Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mennoki (面ノ木) and Kourankei (香嵐渓)

One week after visiting Soni Kogen, I went with my hiking club for another trip.

This time I started the day eating a delicious grilled ayu 鮎.

Then, we went to Men-no-ki (面ノ木), a virgin forest near Toyota city.

This forest is a good place to contemplate the momiji or kouyou (紅葉) which refers to the phenomena that occurs in Autumn when the leaves of some trees like the Maple change color.

We had a guide (wearing typical jika-tabi 地下足袋, like the ninja turtles :D) that explained us the names of the trees, etc. In my hand I am holding leaves of two kinds of Maples and a Japanese beech (Buna ブナ).

Some of the trees in the forest were really old, over 300 years old.

The guide also showed us some liquid (I forgot the name) under the bark of the trees that was often used in Chinese medicine. Some deers (shika 鹿) seemed to like the tree's bark as well as we can see in the picture above hehe.

It was like those forests that appear in traditional tales for children. In fact there were even figures of a mythological creature called tengu 天狗.

One funny anecdote was that three of us where carrying the same watch. In the picture we compare our measures of the altitude. They differ a bit because we set the reference pressure at different days and so on :D

Near the forest there was a wind power plant. And it was indeed a good location for that because it was really windy there.

We had lunch near the wind power plant. But it was quite cold there due to the wind. Some people were well prepared for it though as you can see in the pictures :D

Before dying of coldness we found a really funny coffee place in the middle of the mountain. It was more like a farm with different chicken and silkies (ukokkei 烏骨鶏). And actually, despite the sign at the entrance, they had no coffee! :D But they did have tea and some cakes ;). And right after that we went to warm our bodies in a Japanese onsen. It's such a pleasure to go to a onsen after feeling so cold!! :D

At night we went to Kourankei (香嵐渓) which is a famous spot to see the colors of the leaves in Autumn. Even at night it is interesting as they put lights on the trees and there are many Japanese stands selling food. Once again, a very complete trip thanks to the CHIC hiking club! :)

Soni Kogen (曽爾高原)

Last month, I went with my hiking club to a place called Soni Kogen, in Nara prefecture.

If there is a Japanese word you should learn before going to this place, that would be Susuki 薄, which refers to the beautiful pampas grass that covers all that area as you can see in the picture above.

We went by car as it is not a very easy to reach place. Although I just found in this blog that it is possible to reach the place by public transport.

The hike was organized by Masa, a very nice and talkative Japanese guy who took care of all the details.

The hike usually starts at the parking lot, where diligent workers are counting and directing the traffic :D

Right from the start you can appreciate the beautiful fields of yellow grass. The place somehow recalled me of my hikes in Bieszczady, in the south of Poland.

Following the trail up you get really nice views of Nara and Mie mountains.

And the good thing is that this hike is really easy. Everybody can do it, from the just arrived to the more grown up guys out there ;). I even saw Japanese girls with full make-up and long heels climbing it!

Also I would like to mention that all the club members that participated were really nice and friendly. We had many talks and I learned many Japanese words from them! Thank you all :D

Once on the "almost" top we had to pay some fee to access the top of the mountain, Mt. Kuroso (倶留尊山). It was a bit stupid but at least two nice local Japanese children gave us some kakis hehe

Both the place and the weather were fantastic so I took many photos :D. There were many families having a day trip and I really enjoyed taking pictures of Japanese children.

The day came to an end and we were all happy an satisfied with the trip. But there were still two nice surprises waiting for us. First, we went to a wonderful open-air onsen (sorry, no pictures hehe) were we could relax our bodies.

And then we made a stop to eat in a famous cheap yakiniku (fried meat) restaurant in Kameyama city called Kamehachi Shokudou. It was delicious!! :D