Utsukushigahara, cows grazing above the cloud sea + Mishaka ike 美ヶ原


October 2022,

Marumelo no eki Nagato

Marumelo no eki Nagato is a good place to stay even though it is very busy and has no rubbish bins or vending machines. For this, you have to visit Lawsons. We leave early, waking before 6.30am. Very unusual but D. has a plan. This is to walk at Utsukushigahara, an open highland that is not a wetland. It is noted as a place to see a sea of cloud. The place is high enough to be above the cloud bank.


We arrive at michi no eki Utsukushigahara Kogen and have no difficulty parking in the huge car park. Even from here, there is a view over the cloud sea to the distant mountains. These distant peaks do not stay visible for long, soon being enveloped in the rising cloud.


Mountains and the cloud sea.

We set off to walk across the highland to the opposite edge where there is a hotel and a cluster of TV antenna. From the michi no eki, we first climb a few wooden steps, in a state of some disrepair, then levelling out into a gently rising, wooden boardwalk.

This takes you past a large outdoor sculpture park (Utsukushigahara open-air museum) which costs 1000 yen to enter but is free to ignore.

Utsukushigahara Open-air Museum

Sculpture Park

From there, it is a short walk to a highpoint of rocky cairns and splendid views across the cloud bank. The path, from this point, becomes a stony, descending track past grazing cows until you come to another car park. Here, more people join the ongoing trail which is now a wide, stony road across the flat pastureland featuring yet more cows and splendid views all around.

calves at Utsukushigahara

Calves at Utsukushigahara



Eventually, the track leads to a highest point – Ougatou(2034m) with the attendant antenna. The hotel here is accessible only by its own shuttle bus. Despite the views and a rather odd shrine, this is a rather tatty, ugly place. It is long round-trip walk, verging on 10 kilometres, but rewarding despite the destination.

Venus Line

Back at the michi no eki, we have a picnic lunch on the viewing platform overlooking the steadily rising cloud ocean before taking the Venus Line. This is a great road we have driven before but usually in fog. This time, only Sunday tourist traffic from Tokyo and Nagoya and bikers, lots of bikers. We follow the road through to Kirigamine and Lake Shirakaba.

Mishaka-ike 御射鹿池

But first, we stop briefly at Lake Megami, before going to Mishaka-ike. Now, this is a place really worth seeing. Apparently, there are no fish due to the high acidity and the level of minerals give the water and the surrounding vegetation a brilliant green.


Mishaka-ike pond was the inspiration for a famous Nihonga painting by Higashiyama Kaii Entitled “Green Inspiration”. I am sure the picture is better than the title sounds in English.

The pond is actually a reservoir, constructed in 1933, to hold the cold water from the mountains. This enables it to warm up before being used to irrigate the rice fields.

For the night, we stop at michi no eki Venus Line Tateshinako. This is still busy with the remnants of Sunday sightseeing; straggling customers and food trucks packing up. So, we park and take a walk around the lake as the sun is setting. Very pretty, but Mishaka-ike was the highlight of the day.

Lake Tateshina

Lake Tateshina

After our circuit of the lake, the michi no eki  has slipped into solitude.

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