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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Japan National Parks: Bandai-Asahi National Park

The Bandai-Asahi National Park (磐梯朝日国立公園, Bandai Asahi Kokuritsu Kōen) is the last of the three national parks in Tohoku region for Japan—It’s A Wonderful Rife to look at.

While the second Tohoku episode (See HERE) will hopefully dissuade some of you non-outdoorsy types from wanting to ever portage a canoe (don’t be like Mister Canoehead who gained that awful moniker after his aluminum canoe was struck by lightning).

This third one… the Bandai-Asahi National Park - just the name alone evokes the awesomeness of brilliant Japanese toys from Bandai, and the thirst-quenching deliciousness of the Asahi beer company!

But… don’t get your hopes up. It’s just a cruel, cruel, cruel bit of bait-and-switch. In the retail world, that’s when a store, for example, advertises a sale on Product X for $10. But when you get there, they are “sold out”—never actually had any in the first place or maybe just two or three units of the product—but will gladly sell you Product Z for $20, because they know you want to buy something. Bait-and-switch. It’s illegal.

Opened as the third-largest national park in Japan on September 5, 1950, Bandai-Asahi National Park covers 1,870.41 square kilometers covering Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture), Yamagata-ken (Yamagata Prefecture) and Niigata-ken (Niigata Prefecture), and has three independent sections: Dewasanzan-asahi Region; Iide Region, and; Bandaiazuma-Inawashiro Region.

The Dewasanzan-Asahi Region is the most northern unit of the park, and holds the Three Mountains of Dewa (出羽三山, Dewasanzan). The southern section of the region resides on the Asahi Range.

I have broken down the three sections of the park into four sections, because... well, you'll see...

The Three Mountains of Dewa refer to Mount Gassan, Mount Haguro and Mount Yudono—all in Yamagata-ken. The mountains are a holy area to the Shugendō religion, with visitors and pilgrims visiting the shrines on the peak of each mountain. There’s even supposed to be Japanese mountain ascetic hermits who practice the strict doctrine up there.

Mount Gassan is a stratovolcano and rises to the height of 1,984 meters. Believe it or don’t, I’m about 15% complete in creating a list of volcanoes in Japan that people can understand. Anyhow, around Gassan-san are marshes and sub-alpine forests with such plants as the usagi-giku (arnica unalascensis), and rare animals such as ermine and alpine accentor. Apparently up the hill, there is winter skiing allowed… but because of its location, you could ski until mid-July.
A robin-sized bird at around 17-cm long, this is the alpine accentor. Nope... I had never heard of it either. Pretty.
Asahi RangeThe Asahi Range borders Niigata and Yamagata-ken. It’s main mountain is Ōasahi Dake, rising 1,870 meters above sea level, and is ranked among the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains.

I suppose that bit of information is important for all of the OCD folks who gotta catch a sight of ‘em all. 100 Famous Mountains of Japan… why exactly is this mountain famous? Because famous Haiku poet Basho wrote a three-line poem there?

Now… if it was because a famous samurai battle was fought there… but no… shouldn’t it be cooler if it was a list of famous vista? I don’t know what the plural of vista is. Vistas? Really? It just looks wrong to me.

The Asahi range is 60 kilometers from north to south and 30 kilometers from east to west, and is one of the snowiest places in Japan with snow sticking around through the summer.

There are deep canyons-canyons-canyons-yons for people to call from help in, with a large beech tree forest covers the mountains up to 1,200 meters above sea level.

Animals in the park area include: Japanese dormouse (not sure what that is? Ask Alice), Japanese serow (goat), Asian black bear, golden eagle, mountain hawk-eagle, goshawk and peregrine falcon.

Iide Region
The Iide Region is the south-western part of the Bandai-Asahi National Park with the area having some nice mountains: Mt. Dainichi (2,128 meters), Mt. Iide (2,105 meters), Mt. Eboshi (2,017 meters), Mt. Kitamata (2,025 meters) and Mt. Onishi (2,013 meters).

While there are hiking trails, note that snowpacks remain year-round on the area affectionately called the Tohoku Alps.

Mt. Iide ranks among Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains, and while I am unsure if it is because of its alpine flowers, or its Shugendō religion shrine and area (see above) - basically, back in 652AD, En no Ozunu (surname last, I think) began teaching Shugendō on the mountain. Ever heard that song… go, tell it on the mountain… I don't think it was based on this, just that the song entered my head and 45 minutes won't leave.

Anyhow, it wasn’t until after WWII, that women were allowed to climb this mountain… something about that whole bleeding thing messing up the purity of the place.  

Bandaiazuma-Inawashiro Region
The Bandaiazuma-Inawashiro Region is the south-eastern unit of the park and is so spectacular that even Wikipedia was speechless. Really. it said: “The Bandaiazuma-Inawashiro Region is the south-eastern unit of the park.

Anyhow, the area holds Lake Inawashiro (猪苗代湖, Inawashiro-ko), the fourth-largest lake in Japan at 103.3 square kilometers in surface area.

This is the last entry on Tōhoku region national parks. Next time I write about the parks, it will be a look at Hokkaido—a place I never visited and kick myself daily when I remember it, for my failure. Although… except for the volcanoes, I assume it looks a lot like Canada’s northwest… so been there, done that.

Andrew Joseph

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