Katashina-mura is a very popular place during the winter season, due to the massive amounts of snow and its 6 individual ski slopes. Especially the Marunuma area is a great place for skiing and snowboarding. The season in Marunuma is the longest one in Katashina, namely from 20 November – 6 May. However, Marunuma is also definitely worth a visit during the warm summer months!
I went to visit the Marunuma zone together with my boss and colleagues. Sadly, the weather was not too great due to the super typhoon passing by. Typhoon ‘Neoguri’ inundated Japan, causing wild storms, flooding and mudslides and destroyed many people’s homes. Fortunately, Katashina did not get any damage.
The Marunuma area contains the 3 lakes of Katashina: O-jirinuma, Marunuma and Sugenuma (“-numa” = swamp or lake), the two latter ones are privately owned. They are surrounded by mountains and thick forests of white birches and Japanese beech tress. Lake Sugenuma is located at 1,731m above sea level. The peaceful lakes are filled with fresh, blue, clear waters – my colleagues assured me that it is too cold to swim, but I really want to take up the challenge at some point.
Bluebird Canoe offers canoe rental, lessons and beach BBQs. However, you are also welcome to bring your own kayak. I plan to go on a canoe trip in the near future, so wait for a detailed post about my experience. You can also stay in eco-friendly lodges right by the beach. These lodges guarantee a unique experience as they do not have electricity, so at night you light up your hut with an oil lamp instead.
Blue bird canoe (Japanese only): http://kuwaphoto.com/bluebird_canoe/index.html
Sugenuma Lodges (Japanese only): http://www.sugenuma.com/
On top of that Lakes Marunuma and Sugenuma are hot spots for keen fishermen. Some of the species you can catch in the Marunuma Lake are rainbow trout, brown trout, white spotted char and cherry salmon. Nonetheless, Lake Marunuma is privately owned. Therefore you need to pay for a fishing permit and you can only catch & release – so sadly you won’t be able to proudly throw your fresh catch on the BBQ afterwards.
Not to miss in the Muranuma zone is Mount Nikko-Shirane-san. This is Japan’s highest peak in the north of the Kanto region – scraping the sky at a height of 2578m. This volcano is part of the Nikko National Park and is considered at the top of the list of Japan’s 100 greatest mountains.
At the Marunuma Highland Resort (Marunuma Kougen) we took the rope-way from 1400m to 2000m on Mt. Shirane-san (Roundtrip – adult 1,900 yen, child 1,000 yen). The ride offers a wonderful view of the whole panorama – fields, mountains, deep forests & lakes. At the top some people continue their hike towards the mountain peak. However, others may stroll through the rock garden, visit Shirane-san’s shrine or simply enjoy the scenery while tangling their feet in the hot foot bath – they call it ‘foot-bath in the sky’.
You can, however, also take a longer route to hike up Nikko-Shirane-san, which does not involve taking the rope-way.My personal experience of the climb up to the peak will follow! It seems like a great challenge and I want to come back to see everything in the light of the Japanese sun-rays.
Marunuma Kougen additionally offers other great activities in the summer. Why not ski or snowboard down a 400m summer slope? How about a ride down the 800m summer luge? It is up to you if you either fancy a calm trip or a mountain roller coaster to reach a maximum speed of up to 40km/h. There are also camping and BBQ facilities and they own other guesthouses too.
A memorable experience in summer is their stargazing event. You go up to 2000m with the ropeway and stay there for 3 hours to marvel at the beautiful night sky – remember that Katashina is a rural village and hence there is no light pollution – making it even better!
Upcoming stargazing events in 2014:
9th of August – 14th of August
20th of August – 22nd of August
11th of October – 12th of October
18th of October
22nd of October
Useful: there is a free shuttle bus (only with reservation – call: (0278) 58-2211) from different stations (such as Jomokogen station and Numata station) that takes you to Marunuma Kougen.
Check out their website for more information: http://www.marunuma.jp/
For lunch we went to Cou-ya Café, which is very close to Marunuma Kougen – I definitely recommend this place. It is a small cosy restaurant, guesthouse and bakery with a sort of Japanese-French style to it. Friendly staff, relaxing atmosphere and delicious food – they have a new lunch menu each month. http://www.cou-ya.com
But, how about you explore for yourself?! – Katashina FUNtashina