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.

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…
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 😮
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
Hi mum
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
I first visited Kamikochi, a beautiful valley high in the mountains
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


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


After a nice hike through the wonderfully colourful forests the way got more difficult. Steps, chains and ladders added excitement to a nice hike
The tough climbing of course means that you get high up and have fantastic views
There’s that ‘active’ part the woman told me about. These are hot vents spewing out sulphur
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
The view of the cauldron and its lake
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
Back down the volcano the smell was gone thankfully
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.
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.
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).
Mountain chalet, Japanese style
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.
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
A gentle stroll to appreciate autumn
Great range of colours
Even on an overcast morning this maple tree is striking

Next up: Nagoya and Tokyo revisited


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