Mountain and Travel Course Guide
Illustration by Tomoko Suzuki / Text by Koki Aso / Photos by Kazumasa Mizutani
Tomoko Suzuki is the manga artist behind the popular series “Yama-nobori-hajimemashita,” (roughly, “My start in mountaineering”). She expresses her joy of spending time in the mountains and in nature through her friendly illustrations. She and her family are, of course, big mountain lovers. We all went on a 3-day mountain trip to Mt. Adatara, known for its famous hot springs and autumn leaves.
The Suzuki family came all the way from Nagano to Fukushima Prefecture, transferring trains many times. Tomoko and her husband were accompanied by their sons Yama-chan (8 years old) and O-chan (5 years old), who were full of energy despite the long trip. The first order of the day was a meal at Wakamusha, one of Fukushima's popular ramen shops.
The salt-based chicken ramen is made with Aomori Shamrock chicken and its clear broth has a rich flavor. We enjoyed it with another local favorite, the thick broth Fukushima chicken ramen.
Ramen Shop Wakamusha
After lunch, the family headed to Tohoku Safari Park. This safari park is home to over 1100 animals and is well known among safari park enthusiasts.
Our first stop was the Tohoku Monkey Theatre and we were already well entertained. We saw a performance by two monkeys and a trainer, which was just brilliant! The show was hilarious and the audience was thoroughly impressed.
(Top) O-chan throwing a ball to the monkey theater actors. He went onstage after that!
(Bottom) Yama-chan trying the ring toss at the sea lion show
We also went for a drive in the free-range part of the park where animals can roam. In the herbivore area, we fed the animals from inside a car, and the animals came to look at us through the window hoping you'll give them some food.
This proximity to the animals is the secret behind the popularity of Tohoku Safari Park. The kids loved the animals, and they were delighted to see a huge buffalo sticking its head through the window while the adults looked on in amazement!
Hello, little llama! A giraffe is waiting with a surprisingly long tongue. Being able to get this close to the animals drives the park's popularity.
The Suzuki family enjoyed a ride on an elephant, hugged a ruffed lemur, and had a great time interacting with the animals. O-chan was so excited and asked “Will we see them at the mountain tomorrow, too?”
(Left) Greeting ruffed lemurs at the Monkey Petting Paradise.
(Right) Taking a ride on an elephant. How's the view up there?
Tohoku Safari Park
(Upper left) Departing from the Okudake trailhead for Kurogane-goya Mountain Lodge.
(Lower right) Warming up with our guide.
“Oh, I found acorns again!”
O-chan's voice echoed through the forest in the crisp, cold air. The Suzuki family started their stroll from the trailhead of Okudake with their local guide.When the trail eventually split into two, the guide took the boardwalk course, which was easy for the children to walk on and allowed them to explore the mountain stream.
(Right) Shoryu Falls, located upstream of Uodome Falls.
(Left) We saw Uodome Falls after a walk along the boardwalk.
“What do you call this mushroom?”
Swept away by the energy of the forest, Yama-chan called out to the guide. On the other hand, O-chan looked serious while holding a small red berry. In the forest, children made discoveries to which adults seemed oblivious.
The higher we slowly climbed, the more autumn colors we saw.
The siblings straddled a tree shaped like a giraffe's neck. According to the guide, the curved trunk is due to the weight of the snow in winter.
During a break in the sun, The father called his kids over and pulled out a bottle filled with bright soda pop. The brothers refueled and went on their way again. Four hours into our ascent, they came around a corner and spotted a mountain lodge seemingly floating in the autumn foliage.
(Left) As we climbed higher and crossed the Seishidaira plateau, the area suddenly became more colorful.
(Right) Kurogane-goya Mountain Lodge finally came into view, floating on a sea of autumn leaves.
Full of cheer, the two boys opened the sliding door to reveal a room with high ceilings. The wood used for the pillars, beams, stairs, and walls had aged beautifully, a silent testimony of the history of the lodge.
