by Francois, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2009/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Akita-Komagatake
Today our pursuit of koyo ("fall colors") lead us to the Tohoku Region, where we hiked up Mount Akita-Komagatake in Akita Prefecture. We took an early shinkansen to Morioka Station in Iwate where we picked up a rental car, and then drove for about two hours to Komagatake's 8th Station, located 80% up the mountainside, from where we began our hike.
The koyo along the narrow 10km road up to the 8th Station was by far the best koyo we saw today, which is almost at its peak. At a local information center we were told the leaves should reach their peak in about a week. On October weekends, the narrow road to the 8th Station is closed to individual traffic and only accessible by shuttle buses, but on weekdays like today there are no buses and the road is open to regular drivers. As we headed to the 8th Station, sometimes it was as if we were driving through a tunnel of bright orange and red leaves.
The 8th Station is located just above the tree line, so all the beautiful koyo we had seen on the drive up were nowhere to be seen once we began our hike. We were still able to get some very nice views of the koyo from above though. Also, Komagatake had a wonderful trail that was very interesting despite the lack of fall colors. At the top of the mountain are a number of peaks, which give breathtaking views out from their over 1500 meter elevations.
After our hike, we spent the night in nearby Tsurunoyu, one of the half dozen ryokan that make up the rustic Nyuto Onsen hot spring resort. With its remote location in the wooded mountains, guest rooms dating back to the Edo Period (1600-1868), a fine dinner around an irori fire place and one of the most atmospheric open air baths in all of Japan, Tsurunoyu is as good as it gets. Autumn colors around Tsurunoyu are expected to reach their peak around October 10-20.