JP 2019 Sep Koyo Sapporo/Otaru

Returned to Sapporo for 2 nights before flying back home. While koyo won’t be in Sapporo until mid to late Oct, it was more for relaxation and to enjoy French dinner course served in a 3-star Michelin restaurant.

Quickly dashed to our fav sushi restaurant in Sapporo for lunch after dropping our luggage in JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo.



Dinner in fav izakaya. No sightseeing as it had been raining quite heavily in Sapporo.


It was a sunny day on the next morning after the passage of another temperate cyclone. Went to Otaru again for easy strolls in its canal and glass shops.


Seafood-don lunch in Sankaku market


French dinner course “Terroir” in Michelin 3-star restaurant – delicious food and superb service !!



Dropped by the former Hokkaido Government office Building again and Odori Park before departure.

That is the end of our 1-week koyo trip in Hokkaido.



**********            E  N  D           ************



JP 2019 Sep Koyo Ginsendai

On the next morning, headed up to Ginsendai after checking out from the Sounkyo onsen hotel. The temporary shuttle bus had much less passengers and after 35 min it arrived at the trailhead at over 1500m.

It was a cloudy day while sunlight pierced through clouds from time to time.  The trail leading up to Akadake was less muddy in the beginning though after 15 min it was in snow and puddles as in Kogen onsen. Further up the trail was narrower and completely covered in some form of hardened snow. Arrived at a viewing point where koyo could be viewed (unblocked by trees). Koyo had clearly past its peak in pale red as expected due to snow and higher elevations. Stayed for about 10 min and returned.



Tenninkyo / Hagaromo Falls (天人峡/羽衣の滝)

Returned to Sounkyo for brief lunch before noon. Drove to Tenninkyo about 100km away (3rd visit). Arrived at around 2pm+ and followed a flat trail of about 600m to Hagoromo falls. That trail had been closed for a few years due to landslides and was reopened recently.

In our 2nd visit 10 years ago the observation deck was at a higher and closer point where the Y-shaped falls could be seen in full. Sadly, the onsen hotel we stayed in 2004 had been closed.



While on the way to our onsen hotel in Furano, dropped by Biei before sunset for Daisetuszan, Mt Tokachi range on the distant horizon, Family trees and Ken & Mary tree.



New Prince Furano Hotel – 3rd stay and sumptuous western dinner course.


Returned car in Furano station on the next morning and took Chuo express bus back to Sapporo on another rainy day.


====>   Sapporo / Otaru   ====>


JP 2019 Sep Koyo Kogen onsen (Part 2)

Next we headed further up to Midori-numa (緑沼), another gorgeous koyo spot. As it was one of the few spots with wooden benches and where eating was permitted, it was full of hikers at nearly noon time.



Did not rest and continue uphill to Ezo-numa (エゾ沼). Koyo was less impressive than in our 1st visit in 2004.



Next was Shikibu-numa (式部沼) which was probably the most gorgeous pond of the day.


Arrived at Daigaku-numa (大学沼) whose resting area was entirely covered in snow and puddles. Took a brief rest and quickly consumed an onigiri where eating was also permitted. 


Spoke to park patrols on-duty and attempted further uphill to Kogen-numa but had to give up. That trail had become very slippery due to snow and mud all submerged beneath mountain streams. By then it was past 1pm, chilly at probably 5-6C and many hikers had returned. It was at the same location that wife and I had reached in 2004.

Upon descent took some quick snaps on some swamps such as Kamo-numa, Basho-numa etc.


Finally returned to the trailhead at almost 3:30pm.  Took the last shuttle bus (seated) back to the temporary parking lot. Drove back to the onsen hotel at around 5pm – exhausted though grateful.


** Lessons learned
Apart from proper mountain hiking gears including waterproof hiking shoes and trekking poles, renting waterproof plastic boots up to shin (on spot) might be a better solution to trails strewn with muddy puddles, mountain streams and possibly snow.



====>   Ginsendai   ====>



JP 2019 Sep Koyo Kogen onsen (Part 1)

It was a sunny day on the next morning and we had high hopes for koyo on our 3rd hike in Daisetsu Kogen onsen (大雪 高原温泉)  😎

Arrived at the temporary parking lot near Daisetsu dam before 9am and there were plenty of cars – it was the first day of a long weekend. Took the 9am bus (standing) uphill and attended a mandatory briefing in the Bear Information Centre (ヒグマ情報センター) – video in Japanese on trails/timings, bears, food and toilet arrangement etc.

Commenced hiking after 10am. Due to a mixture of mud, widespread puddles and snow along the trails the hike was slower and more demanding, while there were more hikers along the way than in our last two visits.

Reached the first pond – Tohyou-numa (土俵沼) at around 11:30. The pond surface had partially frozen to our surprise.


Skipped the next Bashou-numa (till descent) and headed up to Takimi-numa (滝見沼) immediately. Koyo was less impressive though covered in snow – also photogenic 🙂


===>  Kogen onsen (Part 2)  ===>



JP 2019 Sep Koyo Sounkyo

On the next morning, first snow (in Japan) was reported on Kurodake during the morning Hokkaido TV news where 5cm snow had accumulated in the mountain hut at over 1900m on 19th Sept.


