For the 2020 Olympics, Japan rearranged some holidays and thus one rainy July, I have a four-day weekend.With southern Japan experiencing seemingly unending rain, I decided to head north. Armed with a Seishun 18 ticket, 4 sets of dayhike clothes, and a mobile phone with internet, off I went.
Total Expenses: JPY30,290
- JPY6,460. Wednesday: Train to Fukushima Leg*.
- JPY5,890. Thursday: Mt. Adatara (安達太良山) Leg*.
- JPY11,330. Friday: Mt. Azuma (吾妻山) Leg*
- JPY6,610. Saturday: Mt. Nasu (那須岳) Leg
- *Includes JPY4,050/night hotel fees
July 22, 2020 (Wednesday): Train to Fukushima Leg. (6 hours train ride!)
- JPY2,410. Train, Tokyo Station to Koriyama Station. (via Seishun 18 ticket)
- JPY4,050. Hotel, near Fukushima Station.
- 03:00pm. I got into Tokyo Station, ready (and scared) for this weekend's adventure.
- 03:19pm. The train arrives on schedule, as expected. This train has a restroom on it, which is good as I have two hours of train ride. With those two hours, I found the cheapest accommodations I could find - JPY4,050 a night at APA Hotel in Fukushima. I was trying to find any place to stay at around Kuroyama Station, Nihonmatsu Station (for the Mt. Adatara hike), Fukushima Station and Yonezawa Station (for the Mt. Azuma hike). Even though I initially planned to stay at Koriyama, as APA Fukushima is the cheapest one, I decided to book two nights and use it as my base - go to Nihonmatsu Station for Mt. Adatara and Yonezawa Station early on Friday. Booked! I've also started googling for food, and learned that Fukushima is famous for their gyoza. Found the restaurant at Fukushima Station - Gyoza Terui (East Exit) but they close at 9pm. With me arriving at 8:30pm, that might be a close call.
- 05:08pm. Arrived at Utsunomiya Station, track 7. Track 8 was just across the platform, so I just crossed to the other side and got into the full train. The train is quite shaky, so make sure you have something to hold on to.
- 06:03pm. Arrived at Kuroiso Station, track 1. I had to go up the stairs and cross to track 4. The train is the nice one with facing seats, but since I'm flying solo I chose the sideways one. For easier transfer, do not go in the first car, and keep walking to the last one.
- 06:33pm. At Shin-shirakawa Station, the train to Fukushima is on the same track. You just have to walk further down the platform. The train has the kanji for Fukushima (福島) so you can confirm for your own comfort. The train has a restroom, so that's good. And now I get ready for another two hour ride.
- 08:33pm. Finally at Fukushima Station! Exited at East Exit (next to the platform), turned right, and there is Gyoza Terui! Closed! The last order is at 8pm. Oh well. So off I went to another gyoza place, Yamame (山女), where I waited half an hour to be seated (they are doing half capacity and full on disinfection before letting you in).
- 09:00pm. DINNER! I had an entire room to myself, and ordered their bestseller - the plate of gyoza (JPY1,320). They asked (twice!) if I would rather just order half. So I had to confirm (twice!), gently of course as I'm a lady, that yes, I would have twenty pieces of gyoza in one sitting. And I DID. In hindsight, they were right. If you are alone, order half.
- 09:45pm. Checked in, and the day is almost over! But! The hotel has an onsen so I plan to soak first. :)
July 23, 2020 (Thursday): Mt. Adatara (安達太良山) Leg.
- JPY420. Train from Koriyama Station to Nihonmatsu.
- JPY1,000. Roundtrip bus from Nihonmatsu Station to Shiosawa Station.
- JPY420. Train, Nihonmatsu Station to Fukushima Station.
- JPY4,050. Hotel, near Fukushima Station.
- 06:20am. The day starts. Got my coffee, dressed, brushed my teeth. By 6:45am, I was sitting on a train at Platform 1, waiting for the train to leave.
- 06:52am. Train, Fukushima Station to Nihommatsu Station.
- 07:14am. Arrival, Nihommatsu Station. Unfortunately, the trains are so few in between the next one arrives at 7:58am. So this is the only one I can take. Upon arrival, the bus stops are right outside the exit, but that's not what you are looking for. Keep walking to the next block, to the main street. Go to the other side of the street, and you'll see the bus stop.
