Should one find oneself on the island of Hokkaido, which is the largest island north of Japan’s main island Kyushu, one should definitely pay a visit to the aptly named Daisetsuzan National Park – the ‘big snow mountain.’ While being the largest national park in Japan, it offers a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy and sights to explore.
One of the best ways to experience one part of the 2,300 square meter large park is to seek the Kogen Onsen, one of the hot spring resorts of the area. The Kogen Onsen is located at a high altitude, a novelty when one is used to the onsen located closer to the sea level. The air is fresher and the wind is colder, providing a crisp contrast to the pleasure of relaxing in a resort area powered by a hot spring. Located well over 1 kilometer above the sea level, visitors are also treated to a prime seat to observe columns of smoke rise from the volcanic parts of the area, a rather impressive sight to see.
Those who wish to do more than to simply lounge and observe, are welcomed to gear up and head out for some climbing. There are some difficult and rewarding belts to try one’s hands on, but it is recommended for tourists to go in the company of a guide as inexperience can lead to fatality.
For the less adventurous, the area around the Kogen Onsen provides some very scenic walking trails and tracks. There are some that lead through areas populated by swamps and its respective wildlife. It is noted that the areas filled with swamps have a decidedly orange and brown tint to them, giving the impression from afar that part of the mountain is on fire in contrast to the snowy white that dominates most of the park. An important aspect to consider is that those particular trails lead through one of the areas which the brown bear is home to, thus giving it a relative measure of danger. However, visitors must attend a lecture at the relevant information center prior to heading out anyway. There have been instances before wherein the trails were closed due to a high number of bears nearby, so it is recommended for visitors to make some back-up plans just in case the trail is closed on that particular day.
There are numerous spas and bathhouses in the town around the Kogen Onsen, all of which gain their hot water from the volcanic hot spring.
First image by go-nagano.net
Second image by tokyosnowclub.com