|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.
2015/09/17 - Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan
The weather could not have been better to do the Daisetsuzan Traverse from Asahidake Onsen to Sounkyo Onsen today. Hikers traversing the Daisetsuzan Mountains typically climb the summit of Mount Asahidake along the way; however, I opted for a route via the Susoaidaira Plateau because it is one of the best places to see autumn colors (while the summit of Mount Asahidake is not).
According to my map, the entire hike from the upper station of the Asahidake Ropeway to the upper station of the Kurodake chair lift takes around seven hours. There are lots of ups and downs, and the trail is uneven. Proper hiking shoes and preparations are required. The hike does not include any difficult passages. Rather, its main challenge is the distance. People in good shape should have no problem to complete the traverse in a single day (with an early start); however, hikers with less stamina should consider staying overnight at the Kurodake mountain hut along the way.
I departed the upper station of the Asahidake Ropeway at 6:50, just a few minutes after the sun had risen from behind Hokkaido's tallest peak. After enjoying the colors around the ropeway station once more, I hiked to the Susoaidaira Plateau in about an hour. The way there was not very colorful, but the Susoaidaira Plateau itself was one of today's highlights with vibrant nanakamado bushes and cute chinguruma plants covering the plateau and surrounding mountain slopes. The colors here were better than on any of my previous visits. Not only was my timing good, but this year's weather conditions seem to have been very favorable for bringing out the best colors.
After reaching the end of the plateau, the trail runs parallel for a while to a beautiful mountain river that smells of sulfur. It soon passes Nakadake Onsen, an area where naturally hot water bubbles out of the ground, and hikers can enjoy the natural waters in small pools next to the river.
After another 45 minutes, I reached the rim of the Ohachidaira Caldera, the majestic caldera in the center of the Daisetsuzan Mountains. The caldera, too, had some of its slopes decorated with colorful nanakamado bushes at their peak. The rest of the walk to the summit of Mount Kurodake was similarly spectacular. I have never seen the entire mountain so colorful!
The descent from Kurodake's summit to the upper station of the chair lift did not disappoint, either. Here, too, the colors were at their peak and better than in many of the previous seven years. I then descended by chair lift and ropeway to Sounkyo Onsen. The vegetation along the chair lift has only just started to change colors, and it will probably take a couple more weeks until the trees in the onsen town of Sounkyo down at the bottom of the gorge will do the same.