- 07:48am. Bus, Nihommatsu Station (二本松駅) to Shiosawa Onsen (塩沢温泉). The bus has an IC card reader, but does not work. So get a ticket. You'll get there at 8:25am, remember where he dropped you off coz that's where the bus will be going home. Go back about 50 meters, and enter the empty ski resort. Everything is closed. On your right, next to the entrance, is a place to write your hiking plans on plus emergency contact. It's in Japanese, but I figured better safe than sorry.
- 08:30am. Start hike. I decided to do a counterclockwise loop, so I can pass through Mt. Tetsu before reaching Mt. Adatara. I felt like I was in the mountain's navel, having to wade through so much mud and four feet shrubs.
- 12:00pm. Mt. Tetsu's summit. No summit marker, just a pile of rocks.
- 01:23pm. Mt. Adatara's summit. It felt like a dragonfly paradise, with thousands of dragonflies flying overhead.
- 01:30pm. Start descent. After passing the mountain hut, I had the option to take the well used and marked road to Okudake. However, there is no public transport there so I had to go back to Shiosawa Onsen. The trail was a difficult one. I lost count of the number of rivers I had to cross, as well as the chain sections. I had to retrace my steps thrice because I took the wrong trail and ending up in a dead end. The trail is consistently muddy, and at times even has running water.
- 04:40pm. Back at Shiosawa Onsen. They do say onsen, but I couldn't see an onsen haha. Maybe during the winter, ski season. As it has started drizzling, I decided to sit under the covered entrance of the closed and fully boarded restaurant. It is then that I saw a little leech crawling on my leg. I removed it, saw it fall about half a foot from me and continue crawling its way to wherever it's going. I therefore decided it is better to wait in the rain, near the unassuming bus stop.
- 05:10pm. Took the bus, then the train, then back to my hotel.
- JPY770. Train, Fukushima Station to Yonezawa Station.
- JPY970. Bus, Yonezawa Station (米沢駅) to Tengendaira (天元台).
- JPY3,800. Ropeway from Tengendaira (天元台).
- JPY970. Bus, Tengendaira (天元台) to Yonezawa Station (米沢駅)
- JPY770. Train, Yonezawa Station to Fukushima Station.
- JPY4,050. Hotel, near Fukushima Station.
- 08:04am. Train, Fukushima Station to Yonezawa Station, platform 6, which is at the same area as platform 5 just a hundred meters or so down the platform. There is a conductor on the train, and you'll have to tell him where you are getting off, and he'll collect payments - cash or IC cards. Keep the ticket he gives you, as it will be collected at the station.
- 08:51am. Arrival, Yonezawa Station. At exit, turn left for the bus stops. The one going to Shirabu Onsen is at stop 2.
- 10:45am. Bus, Yonezawa Station (米沢駅) to Tengendai (天元台)
- 11:40am. Arrival at Tengendai. The bus was late, and thus cost me an additional 20 minutes waiting time. Bought the ticket at JPY3,800 roundtrip (steep!). The ropeway leaves thrice in an hour 00, 20 and 40. The lift closes at 3:40, so it's going to be a tight deadline.
- 12:00pm. Ropeway up. It took 5 minutes. Upon exit, turn right. The ski lift is a 5 minute walk from here on.
- 12:10pm. Boarded the first ski lift. There are three of them. I was on the second lift by 12:18pm, and on the third one by 12:29pm. By 12:46pm, I started my hike. I set a deadline of 2pm - where I needed to start heading back regardless, else I miss the lift back.
- 12:48pm. Within a minute or two of hiking, there was a fork on the trail. The left one goes to a stone viewpoint (at least the kanji has stone on it), so I took a right. It was an easy hike up, with stairs-ish rocks. I soon came into a small clearing, and the path was clearly marked and I followed the marker to the right. Soon I was walking on planks, descending a little bit. A fork shows up again, and I took a right, again slightly descending. It's pretty straightforward for the next 40mins ish, until I reach the shrine. The shrine was to my far right, about fifty meters of big rocks. I followed the marker at my left to the summit. The shrine is part of the triangle with the summit and the emergency hut, so you can actually loop around. I was tight with the time, so direct to the summit I went.
- 01:55pm. I reached the summit! And with 5 mins to spare! It was a bit disappointing, merely a marker nestled amongst the trees. I took some pictures and headed back. It started drizzling around 2:50pm, so I had to put on my rainjacket and raincover.
- 03:13pm. I arrived at the lift, and was soon seated. They try to wipe the seats, but if the towel is wet you can't really wipe it dry. So my butt got really cold haha.