The first thing we were recommended to try was the hot spring, a milky-white pool of steaming water. The water's pH is 2.48, as acidic as a lemon. The water is said to help relieve fatigue as well as make the skin look smooth and silky. Outside the window was a forest of autumn leaves as far as the eye could see. We soaked in the bathtub up to our shoulders, the warm water felt like an antidote to the outside cold.
(Top) The hot spring, said to pull water from a source that flows through the rocks, has a great reputation. “Out of the hot springs I've been to, this is the one with the best spring water quality!”, said Tomoko.
(Bottom left) The interior of the lodge is mainly made from wood. It has been polished over the years, giving it a beautiful patina.
(Bottom right) There used to be an 8-km long hot spring water pipe that went all the way to the foot of the mountain. The pipe was made from hollowed-out red pine trees.
For dinner we had lodge's secret recipe of curry and rice, a favorite among the hikers.
“I kept the spiciness low because I heard kids were coming today,” said the lodge keeper, as he peeked out from the kitchen. We dove right into the curry. The rich flavors, sour and sweet, nourished my tired body. After dinner we joined the staff for a drink, and they told us stories about the mountains. I wondered whether the lodge attracts wonderful people due to its charm, or if its charm stems from the good people who come to visit.
(Top) Dinner by lamplight. It was as if we had been transported into a fairytale. The dinner was a European-style curry onions with fried with care.
(Bottom) Tomoko was happy to sign autographs.
“As a parent, I am grateful for such warm attention to my children, and I am truly glad that we came to the mountains as a family,” said Tomoko.
(Left) One of the lodge keepers The staff started climbing Mt. Adatara with his parents since he was a child, and has been employed at the lodge since the previous summer. His humor and warmth touched the kids' hearts!
(Right) A quiet night at the lodge.
Kurogane-goya Mountain Lodge
“Last night was the coldest of the season, so I think many of the leaves may have turned red.”
Before we left, Mr. Sato sent us off with those words, and it turned out that the world outside the lodge was exactly as he had described it.
(Top) Looking down at the autumn leaves filling the valley from just before Mine-no-Tsuji.
(Bottom left) With the people at Kurogane-goya Mountain Lodge who took care of us for the night.
(Bottom right) The further we walked, the more colorful the mountains became.
“It's a festival of red and yellow!”
O-chan shouted in response, “It's ‘nanatamago’ (mispronouncing the name of the trees,‘nanakamado’) again!”
From Kurogane-goya Mountain Lodge to Mine-no-Tsuji, we walked as if swimming in a sea of autumn leaves. As we reached the ridge line, the landscape changed drastically, taking on the appearance of a volcano. The gentle ridge line continued all the way to the top of Adatara, which juts out from the ridge. “I love the view of Adatara from Ushinose,” said the guide with a smile.
Whenever strong wind blew, Tomoko and her husband gently wrapped their kids in their jackets.
(Top) O-chan was in high spirits. Tomoko and her husband carefully drew out the children's motivation and interest.
(Bottom) On the way from Ushinose to the summit. We were almost there!
After three and a half hours of walking, we reached the top of Mt. Adatara after tackling a small rocky area. Our guide was actually also a Japanese-style confectioner, and he brought out his signature “Kurogane-yaki” and shared them with the children. O-chan burst out in excitement, while Yama-chan quietly gazed at the ridge line leading to Mt. Osho.
(Top) After crossing the rocky terrain…
(Bottom) At the summit of Mt. Adatara! You did a great job, boys!
(Top) At the end of the trip, we took a photo in the autumn colors. The peak of Mt. Adatara was visible in the background.
(Bottom) Yama-chan's apt words, “It's a festival of red and yellow!”
We headed back down the mountain towards the ropeway's topmost station, aptly named Ropeway Summit. As we descended, the trail was once again engulfed in a sea of autumn leaves.
The way down to the ropeway station was crowded with people heading for the summit, many groups including three generations of family members, from grandparents to grandchildren.
