Monday, September 24, 2007

Saeka Onsen - Shiobara, Tochigi

Map Location

Saeka Onsen is a very nice onsen close to Nasushiobara. It has a beautiful mountain view from the outside pool. This onsen is recommended.

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The view from the bath.

Its open until 10PM so it would be possible to go there after work. I don't think you can stay the night there its just a day visit place.

Gensenkang Onsen - Shiobara, Tochigi

Map Location

A beautiful onsen by the river. There is a semi open hot bath overlooking the river. According to some people we met the water is very good here. Its slightly milky and a bit yellow and sulphurous. We felt great after a soak here.

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So far this is our favourite onsen. Very comfortable and relaxing.

You can stay the night at this onsen in the hotel or you for 800 yen you can visit. They open nice and early at 8AM. There are a number of other onsens in the area to try out too.
A few more photos

Heigatuon Restaurant - Otawara, Tochigi

Map Location

This is a simple local restaurant with good food. Its inexpensive.
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We had set meals of Barbequed Fish and Tempura with Soba. Both were great and the total price was less than 3000 yen.

They have a number of specials made with all local ingredients that are very good. Presentation is good. Service is very slow.

Recommended, but next time I'm bringing a newspaper.

Gioia Mia Restaurant - Shiobara, Tochigi

Map Location

So far our experiences with Italian Restaurants in Japan have been nearly universally good. They are cheap and very good. Gioia Mia is no exception.
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We had great antipasto, spaghetti, prawns and dessert on the set menu at lunchtime for a price of 4500 yen for two. The service was friendly and quick.
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On the weekend its busy. I'd suggest you go early or late unless you like waiting. Also don't forget to bring your katakana cheat sheet. There is English or Italian text on the menu.

Its on highway 400 on the way to Shiobara. It opens at 11:00 AM and closes at 10:00PM. Its part of a chain of restaurants, normally thats a negative for me, but in this case, I'm happy there is more than one of them :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Shakagatake and Kengamine Mountains - Tochigi

Map Location


This map picture will serve you much better than the google map above once you get close. There are two carparks. The first one must be very useful when the flower gardens are in bloom (reportedly quite beautiful) and is close to the tent site. The second carpark is the one where you should park if you want to climb the mountains in this post.

There are shorter walks between and around the carparks that are quite nice.
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Kengamine is about 2 1/2 hours return. Its a beautiful walk through green forests with great panoramic views (its _frequently_ cloudy). There are two tracks from the parking area so you can walk up on one path and back down the other. There is a pretty little temple in a rocky area about 1 hour walk in which you may assume to the top but actually the top is a little way further. The temple is the most beautiful part and the right place to stop for a meal if you plan to stop. The temple is also the place where the two tracks from the parking area meet up.
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After Kengamine the walking gets a bit harder on the way to Shakagatake. We thought it would be a nice short walk. Its not. The return walk is probably a bit over 4 hours from the carpark. Also the maps along the trail are not that good. There will be two unexpected junctions along the way. Just turn left at both junction on the way in and you will get there. Apparently, there is a shorter way to get to Shakagatake but we don't yet know where that starts from.
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More Photos

Monday, September 17, 2007

River Valley Walk - Shiobara, Tochigi

Map Location (very rough)

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So now we have a project to get to know Shiobara better and visit a lot of Onsen in the area. This is an excellent walk.


I can't locate this place accurately on Google Maps. Drive up the river on highway 400. Park in the carpark on the left before the first tunnel at the sign shown below. If you go through a tunnel you have just missed it. This corresponds with the downstream/right hand yellow dot on the above map.

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OK. Now its easy. Just walk down the hill, cross the suspension bridge and turn left and you will be on your way. (the path loops around to the right and you will be walking upstream.

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The walk is only 3.3 km., but its pretty steep and hard going. It starts off with a suspension bridge with great views. Then continues through beautiful rain forest. There are fantastic views of the river all the way along and a good waterfall at the end. Actually there is a nice picnic area at the end too.

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The downside of it is that once you complete the walk there are only two reasonable ways to get back to the start. One is to walk the return path which is a bit of a slog. Or you can walk back along the road. We chose the road and it was quite horrible but much faster. The traffic was especially intimidating on the narrow road. Next time I think we will walk the longer way. My admiration of Japanese elegance and love of beauty took a bit of a dent with the amount of rubbish that had been left by the side of the road too.

Afterwards we went up to our first main Shiobara onsen. We visited Green Village Onsen (Map Location). It was OK but nothing special. Then we walked along the river a bit and found some real outdoor onsens along the side of the track. You still have to pay to use them, but they are really very attractive. They are however mixed (only men there today).

More Shiobara pictures

Goshikinuma Swamps, Bandai, Fukushima

Map Location

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Also known as the Five Colored Swamps. I think they could up their marketing appeal by calling them the Five Colored Lakes.

Anyway, the swamps are a series of small lakes colored various shades of blue and green by mineral deposits. Some of the lakes are quite striking. There were lots of photographers on the walk with tripods and fancy cameras.

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It takes about an hour to walk the length of them. We walked back along the same route but you could walk back along the road and stop for a meal or visit one of the other (rather kitch looking) attractions. I marked both ends of the walk on the map location. At the busy end there is a shopping area and you can rent boats and row about on the largest of the lakes. There are some huge carp in that lake.

We drove up a beautiful toll road to the onsen area but they were all booked out so we didn't stay there.

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The other main interesting thing about this area is it looks to be a pretty busy ski area in the winter. There are lots of resorts and ski fields.

More Bandai area photos