In Asahidake, the situation was also disappointing – not only was it foggy/misty from the live webcam, the ropeway operation was suspended due to strong wind. Even the hotel concierge felt sorry for us and others.  Well, that is mountain weather.

After checking out, we drove to Sounkyo onsen  (over 100km away)  where we’d stay for the next 2 nights. Our original plan was to visit Ginsendai – but then this wish was knocked down again as the temporary shuttle bus to Ginsendai had stopped running on that day due to snow. Ahhh  🙁 


On the way returning to Sounkyo for lunch, we dropped by Obako and the dual waterfalls briefly. Koyo usually reaches peak in early Oct at the bottom of the valley so we did not expect anything, though one of two trees up on the cliffs already showed some fiery colour.


After lunch, our wish to take the Kurodake ropeway was denied as the operation was suspended as well for the day. Thus, I drove along R273 to drop by Mikuni-toge (3 countries’ gap) and downhill to Nukabira-ko (糠平湖) for the first time.

The man-made lake was serene. We stayed there for about 40 min and headed back to Sounkyo onsen hotel for checkin and dinner.


====>  Kogen onsen   ====>



JP 2019 Sep Koyo Daisetsuzan

Our 3rd visit in Daisetsuzan for first koyo (fall foliage) in Japan. As the main goals of my plan was to cover Asahidake, Ginsendai and Kogen onsen, I have advanced this visit for a few days than in my first visit in Sept 2004.

After Daisetsuzan, we stayed in Furano overnight before returning to Sapporo. Upon landing in Sapporo/CTS, took Dohoku express bus to Asahikawa direct in 2 hours+.

Went to our favourite izakaya for dinner (5th time).


Picked up rental car on next morning. However, as rain was forecasted (due to a temperature cyclone moving in from Siberia), I diverted to Biei/Furano. It was already raining quite heavily on the way and by the time we arrived at Farm Tomita at around 11am, rain unexpectedly stopped and the sun showed up briefly.

The colourful flower fields looked gorgeous as usual.


After casual lunch, dropped by its dried flower shop again and headed to the Blue pond before rain clouds rolled in.

Had a coffee break and cakes in Cafe Ken & Mary in Biei before heading uphill to Asahidake onsen for overnight.



====>    Sounkyo   ====>



Yamabiko ryokan

2nd stay in Kurakawa onsen.

Picked this onsen ryokan for its famous and huge Senin rotenburo (onsen for fairies).  Kashikiri onsen (private use) is free though on a first-come-first-served basis.



Kaiseki dinner course. Service was less impressive.




JP 2019 May Uminonakamichi Seaside Park

Visited this public park for roses in a peninsula opposite to the bay from central Fukuoka.

It was quite a hot day close to 30C when we arrived at the train station, after 40 min by JR commuter train from Hakata with 1 change.

It took about 20 min on foot to reach one of the entrances to the huge park, and another 20 min to reach the rose gardens.


Spring flowers composing a colourful palette


As it was pretty hot, we stayed for about an hour+ and returned to Hakata.


It rained on the next day and thus it was cooler when we visited the Fukuoka Art Museum. Apart from the permanent exhibitions, there was a special exhibition – Flower Power by Yinka Shonibare CBE.

Photography is allowed in the public areas.


On the next day, we left Fukuoka and headed home with fond memories of Kyushu in Spring.


~~~~~~~~       T  H  E          E  N  D       ~~~~~~~~~



JP 2019 May Fukuoka

Stayed in Hakata for the final 3 nights in Fukuoka.

Visited Tocho-ji, Shofuku-ji and Joten-ji which are within 10 min on foot from our hotel.

Tocho-ji (東長寺)

Tochoji temple was founded in 806 by Kobo-daishi Kukai and it is the oldest temple of the Shingon sect in Japan that Kobo-daishi set up, after his return from China during the Tang Dynasty.

The Fukuoka Daibutsu is a wooden Buddha completed in 1993. It is inside a building on the 2F. Photography is not permitted. Except for the Daibutsu there is no entrance fee.


Shofuku-ji (聖福寺)

In less than 5 min, we arrived at the Shofuku-ji which is tucked inside a narrow street. It was serene with a few visitors.

It was founded in 1195 by the Zen master Yosai, who introduced Zen Buddhism and tea cultivation from China into Japan.



Joten-ji (承天寺)

As it was still early for lunch, we strolled around and bumped into this temple which happened to be the birthplace of Udon, Soba noodles and Manju buns in Japan. According to the monument, the recipes and the skill of milling were brought back by Shoichi Kokushi when he returned from China (during Sung dynasty) in 1241.

This temple was built in 1242. It is also located where the famous Gion Yamakasa Festival originated.



After a brief lunch, we headed to Uminonakamichi Seaside Park by JR commuter train.


===>  Uminonakamichi Seaside Park  ===>



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