Autumn in The Japanese Alps

Travelling to different and diverse destinations also means visiting many climates. I had been afraid that, this year, I wouldn’t see Autumn at all. So I was delighted when Japan came to the rescue.

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Leaving Hiroshima, I had hoped to get the bus (cheap) but instead, due to poor planning on my part, had to get the shinkansen (expensive). Oh well…
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A short while after leaving Hiroshima alarm bells started ringing and the train slowed and came to a stop. No-one else seemed too bothered so neither was I. Announcements in Japanese didn’t help me of course and I only realised it was an earthquake when a friend in Hiroshima sent me a message asking “did you feel that?!” I didn’t notice anything except the usual train vibrations. So I missed my connecting train due to the delay caused by an earthquake 😮
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I arrived in Matsumoto, the jumping off point for getting into the so-called Japanese Alps. This is Matsumoto Castle, the oldest one in Japan
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Hi mum
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So it was then time to catch the first train in the morning and go hiking! I must say the sight and sound of thudding hiking boots and the swish of hard shells was enough to put me as ease as I was again in familiar territory; it just like hiking in the Swiss Alps
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I first visited Kamikochi, a beautiful valley high in the mountains
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The landscape really did remind me of the Alps but this mountain is actually a volcano called Mount Yake-dake (which you don’t get in the Alps) and it was my goal for the day. I did assume it was totally safe but the woman at the information desk told me “It’s an active volcano, it might erupt”. Assuming my luck would hold out I started off. The colours of the leaves were fantastic, full greens to yellows, oranges and flashes of fiery red

 

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One such flash of fiery red against the green backdrop of the forest floor and my white hands

 

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After a nice hike through the wonderfully colourful forests the way got more difficult. Steps, chains and ladders added excitement to a nice hike
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The tough climbing of course means that you get high up and have fantastic views
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There’s that ‘active’ part the woman told me about. These are hot vents spewing out sulphur
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Near the summit it was a bit of a scramble leading to a traffic jam. The vents (yellow on the left) were very close here meaning that the smell of sulphur, that is, the smell of rotten eggs, was almost unbearable
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The view of the cauldron and its lake
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I had thought about picnic-ing at the top but honestly the smell was nauseating. Amazing many people seemed not to care and just munched down on lunch, these guys included. I had to get back down quickly after appreciating the wonderful view
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Back down the volcano the smell was gone thankfully
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The next hike was in the Norikura Highlands. A wonderful area full of waterfalls. At the guesthouse I met a great guy called Fentress and we planned to climb Mt Norikura at 3026 m.
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It was a long hike but it was worth it. Stupid tourist observation: in Europe (and elsewhere too) the summit is often marked by a cross or a statue of the Virgin Mary but here, as you can see, it was marked by a wooden Shinto torii.
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Even though the weather was great for the hike the wind at the top was cold and forceful. Luckily there was a quaint little mountain hut open just below. Fentress and I had roast sweet potato. It was the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten (slight exaggeration possibly).
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Mountain chalet, Japanese style
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This area of Japan is famous for onsen, nature hot water springs, perfect for relaxing after hiking. The guesthouse where I was staying had a private outdoor onsen. In fact the water was piped from the source 5 km away.
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Pictured: me and my hairy legs relaxing in the natural hot water bath surrounded by nature. Not pictured: the godawful smell of the water. Really it’s fantastic but the smell of rotten eggs is seriously offputting
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A gentle stroll to appreciate autumn
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Great range of colours
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Even on an overcast morning this maple tree is striking

Next up: Nagoya and Tokyo revisited

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