Tag Archives: japan

Hiking the Oze Marshlands

Oct. 9, 2016 Autumn hike 🍁

My favorite season has come! This 2016, I decided to be an early bird in the fall activities, which means going up highlands and mountains to experience beautiful foliage at altitudes above 1900 meters. 

First on my list is Oze!

Oze is national park in Gunma that is known for hiking trails around the marshlands. Fall season comes  around the first week of October. We went there on the first half of the 3-day holiday, Oct. 8-9. We were hoping to stay in the mountain huts within the park, but planning late for a long holiday means places are fully-booked. So we just stayed outside the marshlands and decided to do a day hike.

We hopped on a train to JR Numata, shopped for snacks, then changed to a bus for Tokura Onsen. 

Tokura Onsen scenery

We stayed at a family-run ryokan with basic amenities. As in other ryokans, they serve a lot of dinner.

They also served us a good breakfast, and even gave us some onigiri rice ball to bring for the hike! Lovely people.

So we planned to leave for Oze like really early in the morning, by the first bus. But it was so unfortunate that the weather was so gloomy in the area, so we decided that leaving really early wasn’t gonna be worth it. An excuse for extra time sleeping! 
Private cars apparently are not allowed in Oze, so to get there, every one hops on a shuttle bus that goes high up the mountain. 

Shuttle bus schedule to Oze from Tokura Onsen and vice versa (peak season schedule)

Finally, we arrive in Oze. 

To get to the marshes, we did an hour’s hike through the mountain. Thank goodness I brought hiking wear. Sneakers and regular clothes are not good enough. And seriously it was so cold I thought it was December!

We enter the forest. It started with a muddy hike, but then there were wooden paths for most of the hike. 

Finally, we arrived at the marshland!

It’s very interesting. The area is so vast, even though you walk on wooden pathways it would still take you a day to hike to the other end of the marshland. 

The wooden paths seem endless in this world. 

Little ponds add to the charm of the place. 

Supplies sometimes brought in by helicopter?

We spent 2 hours walking along the path, and decided to head back. It was still raining, the wind was harsh, but we were very happy with what we saw.

Oze is really one of a kind. It’s one of those places where you understand its beauty when you get there, because pictures can’t tell you how amazing it is. We’ve seen it in autumn, but I bet spring in Oze will be as magical!

How to get to Oze?

Bus: There is a 3.5-hour direct bus from Shinjuku to Tokura Onsen, reservations required. Change to a shuttle for Oze.

Train: Take a train to Numata, change to a bus for Tokura Onsen. Change to a shuttle for Oze.


Tanigawadake Autumn Hike

Oct. 10, 2016 Autumn Hike

Part 2 of our autumn hiking trip to Gunma! 

After Oze, Tanigawadake was number 2 on our list of autumn foliage in peak season. We didn’t research too much about the mountain but just saw some pictures on instagram and thought it would be great to go there! So after hiking in Oze, we went to Tanigawadake and stayed at Tenjin Lodge, right beside the Tanigawadake ropeway.

That night I was really hoping to see stars since the sky was so cleanr in Numata! But just 20 minutes away, in Minakami area, it was so cloudy! Oh well, as the owner, Kieren told us, the mountain has its own weather. 

So we started early the next day. Forecast said it would be sunny, and we’re energized!

We got on the ropeway, and within twenty minutes it brought us 1300 meters above sea level. Beautiful sunny day and a peek of autumn colors at the hiking base in Tenjindaira! 

There’s a short lift after the ropeway but we opted to hike from here instead.

Tanigawadake is a hike where you go along the backbone of the mountain. And I didn’t know this, but apparently, it’s one of the well-known hiking spots in Japan for beginner’s rock climbing. The thing is, I’m not yet ready for that stuff! Imagine my surprise when we had to climb using some chains! 

It’s not difficult the entire hike though, and you get rewarded with beautiful views along the way.

And after a few more rocky ascents, we got to a viewing point where you have views from all sides! It took us 2 hours.

It’t a beautiful sunny day but the clouds are hovering and the gentle wind is very cold! I felt the need for a down jacket when resting.

We took in the beautiful view of the wonderful autumn foliage before us, and of the mountains spreading out behind us. We climbed this far just to see the view! 

Looking into the horizon I saw the ropeway station, a mere dot from where we were standing. It’s very humbling to be in the mountains.

If we went further than here it would be all clouds, so we decided to head down, as we feel that we accomplished our purpose coming here. 

Going down was really difficult! It was all rocks for about 30 minutes. But we managed. My knees were a bit shaky, but I think that’s just me. 

At the ropeway station, there is a proper restaurant, clean bathrooms, and a souvenir shop.

Non-hikers were spending a nice sunny day on the grassy area of the ropeway area.

All in all, it was a great trip even though I tired my knees so much! I’m very happy that we got to see mountain kōyō in the most spectacular way! 
Tanigawadake, Gunma

How to get there: Takes 3.5 hours by local train from Tokyo. Head for Doai station. 

Autumn season: Peak at mid-October