my last visit though showers have been added plus soap and shampoo, but it remains pretty spartan. The main bath is a deep, wood framed affair, rather hot, bubbles seeping from between the planks that form the bottom of bath. There are two lesser tubs one of cold and the other of warm water for ladling over yourself. There are no mirrors, so I gave up the idea of a shave. A hot spring wallow rather than a get clean situation.
＊Tsuta onsen ; 800 yen / adult
Namioka michi no eki.
From the bath at Tsuta, we drive back the way we have come passed Sukayu and down through Kuroishi city to Namioka michi no eki. We have stayed here before, after the Aomori Nebuta. It is a good michi no eki with a small hill behind. This you can walk up, through apple orchards, to the viewing spot. From here you can watch the sunset over the vast plain with Iwaki san rising on your left. Behind you is the view over to Sukayu, a 360 panorama.
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.