Gono Line, Juniko and Furofushi Onsen

Yesterday was amazing! We boarded the Resort Shirakami 2 at Aomori for a ride down one of Japan’s most scenic rides.

Rice paddies and apple orchards with snow-capped Mount Iwaki as the backdrop.

At Goshogawara a couple of musicians boarded and treated us to a shamisen and traditional song performance. It was the perfect soundtrack as we rattled down the tracks. The Resort Shirakami has panoramic windows and lots of legroom. There are viewing areas up the front and a lot to look at as we cruised along the Northwest coastline of Honshu.

When I rode the line before I wished we could stop and experience the scenic areas outside the train. This time I had a chance to do so. The train stopped at Senjojiki to allow passengers to stroll around the rocky shore. I should have like to stay longer and eat at the seaside restaurants, but we had to continue along.

I love the lonely coastline where the long grass is whipped by the winds.

The train slowed North of Fukaura for more rock formations.

We stepped off at Wespa Tsubakiyama, a pseudo-Western resort with fake castle buildings. From there we caught the shuttle bus down to Furofushi Onsen, our accommodation.

After checking in we needed to head back out again. The plan was to catch a taxi to Juniko, the Twelve Lakes, but we realised we needed to reserve seats on the next day’s train so we redirected him to Fukaura.

Fukaura was a sleepy seaside village. We were disappointed not to find any restaurants or cafes for lunch, but during our search we came across Oiwa Rock, a formation accessible via a causeway. The waters around the causeway were very clear, brown and green seaweed swaying as waves crashed further out.

The steps up to the top of the rock were treacherous, but we made it up safely. A wonderful view and we were amazed that this wasn’t a greater tourist attraction.

We ended up buy pre-packaged sweet buns from the empty supermarket by the station. Then we caught the local train back up the line to Juniko.

As we passed Wespa Tsubakiyama station we spotted a large grey animal running across a field. The only animal we could think of was a wild boar, but it didn’t fit. Later, we discovered it was probably a wild Japanese serow, an ungulate.

Outside the wooden station at Juniko were a couple of quaint cafes. The owner of “Wasabi” gave us a detailed description of the route we should take through the Twelve Lakes area.

We caught the minibus up into the Shirakami mountains. Out of the windows I could see some of the lakes. So pretty!

I stuffed up paying for tickets at the top, but it was sorted out. Had some snacks at the shop, then walked up to Aoike, the most famous lake. This small pond had incredibly clear and blue water, fish visible swimming around the submerged fallen trees.

We then began walking downslope, through the ancient beech forests with the everpresent sounds of frogs, insects and birds, sometimes joined by the burbling of waterfalls and streams. Flowering purple wisteria and azaleas, along with a common pink flowering tree, punctuated the green with other colours. Wider lakes reflected the clear blue skies. It was so beautiful.

Alex sprayed ramunade (lemonade) from the well known Japanese glass ball bottles at a dusty old store. Then another bus returned us to the hotel.

Onsens are about hot baths. Furofushi is famous for its muddy iron open air hot baths right down by the sea. We stayed in the mixed bath almost until sunset, when it got very busy, then raced up to our tatami floored room for a view of the red sun sinking into the ocean. Gorgeous.

Japanese ryokan dinners are always a challenge, with a great many courses of things you might rather not eat. Seaweed jelly noodles, whelk, fish liver and more. I’m not a fan of sashimi either. But many things that were nice, with fish stews and pork and salmon.

Alex had a special meal including Japanese hamburger patties, fried prawns and chicken. Plus his apple sorbet dessert was so much nicer than our snow carrot ice cream.

What better way to end it than to sleep on futons, the scent of straw tatami mats filling your dreams.

The onsen has limited internet access so this was posted on my phone and pictures are of lower quality. Will repost later.

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