|Kurobe Gorge is one of the top autumn leaf-watching spots in Japan. Our summer holiday plans had been slightly spoilt by the weather (we'd had one short trip but had originally hoped for a second) so we were keen to arrange another trip into the mountains before the huts closed for the winter.|
|The lower half of the gorge has an old narrow-gauge railway,
originally established as part of the construction process for the
massive hydro-electric scheme further up the valley (Japan's
biggest). These days it is mostly used by hordes of tourists gawping at
the views, but of course the vast majority of them don't get beyond the
Of course we had to have some green ice-cream to get us in the holiday spirit.
Actually the views from the train were a little disappointing. We had realised we were a bit on the early side for the best autumn colours, but didn't want to risk a washout on the next weekend since that would be the last one that the huts were open (and in fact it did rain that weekend).
seemed quite busy and I was a little apprehensive about what we would
find for the night. I had not booked anything as usual, thinking that
it could not be desperately full as it was not peak season. But the
first little onsen hotel we tried turned us away and sent us on to a
"proper" yamagoya (which basically never turn people away). It was
starting to get dark when we turned up at Babadani Onsen
(really a yamagoya despite the name) and there was some sucking of
teeth at first, but they agreed to let us sleep on the dining room
floor - the first time we have ever had to do that!
Actually it was probably a better option than cramming into a normal room, as we had plenty of space despite sharing it with several other overflows. But before then we had a long and enjoyable soak in their open-air baths. Below is the men's section, which even had a small Japanese maple overhanging it.
We also found a huge moth sitting under a light.
day after another bath and breakfast we retraced our steps to the
station area and then set off up the gorge in the sun. The high
contrast made photography difficult but once we were a little higher
the colours were pretty good.
The path we were following is basically a continuation of the railway line, built for access to the hydroelectric scheme.
It is hard to get pylons and cables out of the shot in Japan!
|Our destination for the night was Azohara Onsen.
It was not quite as busy as the previous night had been but still
pretty full. The bath was a few minutes down the hillside (on the below
pic you can see the hut, campsite nearby and then steam off the bath
lower down) with wonderful open views across the valley in the setting
up the valley on the next day would have meant a long walk with a long
journey home to follow, so instead we simply retraced our steps back
It was even brighter and more colourful in the early light
|The path was not really
difficult, but had some interesting moments - like this bundle of
rotten logs (with water steadily dripping onto them) above a long
Also a lengthy tunnel round the head of a small valley where regular landslides reshaped the surface.
|And finally another bath at Keyakidaira before the trip home!
And here is a rather simple map of where we went.
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