"It goes to show just how much the locals love this mountain,"
Tomoko said quietly, and the guide smiled.
(Above) Making our way down the mountain by ropeway. Most mountain injuries occur on the way down, so it is wise to use the ropeway on the way back.
(Bottom) Lunch at a resthouse at the Okudake trailhead.
The trip concluded with a group photo among the autumn leaves with the summit in view. I have taken a lot of pictures so far on this hike, as I always do, but I think this might be the most beautiful place I have ever photographed. When I think about it, I realize that each mountain trip is as great as the last, so each time I'm sure I will love the next one!
As I was thinking about that, Yama-chan looked up at Tomoko, smiled and said,
"To which mountain will you take us next?"
With this feeling in our hearts, we were left looking forward to our next mountain trip!
Information about Adatara climbing course introduction and sightseeing is available below.
Naka-dori (Central Area)
* Auto Translation page
*Activity times in the text are based on the duration of this visit (with children).
Tamagawaya is a Japanese confectionery established in 1952. Their small baked cakes filled with red bean paste, ‘Kurogane-yaki’, were invented in 1953 to coincide with the opening of Kurogane-goya Mountain Lodge, and were famously given as a gift to Prince Takamatsu, who visited Dake Onsen and enjoyed skiing in the mountains. Kurogane-yaki, together with ‘Kuroame’ (literally ‘black candy’, hard candy made with unrefined brown sugar) are an ideal snack to enjoy in the mountains.
1-13 Dake Onsen, Nihonmatsu City
Watanabe Tofu Store was established in 1950. In addition to selling ‘yose-dofu’ (soft, unpressed tofu)and ‘zaru-dofu’ (tofu drained on a bamboo strainer) , they also offer other tofu products such as ‘tokoro-ten’ (a sort of seaweed noodles) , ‘miso oden’ (traditional stew with Japanese miso) , and freshly squeezed soy milk.
1-113 Dake Onsen, Nihonmatsu City
Located at the trailhead of Okudake, this hot spring is famous for its superb open-air baths known to help relieve fatigue and nourish the skin. The spring water mixes with the air and becomes softer as it flows from Kurogane-goya Mountain Lodge, rendering it different from the waters at the source.
13 Nagasaka National Forest, Nagata, Nihonmatsu City
Mt. Adatara Okudake-no-Yu website
Kunitaya Brewery, which has been brewing soy sauce and miso since the year 1777, renovated a warehouse on its premises to create this cafe. The menu incorporates traditional Fukushima foods, such as 'zakuzaku', a soup seasoned with soy sauce and miso, and 'ikaninjii', a side dish of dried squid and carrots simmered in a sweet and spicy sauce.
2-30 Takeda, Nihonmatsu City
Kunitaya Brewery / Sen-no-Hana website
A cute bakery located at the foot of Mt. Adatara. This bakery has a unique lineup of baked goods, including 'shappoban', a bun shaped like Mt. Adatara, and "cream box," a thick slice of bread coated with white milk-flavored cream.
146-14 Babadaira, Nihonmatsu City
Mountain Bakery Shappo (Facebook)
The great thing about Mt. Adatara is that even total beginners can reach the summit if the weather is good. There is a convenient ropeway, but you can also hike up from the foot of the mountain. On the way you will see a forest zone, a shrub zone, even going beyond the tree line, where the landscape looks somewhat bleak, and the scenery of the ridge line is just like that of the Northern Japanese Alps.
In addition, there are many trailheads, and from Noji Onsen, you can enjoy traversing Mt. Kimenzan, Mt. Minowa, Mt. Tetsu, and Mt. Adatara. There are also streams you can climb up in summer, good slopes for backcountry skiing in winter, as well as a wide range of other mountaineering activities. On top of that, Kurogane-goya Mountain Lodge is open year round, and the hot springs overviewing the snowy landscape are fantastic. So please come visit!