Introducing places of interest: Daisetsuzan National Park
[The Ginga and Ryusei waterfalls]
Sounkyo Gorge is a key base from which visitors can experience Daisetsuzan National Park.
Towering right above Sounkyo Gorge is Mt. Kuro-dake. Take a ropeway followed by a lift to reach the seventh station of the peak. Densely growing alpine plants bloom in July and August between the seventh gou and the summit of the mountain. In autumn, the yellowing leaves of gold birch trees, the crimson foliage of mountain ash trees, and the green needles of dwarf stone pines come together in a display of exquisite perfection to tinge the side of the mountain in blazing fall colors.
At the foot of the mountain can be found the Ginga and Ryusei waterfalls from which water coming down from Mt. Daisetsu cascades down through columnar joints on the sheer cliff. Ginga Waterfall is composed of thin, silvery rivulets of gracefully flowing water. In contrast, Ryusei Waterfall comprises a powerful, thick jet of water bursting forth from the rock. Also referred to by locals as the "Wife and husband" falls, the Ginga and Ryusei waterfalls have both been selected as one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan.
After strolling about the area, visitors are invited to unwind at any of a large number of hot-spring facilities located in the Sounkyo Onsen resort area, which owes its existence to the Daisetsuzan volcano belt.
Located at an elevation of 1,350 meters above sea level, Kogen Onsen is a high-altitude hot-spring resort area. Set in an environment with significant levels of geothermal activity, columns of volcanic smoke can be seen rising from numerous cracks in the ground. This phenomenon alone is enough to give visitors an impressive taste of the dynamic nature of the Daisetsuzan volcano belt.
Kogen Onsen also serves as a base for climbers wishing to tackle such nearby peaks as Mt. Midori-dake and Mt. Chubetsu-dake.
You can also trace a walking course through an area dotted with numerous swamps, including Midori-numa, Daigaku-numa, and Kogen-numa. This area boasts such unrivaled autumnal tints that the mountain might appear to an observer to be burning. Since this course cuts through the habitat of the brown bear, participants must listen to a lecture presentation delivered at the Brown Bear Information Center situated by the entrance to the course before they can proceed. This course may be subject to temporary closures depending on the status of bear infestation in the area. Restrictions on the use of private automobiles on the town road leading to the Kogen Onsen area are in effect during the season of fall foliage.
The town road leading to the Kogen Onsen area is closed in winter (from the middle of October to the beginning of June).
The Aizankei Onsen resort area, a base from which to explore the Aizankei Area, was discovered at the end of the Meiji era during a bear-hunting expedition. This quiet hot-spring area has been built up around an onsen resort that was originally constructed in 1926. The clear waters of the Ponantaroma River, a tributary of the Ishikari River, flows alongside this area amid a forest of red Yezo spruce trees to reinforce the sense that one is truly at a secluded hot spring spot.
Nearby are located numerous bogs, including Numanohira and Kumoigahara. With the onsen area as your starting point, you can enjoy a nature walk through a pristine environment unspoiled by increased tourism. This area is also favored by mountaineers as a base used for climbing Mt. Asahi-dake, Mt. Pippu-dake, Mt. Hokuchin-dake, and Mt. Kuro-dake.
The town road leading to the Aizankei Onsen area is closed in winter (from the middle of October to the beginning of April).
[Lake Shikaribetsu as seen
from Mt. Nishi-Nupukaushinupuri]
Lake Shikaribetsu lies atop a mountain amid a primeval forest at the southeast tip of Daisetsuzan National Park. The elevation of this lake at its surface is approximately 800 meters above sea level. The lake is surrounded by Mt. Higashi-Nupukaushinupuri, Mt. Nishi-Nupukaushinupuri, Mt. Haku'un, Mt. Tenbo, Mt. Minami-Petoutoru, and other peaks. Each of these mountains rises about 1,200 meters above sea level, making them ideal for novice mountaineers.
In fall, the autumnal foliage reflected off of the surface of the lake is spectacular. Visitors arriving in winter will be able to enjoy various activities that are only possible on a frozen lake. For brown bears, the primeval forest by this lake makes an ideal habitat. Beware of brown bears when conducting activities in this area. The prefectural highway leading to Lake Shikaribetsu is a meandering pass road built after weighing environmental considerations. In particular, drivers should exercise sufficient caution from autumn to spring as the surface of the road will freeze during this time.
[Mitsumata Basin as seen
from Mikuni Pass]
Mikuni Pass is named for the fact that it is located at the border point separating three former provinces: Tokachi, Kitami, and Ishikari. Linking the towns of Kamishihoro and Kamikawa, it is the highest pass in Hokkaido at an elevation of 1,139 meters above sea level. The pass overlooks a landscape comprising a sea of trees in the Tokachi-Mitsumata Basin where not a single man-made structure can be spotted. Depending on the season and the time of day, you may find yourself inspired by the beauty of autumnal leaves or a field of clouds appearing at the break of dawn.
The accumulation of snow and risks of avalanche may cause the pass to be closed at times during the winter. You are urged to obtain an accurate traffic report in advance.