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Newer Page 16 of 947 Older Full Trip Report
Japan Takasaki Hiking Yokokawa

4 November 2019

Staying the course

Walking along the abandoned Usui Toge Railway from Yokokawa

Today was my third trip down the Shin-Etsu line which heads into the mountains from Takasaki then ends at a dead end.
During my 2018 Japan visit, I went down this line, tried to climb Mount Myogi but could not as the path had collapsed.
In 2017 I went to the same place I went today, with every intention of doing what I did today, but when I saw a sign pointing up a mountain to Nakasendou, the ancient trail down the middle of Japan, I made a sudden detour and hiked all the way to surprise snow in Karuizawa fighting off Serows on the way.

So today I was determined to stay the course, and it was great. Because today is a public holiday, I set off early, beating the day tripping crowds coming from Tokyo, this was a great decision, as on the way back there were hundreds of people crowding to get a photo without other people.

The total walk was about 16km from Yokokawa, through 20 tunnels, over 10 bridges, around the lake, to the final accessible abandoned station and back again.

Once back at Yokokawa station I saw people buy a green ice cream from a little store, so I went in and tried to buy one. No. SOLD OUT! OK, nice English skills you have. So then I went and sat on the platform for 20 minutes and watched at least 10 other people buy a green ice cream. Cool.

Lots of photos today, lets get on with it.

Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Lots of train lines merge at Takasaki as I keep saying. However 2.5 of them are out of action still!

Lots of train lines merge at Takasaki as I keep saying. However 2.5 of them are out of action still!


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - A proud day indeed for this colorful city! Welcome Uzbeki ribbon tossers of inferior potassium.

A proud day indeed for this colorful city! Welcome Uzbeki ribbon tossers of inferior potassium.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Yokokawa station. It is very spectacular. I remembered from last time it was spectacular. Great weather today too.

Yokokawa station. It is very spectacular. I remembered from last time it was spectacular. Great weather today too.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - You can climb all of those mountains, from the other side at Mount Myogi. They have a reputation for killing many people.

You can climb all of those mountains, from the other side at Mount Myogi. They have a reputation for killing many people.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Quaint little street by the station. If only the vending machine guy would move his truck.

Quaint little street by the station. If only the vending machine guy would move his truck.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - There is a railway museum at Yokokawa. Here is one of the old trains being positioned for the tourist ride which goes a few hundred metres up the old

There is a railway museum at Yokokawa. Here is one of the old trains being positioned for the tourist ride which goes a few hundred metres up the old abandoned line.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - A bit more of the railway museum with a fantastic backdrop.

A bit more of the railway museum with a fantastic backdrop.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - It is easy to follow the trail, there are maps everywhere, and it is afterall an actual railway line. Here is a bridge and a view.

It is easy to follow the trail, there are maps everywhere, and it is afterall an actual railway line. Here is a bridge and a view.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - This is where last time I diverted onto a 4.5 hour hike through the bear infested woods. Last night on BBC Asia they had a story on the high number of

This is where last time I diverted onto a 4.5 hour hike through the bear infested woods. Last night on BBC Asia they had a story on the high number of bears in Japan, and how they are dealing with them... in Karuizawa! Which is just over this set of hills. They have special dogs that frighten them out of the town back into the mountains... where the hiking trails are!


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - I decided bears dont like tunnels, and kept to the tunnel trail.

I decided bears dont like tunnels, and kept to the tunnel trail.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - This is lake Usui. It is a slight detour from the trail, but worth it. There are three picturesque bridges to walk over. In the foreground is silt bui

This is lake Usui. It is a slight detour from the trail, but worth it. There are three picturesque bridges to walk over. In the foreground is silt building up that is being prevented from going over the dam and down stream. A recent study found this kind of silt build up at dams, especially hydroelectric dams which were previously thought to be green power, causes a lot of methane to be produced as all the organic matter sinks and decays ANAEROBICALLY. Without the dams leaves and stuff in streams decay aerobically, and release 13.8x less CO2 (equivalent). I did the maths.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Here is the aforementioned dam. Through that bridge you can see another bridge behind it. Magical.

Here is the aforementioned dam. Through that bridge you can see another bridge behind it. Magical.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Another bridge, and some kayakers. Hungry bears look on. Soon...

Another bridge, and some kayakers. Hungry bears look on. Soon...


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Annnnddd its another bridge. Such a small lake, so many bridges.

Annnnddd its another bridge. Such a small lake, so many bridges.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - But, tunnels outnumber bridges. All the rail sleepers have been removed and lighting has been added. The longest tunnel is just over 500 metres. The a

But, tunnels outnumber bridges. All the rail sleepers have been removed and lighting has been added. The longest tunnel is just over 500 metres. The acoustics were great, I did my usual repertoire of baby shark, all the single ladies, hammer smashed face.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - This is the main attraction along the trail You walk over the top of it and then down a stair case. Theres a large car park here for all the people to

This is the main attraction along the trail You walk over the top of it and then down a stair case. Theres a large car park here for all the people too lazy to walk to here. Shameful.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Its a nice bridge though so I took another photo.

Its a nice bridge though so I took another photo.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - And one more.... for now.

And one more.... for now.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - The longest tunnel had little windows to the outside world, with bear warnings hanging in them!

The longest tunnel had little windows to the outside world, with bear warnings hanging in them!


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - The end of as far as you can go is here. The station remains largely untouched, too hard to dismantle I think. Its a shame they dont re open the remai

The end of as far as you can go is here. The station remains largely untouched, too hard to dismantle I think. Its a shame they dont re open the remaining few kilometres to Karuizawa, I suspect the very long tunnel is too long to be safe for pedestrians. Interesting fact, the whole line including 20 or more tunnels and a similar number of bridges was built in only 18 months. People occasionally died from the coal smoke as the tunnels had very poor ventilation. A new blind system was invented, but was still almost useless. Hence this little bit of train track in the middle of Japan was the first electrified rail anywhere in Japan.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Here in the valleys, a bit of color has come, but its still not peak color. Last visit I was too late. The color comes late this year. I actually read

Here in the valleys, a bit of color has come, but its still not peak color. Last visit I was too late. The color comes late this year. I actually read that on a translated Japanese social media hiking website service thing yesterday, 'This year, late comes, all leaf color, I wait in patient, soon.'


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - On the way back, there were a lot more people getting in my way.

On the way back, there were a lot more people getting in my way.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - That is another more recent, but also closed alignment of the same rail line! Theres an entirely different set of abandoned tunnels.

That is another more recent, but also closed alignment of the same rail line! Theres an entirely different set of abandoned tunnels.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Here is the famous bridge again, new angle.

Here is the famous bridge again, new angle.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - Here is my famous head again, same angle.

Here is my famous head again, same angle.


Japan-Takasaki-Hiking-Yokokawa - And back almost all the way to Yokokawa are these buildings that have some kind of historical relevance. You can pay a steep fee of a thousand yen to

And back almost all the way to Yokokawa are these buildings that have some kind of historical relevance. You can pay a steep fee of a thousand yen to go inside, but I peered in the window and inside they seem to be piled up with concrete rubble. Now I am doing my washing, fun times.


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