|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.
2012/09/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
Located in the center of Hokkaido, Daisetsuzan National Park is larger than some of Japan's 47 prefectures. Not surprisingly, the park can be accessed from many directions. Today, I did so through Sounkyo, a popular hot spring resort in the north of the national park.
From the town center of Sounkyo, which is located at 670 meters above sea level, a ropeway and chair lift get tourists as far as the 7th Station of Mount Kurodake at 1520 meters, i.e. about seven tenths up the mountain. Kurodake is one of the many peaks of the Daisetsuzan Mountains, and its 1984 meter tall summit can be reached in about an hour from the 7th Station.
The autumn colors have not really descended below the 7th Station yet, but they became increasingly intensive as I ascended the steep trail towards the summit. But even close to the summit, most nanakamado bushes, the main provider of colors along the ascent, have not reached their ultimate autumnal beauty yet. This is likely to take several more days.
It seemed to me that there were less dried up leaves along the ascent today as compared to my visit last year; so I am optimistic that the leaves could turn into quite intensive orange and red colors within the following few days.
Around the summit of Kurodake, the main provider of autumn colors were urashima tsutsuji, low shrubs whose leaves turn into a shiny red and appear in patches across the higher elevations of the Daisetsuzan mountains. The third major koyo provider besides the nanakamado bushes and urashima tsutsuji were my beloved chinguruma which made up entire fields especially in the surroundings of the Kurodake mountain hut.
Today, I wasn't content with just climbing Mount Kurodake. So, I ventured into the interior of the Daisetsuzan Mountains and made a big loop around the large Ohachidaira Caldera before returning to Sounkyo. The Ohachidaira Caldera lies in the center of the Daisetsuzan Mountains and may not be entered due to poisonous, volcanic gases.
According to my hiking map, my excursion today involved about seven hours of hiking. Thanks to a horrendous pace, I completed it in 5.5 hours including breaks and hurting knees. More moderate hikers should note that this trip may not be possible in a single day and should consider staying overnight at the Kurodake mountain hut near Kurodake's peak.
Some of the colors in Daisetsuzan's interior have reached the peak of their autumnal beauty, but I think that overall they have still potential to further improve over the coming few days. Today they were best around Mount Kurodake's peak and between the Kurodake mountain hut and the Hokkaidake peak, while the colors were less numerous along the rest of the loop.
Autumn color hunters, who do not wish to make the entire loop, may want to consider to climb Mount Kurodake followed by a round trip to the Hokkaidake peak.