Joe's Japan Travel Journal
by Joe, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2015/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu

Burning red dripping down the slopes of Mount Nasu

Continuing our coverage of the autumn color season, I made my way to the beautiful Mount Nasu in northern Tochigi Prefecture. Mount Nasu, located just a little over an hour north of Tokyo by Shinkansen, is a hugely popular destination for enjoying autumn colors in early-mid October. In addition to its fall color, the mountain boasts many great onsen, interesting folk legends, great scenery, and more.

I started my day early at one of my favorite waterfalls in Tochigi, Komadome-ga-taki. I was greeted by some fabulous color surrounding the falls in the morning (plus a little extra color provided by a rainbow!). The colors in most places on Nasu are definitely at their peak now.

A merry-go-round of colors around Komadome-ga-taki
The unreal blue water of Komadome-ga-taki

Making my way towards the peaks of Nasu-dake, the weather started to get a bit cruel, unfortunately. Despite lovely weather in most of northern Tochigi, a nasty storm cloud was perched over Nasu-dake this morning, and with it lots of clouds and extremely strong wind. Missing today were the dozens of hikers that usually cover the trails during Nasu's peak color season (many of whom use the convenient ropeway, which was closed all day due to the wind). And today, it wasn't surprising. Just a half hour into my hike, the gusts of wind coming down from the summit were strong enough to knock me over and, as I found out, strong enough to remove unsecured glasses from unsuspecting victims' faces.

A bit cloudy (and more than a bit windy) in the morning, but still pretty
Extreme winds today made hiking to the ridge line a bit dangerous. The plantlife didn't seem to mind, though.
Taken just before a rhinoceros-strength gust literally whipped my glasses off of my face and into this ravine right here

After a disappointing start, I drove back down the mountain to the Nasu Yumoto area to wait out the storm a bit. Situated in a small valley in a bend in the slopes, the Yumoto area is one of the main onsen sources on Nasu, which happens to be celebrating its 1300th year anniversary this year. The area features traditional onsen, footbaths, ryokan, shopping, a lovely old shrine dedicated to the onsen of Nasu, and even the final resting place of the legendary Nine-Tailed Fox demon. All in all a great place to spend a half day.

The Nasu Yumoto area, with the 1300-year-old Shika-no-yu Onsen in the center
Next to the Yumoto's famous Murder Stone, there are hundreds of unusual Jizo statues with enlarged hands pressed together in prayer
A Jizo statue

After killing some time in the Yumoto area, the clouds on top of the mountain cleared up enough for me to give my hike another chance. On my second attempt, the views of the mountain slopes were much better (though the winds remained just as strong as before, limiting my hike to only about halfway up the mountain). The bright red nanakamado shrubs growing all over the slopes of Asahi-dake (one of the three highest peak of the Nasu massif) was stunning, especially contrasted against the waves of emerald green sasa (alpine bamboo).

While the high winds sadly kept me from reaching the Fukushima side of the mountain, which offers stunning views of autumn color of its own, my short trip was enough to convince me that the mountain is in peak color now, and should be absolutely lovely though the long weekend for any travelers looking for some great fall color near Tokyo.

The trailhead for Asahi-dake
The sun was much kinder in the afternoon
Chausu-dake, the Nasu mountains' highest peak, in the windy distance
The colors were absolutely stunning on the slopes of Asahi-dake
Red and green covering the slopes of Nasu
As far as I could safely make it in the gale-force winds
The Nasu and Shiobara mountains over the Nakagawa River, just on the edge of Nasu Town

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List of Posts:
2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017
2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/03/24 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Mitake
2015/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Takao
2015/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Fukuroda Falls
2015/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2015/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2015/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2015/10/13 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkoda
2015/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2015/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/04/14 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Yoshino
2015/04/13 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Miharu
2015/04/08 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Matsumoto Report
2015/01/29 - Crabs, Peonies and Castle Cruises in Shimane

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/16 - Seasonal Illumination: Osaka
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Kobe Luminarie 2014
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Ashikaga Flower Park
2014/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2014/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2014/10/29 - Autumn Color Report: Shima Onsen
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2014/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/08/20 - Kusatsu Onsen Beautification