Our plans to go hill walking in Hokkaido were severely curtailed by the weather – various typhoons hit the island causing all sorts of issues and many walking and climbing trails were closed. However we still managed to get up close with two active volcanoes.
The first volcano we visited was Mt Io/Iozan 硫黄山 means ‘Sulphur Mountain’ and it has that name for a reason. We started our walk by parking at the Kawayu Eco-Centre, and after a look around (well worth a visit) we set off on the Tsutsujigahara Trail.
The walk started through forest and soon became a moorish scrub with low-growing pines and shrubs. There are many stopping points with seats, information boards and photo points. The trail is pretty flat and easy going.
Soon the landscape started to look more otherworldly – we were close to the volcano.
Iozan is not a lava volcano, but a sulphur volcano. The result is that there are not huge streams of red, or even the black of cooled lava, but there is some spectacular colour nevertheless.
There is also the not-so-charming smell of rotten eggs.
The day after we visited Iozan we finally got to climb up a mountain – we made it to the summit of Meakan-Dake 雌阿寒岳.
The weather was finally clear so we set off relatively early in the morning. We were soon shedding our jackets and outer layers, but trust me, it was a good idea we brought them.Straight out of the car park you enter a lush forest. We, like most other hikers, had our ‘bear bells’, as Hokkaido is known for it’s bears and there are signs everywhere warning you about them (we never saw one). We encountered a few other hikers, many of them senior citizens.
We moved out of the forest in to an environment of more low-growing pines. The views were amazing.
As we got closer to the summit, the weather moved in and we were glad for our waterproofs! The last section was a bit of a slog, with lots of scree to deal with, but the path is well marked and even with fog we managed to get to the summit okay. Due to the weather we couldn’t see in to the actual volcano (if you are interested in what it looks like, this website has some pictures) but we could definitely smell it – hence Willem’s bandana in the picture below.
We had hoped to follow the trail over to Onetto (オンネトー) but due to the weather it was closed to we went back down the trail we had followed up. It was pretty slow going – the boys are total mountain goats and could have done it in half the time but I seem to have weird balance issues with going downhill and it took awhile. But finally we were back in the forest, then back to the car.
There are two onsen next to the car park – we chose what looked like to be the bigger one and were pretty disappointed – I suggest you chose the one further back from the car park. There is also a toilet nearby and there were people camping.
If you are interested in hiking Me-Akan this is probably the best English language website to check out (it is good for a lot of hiking in Japan).