Located almost in the center of Nagano Prefecture, Tateshina and Kirigamine Highland boast numerous attractive and extremely varied spots. One of Japan’s leading summer retreats, Tateshina is well known as a scenic place and has many hotels and other facilities. The adjacent Kirigamine, meanwhile, is rich in natural beauty, such as highland and ponds, and attracts many visitors.
Although Mishaka Pond is an artificial tarn completed in 1933 and built to provide irrigation for farming, first-time visitors are moved by its mystic atmosphere. The trees encircling the pond and the ripples from two ducks paddling across the tranquil surface of the water seem to combine to create a picture painted by nature. The name of the pond originates in a legend about deer being shot for offering to the god deified at Suwa Grand Shrine. Over time, it became the foremost tourist spot in Tateshina.
Leaving Mishaka Pond and going down the highland, I came to an expanse of vivid greenery. Orderly paddy fields stretch out into the distance, looking just like a well-designed building. When seen from above, they appear extremely beautiful.
At 1,925 meters, Kurumayama mountain is the highest peak of Kirigamine. In winter it is a crowded ski slope, and in summer also you can use the lift to go to the top and enjoy hiking and other activities. The 360-degree panorama from the summit is truly magnificent. Down below, Lake Shirakaba looks like a puddle of water formed between the mountains.
Venus Line is a 76-km tourist route stretching from Tateshina to Kirigamine. Apparently it was a toll road at first, but now it is toll-free. Since there are no utility poles or other eyesores in the vicinity, Venus Line offers really wonderful views as it winds across the highland. Seen from above, it appears even more beautiful. The cars look just like dinky toys.
Driving along Marchen Road in the direction of the Yatsugatake mountains to the north of Tateshina, I came to a large carpark. A few minutes’ walk through the forest at the side of this carpark brought me to Shirakoma Pond with its impressively still surface. Shirakoma Pond is the largest tarn in Japan located at a height of 2,000 meters or more. There are hotels and other facilities catering to the many sightseers who visit.
Like Mishaka Pond, Lake Shirakaba, which can be seen from the summit of Kurumayama, is an artificial lake. Because the water flowing from the Yatsugatake mountains is very cold and therefore not suitable for irrigation, several artificial ponds were built to warm the water and use it for farming. Lake Shirakaba has boating and other tourist facilities and is popular with visitors.
Kirigamine Marshland, which has been designated by the state as a natural monument, covers a vast area of 133 ha at the foot of Kurumayama. The grassland is said to have a history of 10,000 years and is the habitat of diverse vegetation. Entry is prohibited, but viewed from Venus Line, the mystical beauty of the grassland is impressive.
Located along Venus Line, Kirigamine Fujimidai Lookout has a large carpark and drive-in facility. From one corner of the carpark, Mount Fuji can be seen in the distance. After the pleasant drive on Venus Line, I took a break here and enjoyed the splendid view for a while.
I spent three days taking videos around Aso. I was amazed by the unique scenery everywhere. Centering on the five peaks of Aso, the inner side of the outer rim has expansive paddies and fields, mountainsides, and clusters of houses here and there. Around 50,000 people live in this area. Mr. Masayuki Wada, an Aso Global Geopark guide who accompanied me on this photography tour, told me, “Aso has everything people need to live. Absolutely nothing is wasted. There is a reason for the origin of everything. This is a place where coexistence with nature goes very well indeed.” The attraction of this land is that everything is a one-and-only existence. I have traveled to many places across Japan to take photos and videos. Without doubt, Aso was one of the most impressive.
Photos and text: Arata Matsumoto, Sharata and Adwise, Inc.
URL: http://www.sharata.net/ (Japanese)
(Sharata supplies 4K videos of outstanding scenery in Japan so that as many people as possible can enjoy it.)