I am longing for the autumn season’s coming in Japan because it is the best season regarding climate and scenery. Especially, mountain areas in October are full of autumn leaves and covered by a wide variety of colors in nature. I just recollect that my trekking at Nasudake in Tochigi Prefecture where is well-known for the great scenery of autumn leaves in Japan. I went there with my friend in the mid of October 6 years ago for enjoying both trekking and hot spring called “Sandogoya Onsen” where located in the secluded region only accessible by walking.
Nasudake is the mecca of autumn leaves among mountains in Japan
We went to the foot of the mountains in the morning by Shinkansen (Bullet train) from Tokyo Station and local bus for almost 1 riding from JR Nasushiobara OR Kuroiso Station. When reaching, many visitors had already been there and the car parking was completely full. The weather was so fine and the climate was mild. Everybody including us aimed to see the best scenery in this season. We started to climb up along the trail to a shelter hut (Touge-no-Chaya Hinangoya) near the top of Chausudake for 1 hour while looking at the surrounded nature with colorful trees.
“Nasudake” actually consists of a few mountains such Chausudake, Asahidake, and Sanbonyaridake. Chausudake is the mountain at the forefront among these. Our final destination, “Sandogoya Onsen” had still a little distance from there and we had to pass by Asahidake, the second mountain. After eating lunch and taking a rest for a while near the shelter, we kept going. The trail to Asahidake had several rocky spots, so we needed to be careful as much as possible. There were many visitors to Asahidake, however, almost nobody except us went to Sandogoya Onsen, even we could not see any other people coming from the opposite direction at that time. Two of us were really enjoying walking in the deep nature with a fresh atmosphere but became anxious a bit because we could not find any buildings seems like mountain lodges in the deep nature for long hours and light rain started in the afternoon. More than anything, we were afraid to encounter with wild bears… After walking for 5 or 6 hours from the foot of the mountains, we finally reached “Daikokuya” lodge in Sandogoya Onsen at 4:00 pm. Good job for us! (FYI, my friend and I are relatively slow trekkers and we sometimes avoid and detour the top of the mountain when we are too exhausted. To keep walking 5-6 hours was a bit hard job for us.)
Daikokuya lodge has kept over 100 years of history by a family in the deep mountain
There are two lodges in Sandogoya Onsen, called “Daikokuya” and “Tabakoya” with very nice hot spring, and both of them had been over 100 years since they opened. Although we never met any climbers on the way to the lodge, many guests including some groups had already been there. According to what we heard, there are several different routes to the lodge.
Before having dinner, we went to the inner bath of the hot spring to be relaxed. The wooden bathroom with long history had a special and unique atmosphere, and the hot spring was transparent without sulfur constituent and very mild for our skin. Using soap & shampoo was prohibited due to protect the nature of the mountain area, but it was sufficient for us to dip into the tub. Breezing and landscapes from windows healed our fatigues by long walking. (It goes without saying that I enjoyed the hot spring in the morning of the next day, too.) Dinner at the mountain lodge was usually earlier and we had it around 5:30. The dishes were simple, but we were so delighted to have hot meals. Of course, there was no TV, no wifi connection, not enough electricity, so all we could do after dinner was chatting or reading books. After all, we fell asleep at around 8:00 pm because we were so tired.
By the way, I watched on TV program recently about the lodge. It is managed by a man whose age is around 80 and his family inherited the lodge for generations. He had kept the lodge over 50 years, but he got too old to take care of the lodge by himself. Therefore, his son in the ’30s decided to take over the lodge from his father by quitting his job at a major company due to keeping their family history and tradition.
We could not do anything for nature threat!!
The weather for the next day was very windy. We had a kind of storm all night and sometimes the lodge was waving because of the stronger wind. Actually, Nasudake is famous for blooming strong wind from time to time. We are a bit anxious about windy weather because we planned to go down to the mountains by a ropeway from the top. Leaving the lodge a bit earlier than we planned, we aimed to the top of Chausudake by the different route from yesterday. However, the landscape from the trail was so nice to see like colorful carpets of leaves.
A problem had happened when we reached Chausudake. It was super windy at the top of the mountain and a ropeway was, of course, canceled all day, so we had to walk down to the foot of the mountain from there. Moreover, it was too windy for us to stand, and had to crawl on all fours to move forward and to withstand. Somehow, we had to evacuate to the shelter hut while we were sometimes blown away by the strong wind. My friend and I felt great fear such as sliding down from the trail until reaching the shelter hut! It was a very scary experience among my trekking ever, even now! Anyway, we could reach the foot of the mountains with safe, however, we learned with the body that the weather in the mountains is so variable and dangerous…
Never forget to be well prepared your outfits & gears before going to mountains
Lastly, I really would like to take caution for your outfits when you go to the mountains in Japan. Please don’t underrate nature and never go to the mountains with light outfits! For example, Nasudake is the mountains with 2,000m altitude which families with kids also can climb, however, we must have hypothermia and danger of your life in case of super windy weather like this time and if we didn’t have proper outfits. Even in the lower mountains, please go there Go in a style suitable for climbing.
Especially, the number of climbers at Mt. Fuji has been tremendously increasing after it was registered as the World Heritage. I often watch on TV that some climbers are wearing just light clothes such as a T-shirt, half pants, and running shoes. It is not many, but someone came there by wearing Yukata (Kimono for summer) and sandals…?? I can only think that they are crazy and want to die there. If you don’t bring proper outfits for mountains, you can also rent a series of gears before going. Additionally, the climate & temperature in mountains change very quickly, and you may have altitude sickness in case you are not in good physical conditions such as lack of sleep or too much drinking on the previous day. Please enjoy the great nature of autumn leaves in Japan and go back to your country with safe and wonderful memories!!