Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Japan vacation, hiking day seven.

Another start under sunny skies, we could definitely get used to this!
looking back towards the Goshiki-ga-hara hut
We start out across the plain from the hut with the Tate-yama, today's primary peak, in clear view. The path takes us along wooden walkways, lots of work going on here to preserve/restore the landscape, and then down off the end of the plain to the Zara-toge saddle (2348m) and then to the inevitable climb after the saddle. Up, up, up we go until we hit the peak of Shishidake (2741m). Then, of course, down, down down again to the next saddle, then up up, around the next peak. Down another bit, and then up, up to the peak of Jodo-san (2831m), where we take a wind-sheltered energy bar break leaning against the the stone wall around a research station. The views of the Tate-yama and the surrounding area are fantastic. The density of people is also definitely higher than what we have been used to. 
looking back along the ridge with the Goshiki-ga-hara hut (right) and even Yarigatake in the far back
looking towards Tate-yama (with buildings on top)
After the break, we descend to the Ichi-no-koshi hut (2705m), sitting nicely in a saddle and completely overrun by people on their way up to the Tate-yama. We take in the somewhat disappointing  view down to Murodo and then start climbing towards the peak. We do the 300m in about half an hour, with more than a few overtakes on the way up (this peak is too easily accessible, too well known and counts as one of the three most holy mountains in Japan, so loads of people are underway). The less said about that, the better. At O-yama (3003m) we soak in the views and the crowds, pay to be allowed the last bit up to the shrine on top of the peak, take in part of a ritual up there (hopefully that was a blessing that the monk gave to the group!), and then continue on the path to the next peak of the group, Onanji-yama (3015m), the highest point of the Tate-yama group. Here we scramble  to the top, chat for a bit with a group of middle-aged Japanese guys after taking a picture for them, take some pictures ourselves, and then continue along the ridge. 
shrine on top of the Tate-yama (3003 m)
on top of the Onanji-yama (3015m), the highest point of the Tate-yama group
We decide to skip the scramble up to the last peak on the ridge and start the long descent into the Raicho-zawa valley. This is more than 600m down and is in the unfortunate middle zone between difficulty enough to be interesting and easy enough to be able to not really pay attention. In short, it's long and kind of boring. At the bottom we find a place too cross the river, go through the big campground, and the climb up towards the huts. We are both pretty damn hungry, so we stop for lunch at the first open place we find. 
volcanically active Murodo plateau
After lunch we head to the station of the Alpine Route transport thing and do the seemingly very long trip down via trolley bus, gondola, funicular, walk, and then a final trolley bus. This is, even on a Tuesday in the off season, full of people and somewhat chaotic. A real experience. At the bottom we grab a bus into Shinano-Omachi. Due to a bad connection, we end up having to wait an hour for a train to Hakuba, so we grab a quick snack and something to drink while we wait. We finally get the train, ride through to Hakuba, find a hotel using the info center near the train station (nice system: they found a place for us, we paid them, they gave us a printed coupon that we took to the hotel), walk to the hotel, check in, enjoy showers, and the go grab food. We end up at a place we had walked by that looked decent. This turns out to be a yakiniku place that brings a pot full of coals to the table; you order the stuff that you then grill. A huge change from what we have been eating and very fun way to end a long day.

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