Monday, May 25, 2015

Akiyamago, the most secluded mountain village in Japan

Yesterday Brompton and I went to Akiyamago, one of the most secluded regions in Japan and located deep in the Nakatsugawa Valley between Nagano and Nigata Prefecture.

[Course Data]
route: Okushiga - Kiriake (Akiyamago) - Koakazawa (Akiyamago) - Tsunan Station
distance: 57.9km
maximum difference in elevation: 1217m
% of inclination: ascent 5.3% descent 5.1%
gained elevation: ascent 770m, descent 1977m

Akiyamago is in the history known for long-time isolation from outside. The isolation to some extent continues even nowadays because of the presence of heavy snowfall far more than 3 meters in height during winter and frequent road collapse due to landslide. However, this isolation preserved a lot of Japan's lost traditions and scenary of the good old days in nostalgia. Akiyamago attracts a lot of Japanese for sight seeing. Another attraction is presence of excellent hot springs there.

Due to its inconvenient location at the end of the deep mountain vallay, it seemed almost impossible to make a day trip to Akiyamago even using Japan's excellent public transportation system. But I came across a good idea. If it is at the deepest in the mountain, let's go from another side of the mountain using a wild mountain path by Brompton! Another side of Akiyamago is Okushiga Kogen, known for a Ski resort and there is bus transportation service from Yudanaka Hot Spring Station where is close to Jigokudani, the place the world-famous snow monkeys bathing in a hot spring pond.

Using a night bus, Brompton and I arrived in Nagano Station very early in the morning.

Then we took a local train (Kita-Shinano Railway) departing Nagano Station at 5:14 am and got off the train at Tategahana Station (5:31 am). Unfolded my Brompton and took north to Yudanaka Onsen Station by Brompton.

It took about an hour by Brompton ride, 10 km in distance and 200 meters of elevation to ascend. Then fold Brompton to take this bus to Okushiga Kogen Hotel.

Get off at Okushiga Kogen Ryo bus stop which is just a prior to the final bus stop.

Start a today's ride. The road was nicely built to go with Brompton.

What a beautiful view it is!

I came to the junction. Take right to use Akiyama mountain path which is famous for its wonderful views.

The ride to Kiriake was a beautiful trip in itself with a winding road threading its way through the mountains. But you need to be careful a bit because there are frequent stone and rock falls on the way.

Snow may be dangerous sometimes. On the way to Akiyamago, there was a big snow layer even it was already in mid May.

Lastly, I crossed the bridge beyond Nakatsugawa River.

I was already in Akiyamago village. Beautiful!

Kiriake is the deepest part of Akiyamago. The hot spring of Kiriake is with the strongest curative effects in Akiyamago. At Kiriake, I visited Yusenkaku, the Inn with a long wooden framed building offering simple, homely Japanese style rooms on the banks of the river. Yusenkaku has indoor and outdoor onsen.

It is said that the hot spring have been gushing consistently since the Edo period.

I bathed in the outdoor hot spring but you can dig your own open-air bath in the river bank as there are a lot of hot spring spots gushing out here and there in the riverside.

I visited another one in Koakazawa.

Red color hot spring! It was also so nice.

I enjoyed excellent hot springs and beautiful views in Akiyamago. I need to visit here again to experience tinted autumnal leaves in the mountains. Why don't you try to head for Akiyamago with your Brompton!

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