Thursday, 24 May 2012

Hiking: Nikkawa Line

Taiwan has re-kindled my Hiking bug, and so the second free day (the first was spent hungover, whoops) we had when we got back we got our boots on and went to the Nikkawa Line.

With a lot of googling, I'd found out a little information about this hike, but not very much. There was this blog, which was helpful and had the only map I found, but is 6 years old. Then there were mentions of it on various Visit Miyagi type tourism websites, but nothing concrete. I'm sure I'd have been able to find more information if my Japanese wasn't so awful, but as it was, it was a bit of a leap in the dark!! We managed to persuade our friend Amy to embark on this madness with us, and off the three of us went!

We got the train 20 minutes from our house, in the opposite direction from Sendai, to Okunikkawa (it's on the Senzan Line from Sendai, 40 minutes, ¥570). It's a tiny hamlet with about 5 houses, and the hiking signs are really obvious as soon as you get out of the station.

Here is a map of the area (source).

We wanted to walk the brown loop in the centre-left of the map. We set off in that direction, but after about 600m there was a sign saying it was closed. However, being the bad foreigners we are, we went over the rope and down to a lovely river.

Pretty shrine in the middle of nowhere

Very dubious staircase

Going across this bridge would've been the next step...except there was no way to get onto it. The ladder was completely destroyed and none of us fancied climbing up sheer rock!

Undeterred, we headed back to the station and then walked the right hand side of the yellow loop along the road. At the bottom there was a car park and a sign to the walk marked pink on the map. That also had a sign saying it was closed, but we worked out enough of it to realise it was saying the path was shut from November last year until April this year. And since it is now May we decided that we'd take our life into our hands and ignore the sign. I know, we're bad people, but it looked too pretty and we wanted our hike!

The walk follows the river about 4.8km all the way down to the unused Yatsumori Train Station. It's a lovely walk, mostly along the river, which occasionally diversions into the forest on either side. There was a lot of rock scrambling (mostly due to broken steps) but only one or two places where it felt at all unsafe! Unsurprisingly, since it was officially closed, we didn't see anyone else and we had a lovely hike. 

Once you get to Yatsumori, you can follow very quiet roads another 5km, through farmer country, round to Sakunami, a hot springs town with a station on the same line as Okunikkawa. 

It made for a great day hike and took us about 5 hours in total. There's a campsite at Okunikkawa, and we're hoping to persuade some other friends to come there with us for a camping trip in the summer. When the really hot weather eventually arrives, a swim in this river will be just the thing!

Lovely mountain views 

As well as mini waterfalls

Taking the high road!

Next time I come, I'm bringing my swimming stuff, this water makes you want to dive right in! (It was ridiculously cold though!)

The only living thing we met on the whole trail!

Bye bye river, we'll be back sometime!

What I can only assume is earthquake damage on the road

Pretty shrine in the middle of nowhere Mark 2

Poor house

Can anyone tell me what these are? Graves? Memorials? Shrines?

Rice farming

Gorgeous tree in Sakunami. There was really nothing in Sakunami. We were all starving by the time we got there and we couldn't find anywhere to buy food :( So it you want to do this walk, take all your provisions with you!

Apparently John has "always wanted to do this" and the deserted Sakunami Station was the perfect opportunity. Silly boy!

PS - Mum and Dad, do you think a stay at the campsite here and a walk around this area might be a good way to spend a day of your visit?


  1. Susie! I saw your comment about skin care - I have the same skin type. Dry and sensitive and Japanese face wash strips me BARE. I recently finished my stash from home and have been using the SkinFood line Honey Black Tea Bubble Foam and so far, so good. Not too drying or crazy. Also, Erin recently reviewed a moisturizing face wash she uses on our other blog

    1. Awesome, thanks! I was planning to post on that blog asking if you'd do product finding requests, but you beat me to it :) My face wash from home has almost run out and Japanese drugstores scare me(too many perfectly made up ladies in high heels, too many options, too many kanji), so I need all the help I can get!

  2. Nothing to do with this post, but if you're looking for things to do in Tokyo in August, Time Out published a summer edition last year that still has valid information. You can read the entire magazine online here. :)

  3. Incidentally, I think those stones under the tree are so-called Buddha stones, i.e. graves. It doesn't necessarily mean that a body is buried underneath, but it's in memory of a dead person.

    However. Don't quote me. ^^

    It's Buddhist, not Shinto, that I'm fairly sure of.

    However. Don't quote me. :D

    1. I knew you'd be the person to answer my question :D

      I won't quote you in any official sources, but I'll be quoting you in my head whenever I see them, same as I do whenever I go to a shrine ^^

    2. When I read your question, I thought immediately of Rurousha too. ^^

    3. Heh heh, I knew she'd be the only person who is clever enough to answer my questions who bothers to read an uneducated blog like mine!

  4. I am so with you about the inviting water. Cold or not, I want to have a dip!

    1. I think it'll have to wait until it's warmer outside! We dipped our toes in but I think the river's probably still melted snow at the moment and it was FREEZING. Maybe in the summer :D

  5. Deffo think camping near here sounds good - as long as you promise us no typhoons!

    1. No promises Mum, but it's so in the middle of nowhere I can't believe the campsite is ever busy so we'll wait and see what it's like when you're here :D

  6. I always thought they were graves, but now after looking these up, I think they are mini-shrines.

    Batō Kannon 馬頭観音
    Horse-Headed Kannon. Protector of Animals ...

    this looks like a good hike I am going to have to try in a few weeks.

    1. Thanks sixmats!

      It was a fun hike, but be prepared to be a bad foreigner climbing under no entry signs and clambering across rocks where the ladder has broken if you do go! But trust us, you can get to the end!!

  7. So cool! I agree with John, the deserted train station is awesome sauce.