Thursday, August 25, 2011

Zao Quasi National Park

On 17th July hubby and I visited Zao Quasi National Park. The mountain park extends over both Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures in north-eastern Japan. The park consists of Mount Omoshiroyama of Ou Mountains, and continues south and includes Zao Mountain Range Park. Zao Mountain Range is in fact a part of Ou Mountains. Zao Mountain Range has various active volcanic terrains and the central area of the range has three dominant mountains, namely Mount Kumanodake (1841 meters), Mount Goshikidake (1674 meters), and Mount Kattadake (1759 meters). Zao Quasi National Park was established in 1963 and covers an area of 400 square kilometers. The area from around a crater lake named Okama to Mount Fubosan of Zao Mountain Range has been designated as specially protected region of this park. The park is well known for its unparallel splendor and scenic views. The park contains many unique geological features such as gorges, rocks, marshlands, and Okama Crater Lake which is the scenic symbol of the park. The park is also known for the existence of lush and diverse vegetation such as Beech forests and alpine vegetation. The park is very popular for various resort facilities such as skiing areas and hot springs. The skiing resorts are also well known for heavily snowed-in frozen trees called Juhyo snow monsters that are formed during mid-winter by strong winds from Siberia. The park is also a popular spot for trekking and hiking during summer and autumn.

Zao Quasi National Park is located about 220 kilometers southeast of our home and it took us almost 5 hours to reach the destination by car. When we were about 27 kilometers away from our destination, we left the expressway and drove along a road named Zao Echo Line. It is a tolled road that winds across Zao Mountain Range and connects Yamagata prefecture and Miyagi prefecture. The road is closed during winter season. The road is surrounded by pleasant breathtaking scenic views. On our way up the mountains along this road, we stopped at a sightseeing spot to see two waterfalls. This spot has a lookout stand, and we enjoyed seeing many mountains covered with lush green vegetation. To our left we saw a waterfall named Kaerazu-no-taki which is located in the eastern part of Mount Goshikidake. The source of water of this waterfall is Okama Crater Lake. The waterfall is 97.5 meters high and has a width of 14 meters. We loved the sound of the waterfall and it was so relaxing. From the lookout stand, to our right we saw another cascading waterfall named Furikotaki which flows in the northeast of Mount Goshikidake. The source of water of this waterfall is Furiko marsh. When a strong wind blows, this fall swings like a pendulum. The scenery around us was so beautiful and peaceful. In striking contrast to the mountain greenery, there are huge areas on the mountain covered with volcanic ejects which are brown to brownish rocks and pebbles. We took several photos and also compiled a video of this wonderful spot.
Hubby standing next to an information board at the sightseeing spot

Mountain range as viewed from across Zao Echo Line road

Mountain range

Another view of the mountain range along with the lookout stand located at the central right side of the photo

I am walking along the trail

Mountain range and the lookout stand

Kaerazu-no-taki Waterfall as viewed from the lookout stand

Mountain range in front of us as viewed from the lookout stand

Hubby and the mountain range in the background

Furikotaki Waterfall

Lush green mountain range on the left side and the walking trail covered with brown rocks and pebbles on the right side of the photo

Hubby, green mountain range, and the brown rocky trail

I am walking along the rocky trail near the lookout stand

Hubby walking on the rocky trail


A compiled video of the mountain range and the waterfalls as viewed from the lookout stand


After driving for a few more kilometers up the mountains on Zao Echo Line, we stopped at a second sightseeing spot overlooking a rugged mountain named Daikokuten. This spot is located at an altitude of 1432 meters and a volcanic eruption caused the formation of almost barren slopes of this mountain. The contrast between the whitish brown slopes of this mountain and the greenery of other mountains in the background is so striking and remarkable. From this spot, there is a walking trail that takes visitors to the top of Mount Kattadake in an hour. On this trail a stone statue of Daikoku deity is enshrined. But we did not see the deity as we opted to go to Kattadake mountaintop by our car.
Hubby standing next to an information board located near the walking trail on Mount Daikokuten

Walking trail and Mount Daikokuten (top part) as viewed while walking towards the north

Mount Daikokuten (middle part)

Mount Daikokuten (lower part)

I am standing on the walking trail


During the car drive, when we were about 1.5 kilometers away from the top of Mount Kattadake, we left Zao Echo Line Road and drove along another road named Zao High Line. It is a tolled road and ends at a car parking area near Zao Rest House located on the top of Mount Kattadake.

Since we could go up to the top of Mount Kattadake (1759 meters) by our car, we were able to walk up to Okama Lake within just ten minutes. The lake is located in the central part of Zao Mountain Range, and is surrounded by three mountains namely, Mount Kumanodake, Mount Goshikidake (1674 meters), and Mount Kattadake. In fact Okama Lake is a crater lake located at the center of Goshikidake tuff cone. The lake is called Okama because its round shape resembles an iron kettle pot (okama in Japanese). The lake is about 1080 meters in circumference, 27 meters in depth, and is nearly circular with the east-west diameter of 325 meters and the north-south diameter of 335 meters. The water of the lake is acidic and is uninhabitable for all kinds of organisms. The lake is also known as Goshikinuma (lake of five colors) because the color of the lake changes according to the weather and the angle of the sunlight. The lake is very rare in the world because the temperature of the water falls to 2 degrees Celsius from the surface of the lake to the halfway point and rises from there to the bottom.The lake is considered to be the symbol of Zao Quasi National Park and is a major sightseeing attraction of the area.

