Cruising and hiking in Urabandai, June 20-22, 2023. 在里磐梯坐游览船和去郊游, 从六月二十到二十二号二〇二三年。裏磐梯遊覧船とハイキング 2023年 6月20-22日。

(#Lake Hibara cruise, Urabandai, June 20, 2023. #檜原湖遊覧 裏磐梯 6/20/2023)
I had a few-day family trip to Urabandai. In the first day, as the weather was calm and fine, we enjoyed Lake Hibara cruise watching the huge northern crater of Mt. Bandai. Photo above was a view of the mountain from the lake. This northern crater was created by a massive phreatic explosion in 1888 when Lake Hibara was also created at the same time. The cruise departs from the southern port of the lake and takes about 40 minutes.



(#Lake Hibara cruise, Urabandai, June 20, 2023. #檜原湖遊覧 裏磐梯 6/20/2023)Some other views which include boat, small island, and trees are shown above.

Please take a look at short video (31s) below to feel the atmosphere onboard.

(#Aonuma, Goshikinuma, June 21, 2023. #青沼 五色沼 裏磐梯 6/21/2023)
The next day, we went hiking on Goshikinuma trail starting from western side. Photo above shows Aonuma Pond which comes second. Look at its mysterious color which is created by substances flowing into the pond from Mt. Bandai.

(#Rurinuma, Goshikinuma, June 21, 2023. #るり沼 五色沼 裏磐梯 6/21/2023)
Photo above shows Rurinuma Pond which comes third. Mt. Bandai is in the back.

(#Benten-numa, Goshikinuma, June 21, 2023. #弁天沼 五色沼 裏磐梯 6/21/2023)
Photo above shows Benten-numa Pond which comes forth. It shows beautiful cobalt blue color.

(#Forest tree green frog, Urabandai, June 21, 2023. #モリアオガエル 裏磐梯 6/21/2023)
The final goal for the hiking was Urabandai Visitor Center. Its surrounding swamps are natural habitats for forest green tree frog. Photo above shows a part of the habitat with white spawn hanging from tree branches. Mid-June seems to be the peek spawning season.

(#Forest tree green frog, Tenkyokaku, June 22, 2023. #モリアオガエル 天鏡閣 6/22/2023)
Regarding forest green tree frog, a small pond at Tenkyokaku garden is also a natural habitat for the frog. We happened to visit the site the next day and checked the pond and also found some spawn hanging from branches as shown in the picture above. A frog itself was seen on a branch near the spawn.

(#Numajiri Kogen Lodge, Inawashiro, June 22, 2023. #沼尻高原ロッジ 猪苗代 6/22/2023)
We stayed overnight at Numajiri Kogen Lodge shown above on the day. It is located in Numajiri hot spring site in Inawashiro Town.

(#Numajiri Kogen Lodge, Inawashiro, June 22, 2023. #沼尻高原ロッジ 猪苗代 6/22/2023)
Its acidic hydrogen sulfide hot spring water is naturally welling out from the middle of Mt. Adatara. The bath as shown above was excellent.

The exact GPS locations and routes for Urabandai are shown in a map below. The map can be scaled up and down with click and scroll.

Nomakake, the last event for Soma-nomaoi Festival at Odaka, July 29, 2019. (野馬懸、相馬野馬追の最後の日です、2019年7月29日。)

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(Driving a bare horse at Nomakake, Odaka, July 29, 2019. 野馬懸の野馬追 小高 7/29/2019)
Today I was one of the large spectators at Nomakake, the last day event for 3-day Soma-nomaoi Festival in Soma region. Nomakake retains the very original style of the Soma-nomaoi, which was originated in military exercise in 900’s started by ancestors of Soma clan. At that time, wild horses were released as mock enemy. Today, three unsaddled horses were once released, one at a time, and then several mounted horsemen drove the horse into a corral in front of Soma Odaka Shrine. After all the three horses were driven into the corral, then several men, called Okobito, wearing white Shinto clothing and headband tried to catch the horses with their bare hands. Once the horse was captured, then it was offered to the shrine, where guardian god for Soma clan was enshrined. Photo above shows a horseman leading a bare white horse along a slope toward the corral.

