When Miwa was a child her father had a home in Nasu and every summer her mom and sisters would enjoy a month in the mountains. The home included a private onsen, which are very popular in this town. In fact there are seven major onsen that date back 1200 years. Our trip was sort of a homecoming and eye opener as to how much the area has changed.
Nasu is not well known to foreign tourists because many believe you need a car to get around. But actually, there are two bus systems that can take you to most places without the hassle of driving in the mountains.
Less than one and a half hours via Shinkasen (Bullet Train) from Tokyo Station is an area of Japan that is overflowing with activities for the whole family, even the Royal Family.
We purchased two-day passes for the public and the Kyuvii mini bus. Upon arrival at Nasu-Shiobara station we boarded the pubic bus for the Nasu Ropeway and a vigorous hike up to the top of Mt. Chausu-dake. Be sure to bring hiking boots, because halfway up the trail from the ropeway it becomes rock climbing. Reaching the top (1,915 meter, 6,283 feet) is definitely worth the view. Some early fall colors were just showing on the next ridge. There is a small shrine and I noticed many people saying a prayer.
Our next stop was Minamigaoka Dairy, one of the few places that existed during Miwa’s childhood. This is a farm with many animals including Guernsey cows from which they sell milk, cheese, and delicious soft ice cream. They have rainbow trout fishing areas with several restaurants serving up sumptuous beef and fish dishes.
It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at the Wellness Forest Hotel, which is located on a beautiful golf course. They had to move our dinner a few hours and offered us a private onsen for the inconvenience. This hotel is dog friendly and just across the street I noticed a dog friendly café!
Before dinner we enjoyed a soak in the onsen and then a seven-course meal. Yes, here in Japan the servings are much smaller than back home, but after eating pasta, soup, salad, sashimi, snapper, roast beef, and finally pancake ice cream, there was no room left for any more food.
The next morning after a large buffet breakfast we left the hotel and walked fifteen minutes to the Nasu Highland Yuai no Mori rest area, which has a morning market, crafts center, and several restaurants. This is stop number one for the Kyuvii mini bus. Our first destination this morning was the Sesshou-Seki Stone, known as the murder rock. As soon as you step off the bus you will notice strong sulfur fumes coming from the rock. Up on the left is a foot onsen where you can dip your feet into the bubbling water and then walk up the many steps to the shrine. Take the trail down to Sesshou Seki Stone. There are several stories about this rock and all include the 9-tailed fox. Locate the picture included with this article to read about the legend. Along the wooden path near the rock are 1000 Jizu statues, which are protectors of travelers.
Next stop, a quiet hike in the Heisei no Mori forest to Komdome Waterfalls viewing area. There are several bears living in the forest and all along the trails are cans that you hit with a rod making a loud noise to keep them away. I really liked the falls, especially the blue water at the top.
Back at the rest area we found Nasu Tofu Chaya Restaurant that specializes in large fried tofu, flat udon noodles, and chicken flavor dipping soup. It was very good.
Just before catching the shuttle back to the train station we visited one of the three Cheese Garden locations in Nasu and enjoyed a special ice cream treat while also purchasing their famous cheesecake to take back home.
We have already decided to come back in the spring for a longer stay.
There are many additional hiking parks, the Nasu Kogen Highland Observatory, Jeans Mountain, The Nature Study trails, Tsutsuji Suspension Bridge, an Animal Kingdom, Alpaca Farm, Flower World, Safari Park, Monkey Park, Sapporo Beer Brewery, Nasu Kogen Brewery, and so many unique museums that I cannot list them all. No matter where you are in Nasu there will be plenty of excellent restaurants serving up local veggies, fruits, dairy products, beef and fish.
Nasu is another great place to visit just a short distance from Tokyo. There are tourist information centers at both train stations and throughout the region.