Play!By Mitsuko Totani
Takamine Highland Komoro City, Nagano
The many-colored splendor of Takamine
Fall comes quickly in the Takamine Highlands, spread out across the foot of Mt. Asama. October showcases the gorgeous yellows of the Japanese larch tree, and November provides hikers with a performance of slender falling leaves as they dance their way down to the foot paths.
While the highland features a variety of hiking courses, those who wish to take in the full grandeur of Mt. Asama are encouraged to take the "Kurofuyama" hiking course. Moving from the car path to a smaller trail carpeted with volcanic rock, you begin the ascent toward the peak of Mt. Kurofu, from which one can enjoy broad landscapes of the base of Mt. Asama and the layers of gathering clouds.
If you're lucky, you may see a few antelope scaling the rocky ledges. Another option, starting at the lodge, is a refreshing hike with panoramic views stretching from the peaks of Mt. Asama to the Japan Alps and Yatsugatake.
No gear? No problem!
At 2,000 meters above sea level, Takamine is known for its consistently great powder snow and a variety of sports are available to enjoy it. Asama 2000 Ski Resort is on the bus route and services the mountain from mid-December to mid-April with summer hiking trials remaining in use for snowshoe enthusiasts who long for the scenic beauty of the highlands.
First-time cross-country skiers can make their way along the "Takamine Rindo Course," while two other courses are available for more advanced skiers.
Guests of Takamine Hot Springs (see STAY) have access to free gear for all types of winter sports. In addition, the lodge offers free basic instruction during the day and a star-gazing party at night. I've spent many a wintry night at Takamine Hot Springs and made full use of their generosity. The winter weather is consistently cooperative, and sunny days can have you glistening in sweat. Washing off in the hot spring, followed by a cold beer in a warm, cozy room, is delightful.
Rental Gear (Available at Takamine Hot Springs): Snowshoes (modern and traditional), knee-high boots, crampons, hiking poles and cross-country skis (full set).
Free Lessons (for guests only): Snowshoe hiking, 9 a.m.-noon (marshland and highland courses available); Cross-Country Skiing, 9 a.m.-noon (Takamine Rindo Course); Star Gazing: Meet at the Takamine Hot Spring entrance at 8 p.m. Binoculars and telescopes are available for an hour and a half. Slideshows run during inclement weather.
Takamine Hot Springs: www.takamine.co.jp
Komoro City Tourism: www.kanko.komoro.org
Shinmai Daily Newspaper: www.shinmai.co.jp