On next morning car was returned in Takamatsu and took high-speed ferry to Sodoshima – literally “small beans island”. Picked up a reserved Kei car for 4 hours upon arrival.
drove uphill to top ropeway station at about 600m and dropped by a tea house at about 300m. In the end we noticed that koyo was at peak in latter rather than at the summit. Though Kankakei can be reached by bus and ropeway, we rented a car to avoid potentially long lines in peak koyo season. Indeed, there were many visitors at the top ropeway station.
koyo at 300m
views from observatory prior to summit
views from observatory near top of ropeway station
next we drove downhill for lunch in Olive road station. Nearby there is an olive park where olive has been first grown in Japan for 100 years. It attracted plenty of visitors as it was also the venue of a local movie shot a few years ago.
venue where local movie was shot
views from onsen hotel in Takamatsu
Sodoshima in the distance
Yashima in the distance
square watermelon produced in Zentsuji city
===> koyo in Kinki ====>
After brief lunch in Okoke boat pier, we headed to Okuboji via expressway. Being the #88 temple with 1300 years of history, there were pilgrims, apart from usual visitors. Koyo was also at peak.
Next we headed back to Takamatsu city where we stayed 2 nights. Prior to hotel checkin, we visited this beautiful landscape garden. As it was after 4pm, there were not many visitors.
After checking out of the Iya onsen hotel on next morning in chill and wind, drove further inside the valley to visit Kazura-bashi – a bridge made of mountain vines.
Iya valley views along the way
koyo and biwa waterfall around the bridge
Oboke boat ride
next we headed to Oboke for a boat ride. It was smooth and lasted for 30min.
crouching lion rock
ghost village legend displays
Stayed in Iya onsen hotel, which is perched on a cliff overlooking a deep valley below. Its rotenburo is 170m downhill connected by a private cable car. Koyo was at peak in the valley below.
Sumptous Kaiseki dinner served with local river fish Amego, grilled Tokushima beef and abalone etc.
Our room #503 Aioi, means couple growing old together, has an ensuite rotenburo. As the public rotenburo (downhill) was just lukewarm, we soaked in our own rotenburo on next morning prior to breakfast.
views from room
Aioi – couple growing old together
view from ensuite rotenburo
Heading downhill we arrived at Shiromine-ji – #81 temple where koyo was at peak. It was also the tomb of Sutoku Emperor (崇徳天皇白峰御陵).
next we dropped by Kotohira-gu, which is the main shrine of Kompira shrines in Japan.
Climbed several hundred stairs to reach the main hall. Nice views of Kotohira town and Sanuki-Fuji in the distance.
Asahi-hall in the middle
Kotohira town below
Lunch in a modern restaurant operated by Shiseido at the foothill.
Iya valley (祖谷溪)
After leaving Kotohira-gu in Kagawa prefecture, drove via a narrow and meandering mountain road for an hour into Iya valley in western Tokushima prefecture.
peeing little monk
Visited Shikoku and Kinki – Kobe/Nara/Kyoto/Biwako for koyo (fall foliage) in mid to late November for 2 weeks.
After landing in KIX, took limo bus to Kobe and stayed overnight in onsen hotel for 3rd time to relax.
Dusk till dawn of Kobe harbour from balcony
half crescent moon set
On next morning, took Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Kobe and change at Okayama for JR express train heading to Shikoku for the first time via the Seto-Ohashi. Arrived at Marugame around noon and pick up car.
Overall driving itin in Shikoku – Marugame > Zentsuji > Shiromine onsen (1N) > Goshiki-dai > Kotohira-gu > Iya valley > Iya onsen (1N) > Kazura-bashi > Oboke/Koboke boat ride > Okuboji > Ritsurin-koen > Takamatsu (2N)
Marugame Castle (丸龜城)
The Marugame Castle is one of the twelve original castles in Japan. Climb was steep at some points though the reward was nice views of Sanuki-Fuji in the distance. Bumped into Jugatsu-zakura (October-sakura) and the 47th Marugame Chrysanthemum Festival.