- 04:10pm. Back at the bus stop. I finally got to drink my coffee, eat my not-freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie, and soon got into the bus.
- 04:40pm. The bus departed. I hope it is not late this time too...
- 05:24pm. Back at Yonezawa Station.
- 05:44pm. Train from Yonezawa Station to Fukushima Station. They do not accept IC card, and since they check the ticket before I get in, I had to buy the ticket beforehand (JPY770, cash).
- 06:30pm. I finally got back to Fukushima Station, tried the gyoza place again but they were fully booked, so had to find a new place. A cheap, normal gyoza place (Katsujiro) is about 7 minutes' walk away, and I paid JPY330 for 15pcs of gyoza. The place has one thing on the menu - gyoza.
- 07:15pm. Back to my hotel, did my onsen, and off resting for the next day.
July 25, 2020 (Saturday): Mt. Nasu (那須岳) Leg
- JPY2,600. Bus, roundtrip. Nasushiobara to trailhead.
- JPY400. Coin locker, Nasushiobara Station.
- JPY1,200. Ropeway, one way.
- JPY2,410. Train, Nasushiobara to Tokyo Station (via Seishun 18 ticket)
- 06:01am. Left Fukushima Station and got into Nasushiobara Station at 08:21am. I then rushed to go to the coin locker which is close to the East Exit, and find four 100 yen coins. The cheapest locker is 400yen, so if you plan to use them, have coins ready before you arrive. After stashing my clothes, I took the West Exit, took the escalator to my left, and the bus stop is right across me. You can see "那須ロープウェイ" written on the bus. It is at bus stop 3.
- 08:30am. The bus departed on the way to the ropeway. As of now, the ropeway status is still unknown, and an update is expected by 9am.
- 08:47am. The bus stopped at Kuroiso Station - bus stop 2. So you can also take the bus from here.
- 09:20am. Bus break. The driver offered us a bus pass - JPY2,600 unlimited rides for two days, which is cheaper than paying JPY1,430 one way. Further, if you plan to stay two days and explore the area, you can use this pass and hit multiple places such as Nasu's marshlands.
- 09:48am. Arrival at Nasu Ropeway. I went straight to the ticket counter, bought my ticket and waited for the ropeway. The ropeway runs thrice an hour, every 00, 20 and 40. However, they check regularly the wind strength and adjust accordingly.It started drizzling. Spoiler alert: It did not stop drizzling until 2:30pm.
- 10:00am. Boarded the ropeway.
- 10:06am. Started my hike. Just exited the ropeway building, and there's basically one path. It was a very rocky, and windy trail. I had a little pebble lightly hit me in the cheek. There are some forks on the path that lets you bypass Mt. Chausu. Just keep going straight up, until you see the torii (the wooden arc). To be safe, make sure you check the kanji for summit (頂上) as the directions will refer to that a lot.
- 10:40am. Arrival at Mt. Chauso summit. Took some photos, then continued on in a loop around the crater. The loop took less than 5 minutes, and off I go to Mt. Asahi.
- 11:40am. I reached the fork for Mt. Asahi and Mt. Sanbonyari. The last 15-20 minutes of this trail was dangerous, and involves a lot of chains, trust on your shoes (and they better deliver!). It was not that bad (though I was scared!), but definitely NOT beginner friendly.
- 11:50am. Summit, Mt. Asahi. The segue to Mt. Asahi took me 15 minutes in total - ascent, quick picture taking, and descent.
- 01:00pm. Summit, Mt. Sanbonyari. From Mt. Asahi to Mt. Sanbonyari is a third ridge walk, a third swamp, and a third gully. Prepare to get your shoes muddy, as I would assume the gully part has some muddy sections even if it is not raining. The trail here, as with the rest of Mt. Nasu, is clear cut and sectioned. That means minimal diversions, and therefore no RESTROOM breaks. Ladies, the only covered section I found was near the yellow marker "40", which is about half an hour before Mt. Sanbonyari's summit.
- 02:50pm. I exited the trail, marked by another torii gate. Here just keep going straight, and follow the signs for the ropeway (ロープウエイ).
- 03:05pm. I got back at the ropeway, and board the bus at 03:13pm.
- 04:30pm. Bus arrived at Nasu-shiobara Station. I bought some snacks, took my gear from the coin locker, and prepared for the three hour ride home.
- 08:00pm. Home sweet home! I did some groceries etc so I got a bit late, but nothing beats a home cooked meal after a nice shower! And that concludes my adventure for this week!