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Hiking in Yaita

A stroll down the turquoise waters of the Sukan River

Tochigi is known for many things: the gyoza of Utsunomiya, the wysteria of Ashikaga Flower Park, the pottery of Mashiko Town. But tucked up into the mountains of Yaita, about an hour drive north of Utsunomiya, is another thing Tochigi is less well known for: roughly translated, the Sukanzawa, or Sukan River.

Flowing from the snow runoff of Takaharasan, a dormant strato volcano that is a prominent feature of the Yaita skyline, the Sukan River is a rare phenomenon because it's a dead river, which means the volcanic minerals and deposits that flow in this river make life impossible: no fish, no bugs, no plants. Sounds a bit frightening, but those same mineral deposits that make life impossible produce a microscopic blue-green crystal that give the water an otherworldly aqua glow, as if the turquoise waters of Fiji or Okinawa were somehow flowing in the middle of nowhere Japan. And the best part about it? Very few people know about this trail, which means you can experience a little slice of paradise for yourself. Late spring is a good time to visit, as the leaves begin to turn and the insects stay at bay. Pack a snack and enjoy it when you get to the bottom. Make sure to take sun cream, water and insect repellent if you are hiking in the summer. This is not a strenuous hike, so take your time and enjoy the solitude of Japan's mountains. At a leisurely pace, this hike will take you about 2 hours round trip.

You will need a car to get to the trailhead. From Yaita station, take the 30 and make a left, heading north onto the 56.  After driving for about 45 minutes on the 56, look for a bridge that goes across the river. There is a parking lot on the west side of the bridge, and the trail begins on the south side of the bridge with a descending set of stairs. The trail continues down past a number of magnificent waterfalls. Once you reach the point where it wraps around a huge old tree, continue a half hour more to discover another magical waterfall. Return back to the parking lot the way you came.

On the way back into town, make sure you stop at the yamanoeki (country store) at the top of the mountain for some delicious soft serve strawberry ice cream!

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Jessica Sariago 10 years ago
After reading this; I would definitely go for a trek to find this place. :) .

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