Sanuki-Fuji in the distance
Jugatsu-zakura (October sakura)
outside the moat
Sanuki-udon for late lunch
The birthplace of Kobo Daishi, #75 temple in Shikoku 88-temple pilgrimage.
As it was raining, slowly getting dark and cold, we did not stay long and drove back to Shiromine onsen in Sakaide.
#75 temple in Shikoku
literally five-coloured plateau. It has 5 peaks named in 5 different colours. Drove uphill after checking out from onsen hotel.
Nice views of the Seto Inland sea and the Seto-Ohashi in the distance.
night view of Sakaide from hotel room
Stayed in Tateshina Tokyu Hotel for 2 nights. Located at about 1300m in a forest with golf courses, tennis courts and other facilities for families to spend in summer and winter months.
Almost perfect reflections in the pond in front of the hotel.
view from room
Shirakoma-ike (白 駒 池)
Drove up to 2100m for this pond which is famous for koyo (fall foliage) in end September. There was no koyo yet (as expected) though we trekked past a primitive forest in about 30min.
A turquoise pond on the roadside with wonderful reflections on clear calm days. It attracted big crowds who were ferried in by coaches.
“Virgin” waterfall and Tateshina Kogen (highland) lookout.
Tateshina Kogen lookout
Returned car in Chino on the next day and travelled back to Tokyo by JR Chuo express train. Stayed in Tokyo/Shibuya over the weekend before returning to Hong Kong.
After checking out from Karuizawa, drove uphill to the highlands in Nagano Prefecture. It was a sunny day after typhoon #21 had passed.
Followed the Japan Romantic Road to Komoro to visit Kaikoen (懐古園) – a park famous for sakura.
Utsukushigahara Plateau Museum of Art (美ヶ原高原)
Followed the Venus Road and arrived at Utsukushigahra at 2000m where there is an open-air museum, akin to the one in Hakone Gora.
Before arriving at hotel in Tateshina Kogen, passed by Kurama-kogen @1600, Shirakaba-ko @1400m.
highest point at Utsukushigahra Kogen
Kiri-no-eki road station
3rd visit to this onsen town though first time by car. Drove about 1 hour+ uphill.
Symbol of Kusatsu onsen with a flow of 5000 litres per minute.
Sainokawara Kōen (西の河原公園)
Went to the huge rotenburo in Sainokawara park for daytime onsen again. It could easily accommodate 100+ people. We hardly visit daytime onsens as we usually stay in onsen hotels/ryokans in each trip but this is not to be missed.
Admission fee is JPY600 per adult. We brought towels from hotel.
Sainokawara Koen rotenburo
#1 onsen in Japan for 15 consecutive years
A traditional method to cool down Kusatsu onsen without diluting it by stirring it with large wooden paddles. The performance includes folk songs and dancing by the ladies. Visitors were invited to join the stirring before it ended in about 30 min.
On the way back to Karuizawa, dropped by two waterfalls – Asama and Uotome in Mt Asama.
Visited the countryside of Nagano Prefecture along parts of the Romantic Road for few days. Rented a car to visit Karuizawa, Kusatsu onsen, Komoro, the highland areas including Utsukushigahara-kogen, Kuramayama-kogen, Shirakaba-ko, Tateshina-kogen etc.
Returned car in Chino and took JR Chuo express train back to Tokyo.
Stayed in Karuizawa Prince Hotel East Wing with free access to onsen for few nights.
Before typhoon #21 hit Japan, we drove uphill to visit Kusatsu onsen town as a day trip.
On the next day, we drove around Karuizawa while it started to drizzle and turn into heavier rain during the day.
Kumoba-ike (雲 場 池)
about 5-10 min drive from town.
strolled around shops and small stream
St Paul Catholic Church
Teppanyaki dinner by hotel main chef