So a few weeks ago on a Sunday I decided to head west from my town here in Koori Machi (桑折町)and take a hike through the hills and mountains that border the western side of my town. Fall is in full swing and I wanted to make a personal tour of the 紅葉（kouyou/fall colors) that can be enjoyed in my area. While the views and colors are a bit different here than back home in Kentucky, I had a wonderful time hiking about 17 miles or so while taking lots of pictures. Halfway through I met up with a pair of ladies who live near me, who were also taking advantage of the weather to head up to the Mt. Handa nature park (whose locally-famous heart-shaped lake is pictured above). We spent the last few hours of my hike talking and walking together before I headed back to the うぶかの郷 (Ubuka no Sato) Onsen here in town for a relaxing dip in the natural hot springs and a dinner of Soba noodles and tempura. Today I just wanted to share some pictures from my experience for those who want a glimpse of the natural beauty in northern Fukushima. I also wanted to practice using the wordpress gallery feature as well. One word of warning, I really LOVE taking pictures of 柿（kaki, Japanese Persimmon trees), so be ready for a big helping of orange fruit-filled pictures.
I started the day by picking up a few onigiri, some dried squid, and a bottle of Pet Sweat to keep me going during the day and headed west from my local 7-11 to the Ubuka no Sato hot springs which serves as the base for several hiking trails in the area. As I went along I took some random pictures that interested me while passing through town.
After a good 45 minute walk I finally arrived at the Ubuka no Sato Onsen:
From there I decided to first take the path south which I believe is known as “Rekishi no Komichi” (Small Historical Path). It is a small path through the hilly woods near the Onsen that is host to a number of persimmon and apple orchards that are off the beaten path and not accessible by normal roads. It was a peaceful and interesting walk:
Once I arrived back at my base camp, it was time to start the long roadside climb to the Mt. Handa nature park. It was a few kilometers from the Onsen that I ran into my neighbors and started our pleasant and relaxing group hike up to the park. It is a beautiful area a couple hundred feet below the peak of the mountain which features Handa Lake. Well known locally as “Heart Lake” due to its interesting shape:
Along the path I even had the chance to run into some wildlife I never expected to see. Here’s the pictures of the 2nd circuit from my Sunday hike as I made my way up and down Mt. Handa:
As we walked back down the path around 4:30, the sky quickly grew dark and the cool mountain evening set in. I was glad I brought a sweater, hat and gloves in my backpack as things got really cold. The walk down featured conversations about how to not get eaten by a bear while hiking (bring a bell with you), the best way to make Oden (adding dried squid and sugar does the trick), and a quick introduction to some new Fukushima-ben (こっちゃこい・Koccha koi, is a casual, local way of saying “come here”). I was lucky my neighbors and I both brought along handcranked emergency flashlights as it soon became very hard to see along the road. A few kilometers before the Onsen I snapped this picture of my town illuminated at night (iPhone 4 quality sorry):
Finally, nearly chilled to the bone I took a nice, long dip in the hot springs and enjoyed a great combination dinner of soba and tempura. During dinner I ran into a co-worker from town who was kind enough (and also really insistent but I appreciated it) to give me a lift back to my house, turning my 30+ minute walk into a 4 minute car-ride.
Well if you are ever traveling through Japan and want to get a taste of small town life in a beautiful location, be sure to consider making the Koori Machi, the Ubuka no Sato hot springs resort, and the natural beautiful of northern Fukushima a part of your travel plans! See you then!