Japanese Scenery

Spring is in full swing now in Togakushi Kogen Highlands. Situated within Joshinetsu National Park of Nagano Prefecture, Japan, the area is alive these days with natures gifts. Flora and fauna abounds, wild flowers are blooming, colourful species of birds are flocking here bringing with them their beautiful cantos and wild creatures big and small wether they be insects, snakes,  racoon dogs, squirrels or brown bears all want a piece of the action.

Colourful Spring Rape Fields with Takatsumayama in the background

Joshinetsu National Park is a volcanic area situated at 1200m a.s.l and located at the foot of two extinct volcanoes, Mount Togakushi and Mount Iizuna. The Highlands here abound in natural beauty with a huge variety and diversity of alpine plants blooming in season. There are mountains, lakes, ponds and marshes with regard to the landscape, all of which visitors have easy access to. Crops also can be quite a spectacle when they are as vibrantly coloured as the rape seen in the picture above and cultivated on such a large scale.

Close up of Rape or Brassica napus

The Sakura or Cherry Blossom of which Japan is renowned for during the spring season can be seen growing not only around peoples properties or roadsides throughout Togakushi but also around the lakes and within the mountainous forests along with another stunning flowering tree the Magnolia.

Sakura (Cherry Blossom) and Magnolia at Daizahoushi Ike

There is also an extravagant display of Sakura at Chusha Jinja or shrine every year during the month of may. Chusha is one of the five very ancient and sacred Shinto shrines in Togakushi and right outside the entrance at the huge Tori or Gate that beckons you into the shrine area are a number of colourful Cherry trees whose scent pervades the air on a sunlit spring day and makes one feel glad to be alive.

Sakura at Chusha Shrine Tori (Gate)

Kagami Ike or Mirror Lake is also an extremely interesting and scenic part of Togakushi which is not only stunningly beautiful in spring but during almost all of the seasons, even in winter when the lake itself is covered with a thick sheet of ice. Personally my favourite times to visit Kagami Ike are during spring and autumn, there are obvious reasons for visiting during autumn when the fall colours are at their best as can be seen in the picture below.

Kagami Ike (Mirror Pond/Lake) in Autumn

But I am digressing here, lets stick with spring. I thought I would put the above picture in of Kagami Ike in autumn so as to highlight the big contrast between the two seasons, the changing face of nature as it were.

Kagami Ike in Spring and overlooked by part of Togakushi Mountain 

Kagami Ike is quite a sizeable lake and there is a well trodden path that goes all the way around this enchanting expanse of water through the forest with many spots affording excellent views. The forest itself is a mixture of bamboo, hardwood and coniferous trees along with wild flowers and something else one should be aware of, the brown bear. It's always a good idea to carry a cow bell if doing the circuit as this lets any bears if they are in the vicinity aware of your presence and they in turn will tend to keep themselves to themselves. Better to be safe than sorry.

Kagami Ike overlooked by Togakushiyama Ridge

Another lake situated not too far away from Kagami Ike and yet again in bear country is Furu Ike. Located near to Kurohimeyama or Kurohime Mountain, Furu Ike is a little higher in altitude than Kagami Ike and requires a small hike through the forest to get there from the main road, unlike Kagami Ike which you can actually drive to. 

Furu Ike with a side view of Togakushiyama and Takatsumayama

Furu Ike is another great place to view the Asian Skunk Cabbage along with its loving companion plant the Marsh Marigold. The walk around the lake and through the forest is interspersed with boardwalks although they are somewhat aged and decayed these days. In places it is pretty marshy but this environment proves all the more beneficial to certain species of wild flowers. And at a few spots along the walk you can also see Salamander eggs in the water at this time of year.

Marsh Marigolds with Takatsumayama in the Background

The lake in spring is also bustling with the sound of frogs and toads as the mating season is near at hand. At times it can be a veritable cacophony of .....love tones I guess. And if you are lucky you may actually see a couple of these 'usually' hidden from sight creatures. Be heard but not seen I think there motto must be!

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) like a fish out of water..

Face to Face with Bufo bufo

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