|Schauwecker's Japan Travel Blog|
by Stefan Schauwecker, webmaster of japan-guide.com
This blog is intended to record some of my travel activities in Japan.
2010/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
Welcome to the 2010 autumn color report by japan-guide.com! Over the next three months we will follow the colorful fall foliage as it gradually makes its way from the highest peaks of Hokkaido across the country down into the gardens and parks of Tokyo and Kyoto. We will keep you up to date about the season with periodic reports from popular autumn leaf spots across Japan.
Due to an extraordinarily hot summer (Hokkaido recorded temperatures 2-3 degrees hotter than average), the coloring of leaves around Mount Asahidake has only just started about a week ago, which is considerably later than in the average year. Furthermore, it is expected that the summer heat will also have a negative impact on the intensity of this year's autumn colors, but this should not be obviously noticeable to the average tourist.
At 7am, I took the Asahidake Ropeway from Asahidake Onsen to its upper station, where there is an easy 40-60 minute circular walking course past some ponds and sulfurous steam vents. The bushes and shrubs, which provide the autumn colors around the upper ropeway station above the tree line, have started coloring, but need another week or so to reach their peak.
Rather than doing the 40-60 minute circular trail, I opted for a grander 5-8 hour circular hiking tour through Daisetsuzan National Park. From the upper ropeway station I first climbed to the summit of Mount Asahidake, a 90-150 minute steep ascent with beautiful views. By the time I reached the summit, most vegetation had been replaced by volcanic rock.
Not too many autumn colors were visible along the next section of the course either, which descended the rear side of Mount Asahidake into the untouched, wonderful volcanic landscape of the Daisetsuzan Mountains. The autumn colors made a comeback when I started my descent towards the Susoaidaira Plateau.
Susoaidaira Plateau was the best spot for autumn colors today. Some Nanakamado shrubs, the most prominent providers of autumn colors in the high mountains, already faded into yellow and orange colors, while carpets of Chinguruma grass with its cute white flowers (or better: seeds that remain of the flowers) and Urashima Azaleas complemented the autumnal canvas with their small red leaves. Here too, the colors should be further improving over the coming days.
In order to visit the Susoaidaira Plateau, it is not necessary to travel via the peak of Mount Asahidake. Instead, it is also possible to hike the route in the opposite direction and reach the plateau faster and more directly in about 90-120 minutes one way. The trail for Susoaidaira Plateau branches off the circular 40-60 minute walking course at the Meotoike Ponds.