From the top of Mount Kattadake, we walked along a walking trail set around Okama Crater Lake and reached a spot located southwest of the lake. From this spot, we got a stunning and fascinating view of the emerald green colored lake with a mystic atmosphere. The color of the lake is in striking contrast to the dull colored crater walls. We took several photos of the lake and its surroundings from this spot.
Panoramic view of Mount Kumanodake (left), Okama Crater Lake, and Mount Goshikidake (right) as viewed from the southwest of the lake

Mount Kumanodake and Okama Lake

Mount Kumanodake, Okama Lake, and Mount Goshikidake

Okama Crater Lake

Mount Goshikidake and a portion of the lake

I am standing in front of the lake

Hubby standing in front of the lake


Next, we walked along the trail towards the north and reached another spot located west-southwest of Okama Lake. This spot was the nearest we could get to the lake. From this spot we got yet another amazing view of the lake. Again we took several photos of the lake and its surroundings from this spot.
I am walking on a trail towards the north

I am taking rest. Mount Goshikidake is partly seen in the background.

Mount Kumanodake, Okama Crater Lake, and Mount Goshikidake as viewed from the west-southwest of the lake

Okama Crater Lake

Enlarged view of the lake

Mount Goshikidake towards the left side of the photo

I am standing in front of the lake

Hubby standing in front of the lake


Afterwards, we turned around and started walking back towards the south on the walking trail. We walked for about 15 minutes along the trail and then climbed many paved stone steps that led to the top of Mount Kattadake. While climbing up the steps, we could see Okama Lake from yet another angle, and it was wonderful to see how the lake and its surrounding looked different and mysterious from different spots and positions.
We are walking on a trail towards the south. Mount Kattadake is seen here.

A shrine at the top of Mount Kattadake

Mount Kumanodake, Okama Crater Lake, and Mount Goshikidake as viewed from the stone steps leading to Kattadake mountaintop

Okama Crater Lake

Hubby standing on the stone steps


After climbing the stone steps for about 10 minutes, we reached the highest point at the top of Mount Kattadake. This mountain is located to the south of Okama Lake, and we got a wonderful view of the lake from this spot at the top of the mountain. We took several photos of the lake and its surroundings from this spot also.
A stone monument at the top of Mount Kattadake

Mount Kumanodake, Okama Crater Lake, and Mount Goshikidake as viewed from the south from Kattadake mountaintop

Okama Crater Lake

Hubby along with the lake in the background

We and the lake


Afterwards, we visited a shrine named Kattamine Jinja located at the top of Mount Kattadake. A shrine of the same name is located near the foot of the mountain at Togatta hot spring. The shrine at the mountaintop is known as Okumiya and the one at the base is known as Satomiya. Deities named Amenomikumari-no-kami and Kuninomikumari-no-kami are enshrined at this shrine.
Kattamine Jinja Okumiya as viewed while walking on a trail leading to Kattadake mountaintop

Torii gate and Okumiya

I am standing in front of the shrine


Adjacent to the rest house at the top of Mount Kattadake, we saw people using chairlift facility to go to the base of the mountain. Zao-Katta Chairlift operates between the mountaintop and the base of Mount Kattadake. We paid 700 Yen per person for the round-trip ticket to ride on the chairlift. The ride from the mountaintop station to the base station was wonderful, and hubby compiled a video of this ride. We enjoyed viewing the vegetation on the slopes of the mountain. It was really fun. Since our car was parked at the top of the mountain, we again returned back to the mountaintop station by the chairlift.
Zao-Katta Chairlift mountaintop station

Ride towards the base station


A compiled video of the chairlift ride from the mountaintop station to the base station

Returning back to the mountaintop station


We really enjoyed our visit to Zao Quasi National Park. We loved the spectacular and mysterious Okama Crater Lake.

4 comments:

Spicy Sweet said...

Well written and beautiful pictures.
But many pictures have made it a long post.
I loved reading, others may mind find it long

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Spicy Sweet for reading the post and your comment.

As you can see from the archives, I usually write long blogs with many pictures :) This is basically a sort of diary for me that reminds me of the different sightseeing spots that hubby and I have visited.

Also this blog was originally intended for my relatives and friends (of course I love it when others read it too). And since I have many Japanese relatives and friends who go through this blog, they had suggested me about two years ago to make it more visually effective as Japanese people are not used to English language. This form of blog evolved as a compromise for my Indian as well as Japanese relatives and friends.

Hope you will visit the blog often. Thanks again.

Brian Head said...

Absolutely beautiful place. Great for everything - hiking, biking, photography, etc.

Brian Head

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Yeah Brian, Zao Quasi National Park is a great place to visit. The lake is really gorgeous.