(Conch shell horn blowers at Nomakake, Odaka, July 29, 2019. 野馬懸 の ホラ貝吹き 小高 7/29/2019)
Right before the horse driving began, conch shell horn blowers, as shown above, came in the middle of the slope to signal a start. You may see the closer view of the conch shell here.

After the bare horse led by a mounted horseman, several chaser horsemen followed, as shown above, running up the hill.

By watching a short footage below, you may feel the atmosphere of the scene of driving a horse up the hill. This was of the second horse drive.

In the last drive, an unsaddled horse chased by mounted horsemen from behind barely crashed into spectators’ area as shown above. (No one was injured.)

P7299888 (2)_570
(Chasing bare horses at Nomakake, Odaka, July 29, 2019. 野馬懸 の 野馬追 小高 7/29/2019)
Photo above was a scene that three horses driven into the field in front of the shrine are trying to escape from Okobito men in white shrine suits trying to catch them.

And here is a very short video that a young Okobito man tried to catch a horse but finally failed at this time. You may feel the atmosphere.

During the first and second days of Soma-nomaoi Festival, I attended a group as a translator. But the last day was free and I stayed overnight there and visited this event for the first time. The event venue was Soma Odaka Shrine which was located 20-minute walk from JR Odaka Station.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll. GPS data for a part of the section from Odaka Station was missing due to slow detection of my GPS device, so I added a line on the map.

Japanese serow on Mt. Karo trail, July 1, 2019. 新地町 鹿狼山の山道で日本カモシカに出会う 2019年7月1日。

(Japanese serow at Mt. Karo, Shinchi, July 1, 2019. 鹿狼山 の 日本カモシカ 新地 7/1/2019)
Today I walked along a countryside road and mountain trail in Shinchi Town which was a northernmost town in the coastal Fukushima. The route was mostly along Shinchi section of Michinoku Coastal Trail or walking trail along the coastal area of Tohoku Region. This was defined and promoted by Ministry of the Environment of Japan aiming to revitalize the coastal region which was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Today’s route was 17km long and included light trekking on Mt. Karo (430m). When I was descending along the ridge, I suddenly came across a Japanese serow near the northern end of the trail. He was grazing on the vegetation. Both of us were frightened but he just stared at me and showed no sign of intimidation. I took his picture as shown above and then he moved away.

P7019568 (3)_570h
I started to walk from JR Shinchi Station this morning as shown above. When I visited the town four years ago (2015) by bike there was no railway station. It was destroyed and washed away by the tsunami. But today the new station was built as well as many new public facilities, hotels, and residential area with new homes in the vicinity.

P7019593 (3)_570h

In about two hours of walking I arrived at the trailhead for Mt. Karo. A pair of animal stones called “komainu”, deer on the left and wolf on the right, welcomed me as shown above. These were for Karosan shrine or Mt. Karo shrine, where deity of the mountain was enshrined. A local legend described on the panel shown above said the animals were always with the god.

Shortly after, I came to a hydrangea habitat as shown above. But today it seemed not the best season for this flower.

In about an hour I came to the summit where second-order triangulation point was placed. It was very foggy, misty and even rainy at the top, but for a very short period of time a glimpse of blue sky appeared on top of sea of clouds as shown above.

In the last half of the route there were two watering places along the way which was very grateful for walkers. Both were natural spring water. The first one was Mayumi spring water as shown above. This has even been used as the source of public tap water supply for local residents until some 40 years ago.

Another one was called Ukon spring water. A small rest area with roof has been built as shown above. “Ukon” was named after Date Ukon who was a descendant of Date family and who lived and loved this place and the water. I also refreshed myself with these excellent spring waters. It took 7.5 hours to get back to Shinchi Station.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll. However, today, the GPS data did not reach the goal of Shinchi Station due to battery outage.
Welcome! 福が満開、福のしま。
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A man who loves Fukushima (福島大好きおじさん)

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