Day 58, November 2016,
Morning in Michi-no-eki Kita no Sato
Intermittent rain during the night but the morning is sunny, if cold, and very wet underfoot. There are dark clouds hanging on the mountains and a few short showers. Sometimes the clouds lift and we get glimpses of the higher peaks sprinkled with early snow. We drive to Goshikinuma, to walk the trail by the ponds. The skyline we drove in the rain –the Gold Line- is closed today as the temperature is low about 4 degrees. The weather seems uncertain, so we put on lots of layers and rain suits. As we start to walk, the sunny patches become intervals and then spells. It is getting hot – too many clothes.
At first it is just another lake, but as we walk, an easy but, at times, rugged trail, the lakes take on vivid shades from green to cobalt blue, quite incredible. The wonder grows, as more and more vivid shades are revealed as we pass lake after lake. The woods are beautiful too with a variety of trees, most to which I am unable to identify. A very pleasant and satisfying walk as the wind cools us down from time to time.
At the end of the trail, there are uninteresting ramen and soba shops, but nowhere to buy the necessary for a decent picnic . There is also a long wait for any bus back to our starting point. We turn around and retrace our steps, lunching on chocolate. This, we notice, takes an inordinate amount of time to melt in the mouth perhaps because its original temperature was so low?
Formation of the Lakes
Back at our starting point, having walked 8 km., we visit the visitors centre. Here we learn how the lakes were formed after the mountain erupted in 1888. The subsequent collapse of this side of the mountain blocked the river, that used to run through the valley. This created an area of swamps and ponds. The spectacular colours are due to the abundance of separate minerals in the water that refract the light differently.
On our walk, we were intrigued by what we, at first, took for flowers on the opposite bank of a pond. On closer inspection these turned out to be leaves on low hanging branches. The branches dipped into the water from time to time due to the breeze so the leaves coated with minerals shone white in the sunlight. The rest of the leaves on the same tree remained, stubbornly, green.
So the whole landscape and forest were only 128 years old. This seemed remarkable to me especially when I considered the lava field from the early 1700’s which remains largely barren. But here, I realize,was a collapse of existing terrain not fresh molten lava.
Driving to town to do some shopping, we pass the huge Kannon-sama (goddess of mercy) that we had seen the day before. Then, the car park was packed and security people were directing traffic, but today the place is deserted and the concrete Kannon forlorn.
On our way to michi-no-eki Bandai however, a little after sunset, and with a crescent moon and a few, bright stars hanging in a darkening sky still with a pale pink haze on the horizon, this Kannon seems much more serene. At the michi-no-eki Bandai, the night sky is clear and the forecast for tomorrow is sunshine – a chilly night I think.
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.