From Tokyo to Mt. Zao
Mt. Fuji evaded me this trip, cloaked in clouds.
Enjoyed the Edo atmosphere and fresh sushi in Hakone instead.
Took a weekend trip on the Shinkansen bullet train to the Yamagata Prefecture.
Between some stops, the train reached 180 mph.
Found the right bus and continued on to a ski town called Zao Onsen.
Stayed in a traditional ryokan and enjoyed the many indoor and outdoor hot springs.
Snow had not yet converted the town, allowing the fall colors to glow.
Took a gondola and a chair lift as far as you could go, then we began our hike.
That mountain peak was our destination (good thing we didnít know that until after we were half way there).
We wound around a huge valley with spectacular views and worked our way to the peak that allowed us to cross over to the other mountain.
I might add, Japanese trail maps are very hard to readÖ
When we crested the tallest peak, we could still not see the gem we had traveled all this way for.
A short hike down the other side of the peak positioned us on a rim where we gasped at the first site of Lake Okama.
Once a volcano, the crater is now a lake that changes colors throughout the day with the different lighting.
We hiked alongside the lake all the way around to the other side which had a ski lodge,
tourist viewing (you can actually ride a bus up if you want), and a shrine.
At most shrines you can buy fortunes (omikuji).
If it is a good fortune, you take it with you. If bad, you tie it to the ropes on the nearby rack.
There were makeshift shrines all along the way built with rocks, including countless piles at the final peak.
Since I made the hike without an ACL (donít worry it was a path most of the way), we thought it best to ride the bus down.
But first, there a small issue concerning riding a single seat chairlift part of the way down.
Have you any idea how hard it is to get off one those things without skis and not being able to run?
Susan N. Freeman
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LAST UPDATE: 20 JAN 04