Sendai - Mount Zao
We spent an amazing 36 days in Japan! We did a lot of traveling, and we went back and forth between a lot of locations, cities, and districts. To make things easier to read and write, we have grouped everything in our travels into city locations and not exactly by time. The Japan list of contents so far can be found here!
We took the Shinkansen, Japan's bullet train, 230 miles north, which only took 2.5 hours, to Sendai. Sendai is where the famous Fox village is and also located about 50 miles from Fukushima, the location of the Nuclear disaster that had occured 5 years before our trip. Of course, that was no where on our minds as we disappeared into the mountains.
Sendai was also the city where I finally got to put my driving permit to good use. While we did drive around the Island of Yakushima, there weren't any highways to open up on and get a feel for driving in Japan. There really isn't a better place to drive through. It was gorgeous.
Our original plan was to stay at an Airbnb apartment in the city of Sendai and drive to Mt. Zao. 3 month before we were scheduled to come to Japan, the host contacted us to say that he had to cancel our reservation and would not be allowed to host us. Unlike the host in Osaka, he was not interested in helping us find other accomodations. We were left with very few options, but after a lot of research we decided to stay at Hotel Chikusenso. It turned out to be a better decision, as the drive to Mt. Zao and the fox village are incredibly long and full of many twisty, curvy mountain roads. Hotel Chikusenso, was also incredibly beautiful.
After spending several nights sleeping on the floor on Japanese beds or super small, lumpy beds, finally have a soft mattress was the best part of staying at the upscale hotel.
Hotel Chikusenso has a perfect blend of nature woven into the hotel on both the inside and outside.
At first we thought we would be "stuck" with eating at Hotel Chikusenso, as it is hidden far away in the mountains, a long drive from civilizaton, but it turned out that Hotel Chikusenso served some of the best food we had in our entire trip.
For breakfast we had a traditional Japanese breakfast. We were reluctant about having fish for breakfast, but it was incredibly filling and delicious. If you get the chance you should try it.
For dinner we had Sushi and Shabu-Shabu, with various other small plates over the course of 2 nights. A fine dining meal full of flavor and color.
We journeyed farther into the mountains to the Okama Crater Lake. Mt Zao is a complex volcano mountain system, called a stratovolcanoe, and is the most active volcano in the main land of Japan. This system created one of the most beautiful crater lakes in the world, the Okama Crater Lake. The lake, when open to the public, displays an amazing array of colors due to its highly acidic waters, mineral laden waters. It was created in the 1720s when the volcano first erupted and grew larger over the years as the walls around the Lake gave in. Okama means "tea kettle" in Japanese and we were there for opening day.
Waterfalls on the way to the crater.
Very little wild life lives near the crater due to its acidic waters.
Somewhere in Japan we ended up on the news.
We were prepared for it to be cold, but what we were not expecting was the fog. It was an overwhelming fog, that slowly got worst.
There were many signs along the way, that were old and worn out. None of them had English writing. Our Google translator app was unable to ready them, but we figured they were warning signs advising us to keep out of the area, as we knew we were getting closer and closer to the crater.
The edge of Okama Crater Lake. While we got a small glimpse of the waters, it was not enough to be satisfying. The fog was just too heavy.
Even though the signs are not in English, we were able to find our way around due to the paths laid out at the mountain, but we could see how it would be very easy to get lost in the thick fog.
Leaving the area and heading back to the Hotel we saw this statue.
While signs advised of bears and monkeys, we never saw any during our trip.
The next day we went to the Fox Village, in hopes to see and get some pictures of foxes. Even though it was still cold, slightly wet, and very foggy, it was the main reason for coming to Sendai so we would not let the opportunity go to waste. Luckily, we had the majority of the place to ourselves.
The Fox Village reminded us slightly of the Owl Cafe. A business made for showing foxes to the public. It was neat to see, but in the back of our minds we wondered abou the health and well-being of some of the animals.
Mt. Zao is gorgeous nature retreat area, far away from the city and we highly recommend making the 2.5 hour journey from Tokyo if you can find proper accomodations and a rental car. There are buses and taxies as options, but the freedom the car allows lets you explore the area to your hearts content. Japan has an amazing mountian and country side.