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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Japan’s National Parks: Oze National Park

If you take a look at the photo of Oze National Park (尾瀬国立公園, Oze Kokuritsu Kōen), above, you might think it was someplace out in the western part of the U.S. or Canada… there appears to be nothing there that makes one think of Japan. Photo by Brian Adler (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:BrianAdler).

I look at that photo and wonder what the heck happened to the top of the mountain. Oh yeah - a volcanic explosion.

The entire park area—all 372 square kilometers of it is spread out over four prefectures: Tochigi-ken (my old home prefecture), Fukushima-ken, Gunman-ken, and Niigata-ken.

Although new to the rank of National Park as of August 30, 2007, Oze National Park has been around a while… as it was actually formerly part of Nikkō National Park (see HERE for more on that park), as well as the Aizu-Komagatake and Tashiroyama mountains.

The idea behind it was to relieve tourist pressure from Nikkō and all of its temples and shrines, to better allow the Oze National Park to prosper as a true natural reserve.

I’ve been here, though not when it was designated as a National Park. I pop my fingers inside my hollowed cheek.

Yeah, it’s beautiful and all—and I’m glad that Japan is maintaining large swathes of green zones that will avoid being concreted over for a shopping mall… but I just expected more than just some trees, flowers and mountains.

Okay… the Oze National Park is actually Japan’s largest highland marsh—so pick the appropriate footwear... because eventually, you're going to fall in.

Yes… if you want to walk the walk, the hiking paths are covered with wooden planks so it’s easily accessible for visitors.

The Oze National Park’s landscape is the long-term result of volcanic activity from Mt. Hiuchigatake (燧ヶ岳 Hiuchi-ga-take)—the tallest mountain in the Tōhoku region (northeast part of the main Japanese island), after lava flow damned the Tadamigawa River (只見川, Tadami-gawa), a major tributary of the Agano River, thereby creating the current marshlands. The North Tadami River (Kita Tadamigawa) feeds the marshlands of the Oze National Park.

Did you know that all of the streams and rivers within the Oze National Park help provide most of Tokyo’s electrical power? Did you know that 70 percent of the land within the Oze National Park is actually owned by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany)? The same company who owned the nuclear power station in Fukushima-ken that nearly irradiated the entire country after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 caused a loss of power there?

Should you wish to visit Oze National Park, note that it’s actually a bit of a challenging place to visit.

After entering the park… uh… that's not the park’s entrance.

There’s a lodge where you purchase a ticket to enter the park… but before you actually enter, you get to hike up and over a mountain to find the Oze National Park’s entrance.

There’s a hike up a mountain, then a hike down it—just to get to the marshy area… you walk along those previously mentioned wooden planks… with few rest areas.
It was actually a lot of fun to walk along the wooden pathway wondering what the heck people were looking at. Yup... that's a marsh... I don't see any ripples indicating there's anything swimming in it. Why does one of you need a walking stick? Why aren't you tipping it over as you point to the stillness of the marsh's water?Image from https://www.visitgunma.jp/en/sightseeing/detail.php?sightseeing_id=12
What can you see?

Lots of pretty, pretty, pretty flowers. 

In the Spring, there’s the misobasho (Japanese Skunk Cabbage) white flowers all over the marsh.

In the late Summer/early Autumn, you can see the yellow flowers of the nikko-kisuge (Yellow Alpine Lily).

Seems like quite the effing hike to see some posies, but if I was with ex-fiance Noboko, I’m pretty sure she would have dragged me out to see it.

As it was, back in Japan, I was driven out there by the Kanemaru family… my friend and my co-boss responsible for ensuring I didn’t accidentally kill myself because I was unfamiliar with the country.

To be fair, as long as you have a camera, this is a great place to check out.

Aside from the crowds of people slowly walking across those 45-centimeter (18-inch) wide wooden planks—I’m a fast walker—the place is bereft of the conveniences of Japan—vending machines, restaurants et al.

It’s funny… when I was there, I don’t recall seeing any birds or animals… hmm.

Whatever… it was all good… generally relaxing…. and the wetlands do serve a huge purpose in flora and fauna preservation.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

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