Nasu [那須] - Hiking (almost) close to Tokyo
We found mountains, I’m so happy!
Back in Austria I loved hiking. To be honest I didn’t to it that much during my student years. Still living there, always close to mountains or hills, made me feel comfortable, sure that I could just go up there if in need of some peace and quiet.
Here in Tokyo, well, I can see mountains from my window, in clear weather, on the horizon, but I never quite figured out how to get there. Once we went up Takao-san, but since this one is Tokyos backyard mountain, there were so many people. If I wanted to compere it to a mountain in Austria, well I can’t… It felt like half of Austria being up there.
So after almost two years of living in Japan, we found Nasu. Nasu lies in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo. It takes us less than 2 hours to get to Nasushiobara Station by Shinkansen and from there we took a rental car.
After checking into our hotel (Laforet Nasu) we went out to have a look at the closest local sights. Our first impression of the area a few hundred meters away from the hotel was, it stinks. It stinks quite a bit of rotten eggs. The area is volcanic, so there is a lot of sulphur. But after a while you kind of get used to the smell.
The first attraction we went to was the Sessho-seki (殺生石), the „killing stone“. Here it is said, that the nine-tailed fox, after committing a lot of crimes in a lot of different places finally found it’s end.
Afterwards we went to see the Komadome Waterfall. From a viewing platform it is seen quite nicely, as long as not all of a sudden a lot of mist gathers in the area and heavy rain starts to fall. Well, since that is was happened, we fled to the car, went back to the hotel and enjoyed the onsen there, which also has a lot of sulphur in it.
In the morning it was still raining heavily. So we decided, after hotel onsen and breakfast, to look for another onsen to go to, since the area is quite famous for them. First we tried to find a mixed onsen, but they turned out to be quite different than expected (which is another story for another time) and closed on that day. In the end we went to Kita Onsen (北温泉) close to the Komadome Waterfall. The water is very nice, it contains a lot of iron. It is not a mixed onsen, except for an outdoor pool where you can go in in a bathing suit. We didn’t do that though. It was still raining, we didn’t have our bathing suits and somehow it didn’t look that inviting. Instead we went to the separate men’s and women’s baths.
The first one’s we went to, the outdoor baths, where very hot! After cooking my feet for a few seconds I decided that these where not meant to bath in and backed off. Peter told me he went in all the way for a short bath. I don’t know how he managed to do that without getting cooked through!
We also went to the indoor baths. While Peter enjoyed a nice chat with the local men, I enjoyed my peace and quiet alone in the women’s bath. Being all alone in there also enabled me to take some photos.
Relaxed from the bath we decided to check if it was also raining that much in the valley. After a drive of some 20 minutes we found it wasn’t. In fact the sun was shining nicely.
So we visited Japans first and biggest Farm which happens to be in Nasu. There are about 400 alpacas living on an area of 11000m^2. You can feed them, pet the young ones a little or just enjoy watching them and take pictures of these fluffy but weird animals.
Next we made a stop at the Cheese Garden. Entering the building we found ourselves in a big room. On the right hand side is a coffee shop where you can get cake, drinks or some snacks to eat at one of the tables. On the left hand side there are lots of shelfs containing cheesecake, a wide variety of other handmade sweets, cheese (of course), wines, sausages and so on. We ate some cheesecake and decided to come back for Omiyage on our way home.
Our last destination for the day was the Otome no taki (乙女の滝), a beautiful waterfall in the woods, where we spent quite a while taking pictures and enjoying the sight.
On our last day, finally, there was no sign of rain. We checked out of the hotel and drove straight to the Nasu Ropeway. The ropeway takes one up to around 1700m on Chausu-dake (茶臼岳), one of the Nasu-godake (那須五岳, Nasu Fife Peaks) a group of complex volcanoes. Chausu-dake is the only one active, wherefore hikers up there get a good view on fuming, stinking sulphuric fields.
We first climbed up to the peak which is on 1915m and than chose a shorter trail around it. We spent more than three hours up there, but there are so much more hiking trails, leading to other peaks, or just down to the parking lot. We will certainly come back to try those out as well!
We had a great time up there, but as a tip: It is good to take your sunblocker with you on a hiking trip, but even better not to forget it in your car, having it waiting there while you get baked through by the alpine sun…
So slightly burned we headed home, stopping only for ice cream at Minamigaoka Dairy Farm (also worth a longer visit some time, especially with kids) and some Omiyage (cookies and cheesecake) at the Cheese Garden.