On October 9th, 2017, we hopped on Jeff's motorcycle and took a trip south to Hachimantai. I had never been there, but Jeff had taken a trip down last year (as it turns out, on the same exact day). We had hoped to see the autumn colors and boy did we!
I was stunned by the range of colors that we saw and how bright they were.
A thing that caught my eye was that every so often I saw a vine with bright red leaves, climbing a pine tree. The contrasting colors were interesting.
There are several onsens (hot baths) in the Hachimantai area. We stopped at a couple of them to look around. This was the first one we explored. What had looked like smoke in the distance turned out to be steam coming from the ground! The whole area is volcanic.
Many bubbling pools could be found in the area.
The steam was everywhere.
Marshmallow was along for the outing and I had to get some pictures of him. Jeff, in turn, had to get pictures of me taking pictures.
Marshmallow, prancing at a volcanic hot spring.
We explored a couple of trails and I took a ridiculous amount of pictures of the stunning fall foliage.
No, really, a LOT of pictures.
At the next onsen, the main one, Tamagawa, we found food on a stick. Jeff was happy.
I also found the biggest, juiciest, sweetest Asian pear I've ever seen, so I was happy too, and made quite a mess of myself. No pictures of all that.
After grub, it was time to explore the Tamagawa Onsen.
As we got closer, Jeff got excited. There were vents belching out steam all over the place.
Potential danger! Jeff was like a kid at Christmas.
One of the vents (I think the one in the middle) had steam just screaming out of it. You could hear the noise of the steam shooting out under pressure.
At a viewing area, across from the vents. I was struck by the contrast of brilliant fall colors with the volcanic dead zone.
Marshmallow had to stretch his legs again.
And take in the scenery.
The other side of the dead zone, more autumn color on the hillside behind.
Every time we are out adventuring, we come across warning signs for bears. We have yet to see one, and from what we hear, that's a good thing. We've been warned that Asiatic black bears are not the black bears we might be used to from the U.S. Apparently they have attitude and every year at least a few people in the mountains nearby are killed by them.
I would really like to see one... from a safe distance.
Another view of the dead zone, surrounded by lush greenery.
After admiring from a distance, we went down on the path right in front of the vents to get a closer look.
I decided to test out the zoom on our new (bought in a rush on the way to Sapporo) camera.
It was able to zoom right in on the interesting sulfur formations around the vents.
The path is quite close to some of the vents.
A hole into the Earth.
Jeff studies the vents. He was carrying my coat at this point, it was warm here!
I absolutely loved this view.
Toward the end of the path, we came across this: a big pool of water, aggressively bubbling! We weren't sure if it was actually boiling or if it was a big steam vent under the water. Or maybe that's pretty much the same thing. It was impressive, and a little freaky, to see that much water churning away.
I wanted to get a picture of Marshmallow with the big bubbling pool. Jeff suggested standing him on the post to the left of the picture below. However, neither Marshmallow I were comfortable with that. Instead, I kept a firm grip on his tail while I documented the occasion.
Marshmallow surveys the roiling water. Nope, don't want to go swimming in that!
A few more steps up the path, and right before we got back on the bike to come home, we met a lovely older Japanese couple. Between their broken English, my broken Japanese, gestures, and laughing, we managed to have a conversation. They shared their lunch with us - baked sweet potatoes, edamame, and the sweetest sweet corn we think we've ever had. A friend of theirs stopped by to visit also and asked if she could take our picture. I asked her to take one with our camera too.
The husband of the couple spoke very little English, but he told me his name was Naomi. His wife said "girl name!" and pointed at him, to which he shook his head, waved his hands back and forth and said "no! no!" I think this joke has come up before. They were delightful people.
Naomi-san wanted to be in a picture with us. Their friend tried to get his wife to join us, but she emphatically shook her head and hid behind their friend. We all laughed. Some things transcend any language barrier.