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

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2015/10/13 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkoda

Colors and clouds on the slopes of Mount Hakkoda

In Japan, the north is often synonymous with the great outdoors, and for travelers hoping to experience autumn colors in a natural, expansive setting, Tohoku, the northernmost region of Japan's main island, is a great place to find it. This week, I'll be visiting three of northern Tohoku's most popular spots for catching the changing leaves. The season here usually starts in late September and lasts through mid-October, making this week a prime time to catch the fall colors at their peak.

This morning I caught an early train on the Tohoku Shinkansen to Aomori Prefecture (less than 3 hours from Tokyo) and made my way to one Mount Hakkoda (Hakkodasan). The mountain well-known amongst winter sports enthusiasts for its huge amounts of powedery snow in the winter, but in the fall, it also draws in thousands of leaf-watchers to its slopes, which are covered in color-changing foliage.

Today Hakkodasan was absolutely on fire with color. To get the best views of the mountain, I took the Hakkoda Ropeway up to the top of Tamoyachidake. The nearly 15-minute gondola ride was stunning. Seeing the entire forest covering almost the entirety of the mountain's slopes turned orange, red, and yellow was staggeringly beautiful, even despite the clouds and rain.

Visitors anxiously lining up like astronauts preparing to board a rocket
Taking in the ocean of orange and yellow from the ropeway
The mountainside was a never-ending, rolling orange wave
A ropeway car making its way up Hakkodasan
Unbelievable colors everywhere!
So much red and yellow the green pine trees often stuck out more than the deciduous trees
Truly a breathtaking view from the ropeway

After taking in the views from afar, the next item on my itinerary for the day was a short hike starting from the famous Sukayu Onsen. The ryokan is home of a huge indoor mixed-gender bath with milky waters--a very tempting post-hike option. I made my way from the onsen to the Kenashitai marshland, about a 30-minute (muddy) hike. Upon reaching the marsh itself, however, the constant drizzle turned into a nasty hail and thunder storm. I was forced to make my back early, though not before catching a few nice glimpses of the fall colors peaking around the wetland area.

A tour bus whipping around the colorful Gold Line road like a horse whipping its ponytail
Amazing foliage surrounding Hakkoda's famous Sukayu Onsen
A bit of the Gold Line road from the hiking trail
Fallen leaves on the muddy trail
Cold, dark pine hues contrasted by the golden marshland grasses at Kenashitai
And...this is about when I decided it was time for a trip to the onsen

After drying off a bit at Sukayu, I made my last stop for the day at the Jogakura Bridge, a five-minute drive from the onsen. The views around the bridge fantastic, and another confirmation that the whole area is at peak color this week.

All in all, the entire Hakkodasan area proved to be a wonderland for autumn colors (even despite the rain, hail and eventual snow today!). I'm looking forward to heading a few kilometers south tomorrow to check on the colors around Lake Towada!

The Jogakura Bridge near Sukayu Onsen
Absolute peak colors around the Jogakura Bridge

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List of Posts:
2018/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2018
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