Monday, 9 December 2013

Spectacular Fall Colours of Yoro Keikoku

"Autumn is a second spring 
when every leaf is a flower."

Albert Camus
French Nobel Prize winning author, journalist, and philosopher



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The three Chiba Kun Ambassadors, all-set to discover the beauty of Yoro Keikoku.

Chiba Prefecture is blessed with numerous spots where visitors get to enjoy gorgeous autumn foliage; and one of the most spectacular places to view the autumn artwork in full splendor is Yoro Keikoku (養老渓谷). Yoro Keikoku is a rugged, lush valley carved over centuries by the Yoro River, located in the central Bōsō Peninsular of Chiba Prefecture, between Otaki Town and Ichihara City.

On November 24, 2013, the Chiba Kun Ambassadors had the pleasure of visiting Yoro Keikoku as part of the third tour of the year. Cherry blossom or sakura may be the centre of attraction during spring here in Japan. Come autumn, it is the season which offers the special delight of the changing of the colour of the leaves. From a wide array of brilliant yellow, mellow orange and bright crimson red of the Japanese maple (momiji), this is the seasonal sight that is longed for. It is a display of a myriad of colours before the coming winter.

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Not many leaves had turned their colours yet when we started our hiking.

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However, slowly but surely, we were greeted with beautiful autumn foliage.

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The sunlight shining through the colurful momiji leaves.

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Hello! Watashi-wa Chiba Kun Taishi desu lol!

Steep densely forested hills surround Yoro Keikoku, as the picturesque Yoro River carves its way into the Pacific Ocean. The valley has the Osawamata-no-taki Falls, often called Maboroshi-no-taki, or the mirage waterfalls. The best and most popular spot in this region however, is the Awamata-no-taki Falls (粟又の滝), located in the mountains about 4 kilometers upstream. With a height of 30 meters and clear water running over a distance of 100 meters down stair-shaped rocks, this waterfall is the biggest waterfall in Chiba. This earned the waterfall it praise for its resemblance to silk cloth spreading out from the top of the mountain.

Yoro Keikoku is well known as the slowest spot in Kanto region, where you get to enjoy the breathtaking sight of yellow, orange and striking crimson red leaves. Local tourism association holds a momiji festival every year in late November to celebrate the spectacular autumn foliage. During this period, there are also light-ups held at certain spots and this gives visitors the chance to enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage at night.

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 Sometimes, I just lost for words to describe the beauty of the autumn leaves.

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And the magical view is reflected on the crystal clear river.

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You can choose to enjoy the magnificent autumn foliage either looking up or down the river, because both looks equally great.

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Apt to its name, there are several little waterfalls along the "Taki-meguri" course.

There are several courses where visitors can choose from to enjoy the autumn foliage in Yoro Keikoku, namely the "Taki-meguri" course (滝めぐりコース), which is approximately 4 kilometers, the "Bungalow-mura & Kōbundōato" course (バンガロー村・弘文洞跡コース), approximately 7.4 kilometers and the "Daifukuzan & Umegase" course (大福山・梅ヶ瀬コース), approximately 9.6 kilometers. Disappearing down one of the trails, one can experience entering the world of nature far removed from the mega metropolis of Tokyo.

The "Taki-meguri" course is one of the most common course taken by visitors. It is a 1.7-kilometer walkaway, which has been constructed on the west bank of the river. Here, visitors can enjoy the sound of the stream flowing down from the mountain, as they stroll along the Yoro River. This spot is especially crowded during autumn, as visitors get to view the beautiful autumn leaves.

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This is the course we took on the day (source).

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 As we head to the end to see the highlight of the place, we just could not get enough of the magical sight surrounding us.

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Blazing red momiji looks great when the sunlight shines upon them.

However, the steps going down to the walkway from the Awamata-no-taki bus stop is rather steep (and slippery on raining days) and might not be friendly to children and the elderly. Also, as Yoro Keikoku is one of the most popular spots for autumn foliage viewing during its peak season in late November, it is recommended that you avoid the weekends. Alternatively, if your schedule only permits you to visit the place during the weekends, it is advisable to go early, ahead of the tour groups who normally reach there by ten in the morning.

Finally, I'd be remiss not to mention the numerous hot springs (onsen) in the Yoro Keikoku area, some of the best in all of Chiba Prefecture. Here, you can relax in a hot natural mineral bath after you day out hiking, or spend the night at some. In fact, after your hike you should relax your aching feet in the free hot spring foot-bath (ashiyu, 足湯) at Yoro Keikoku station. Another unique thing about the hot spring in this area, also known as the Yoro Keikoku hot spring village, is the onsen with black-coloured water (kuroyu, 黒湯). In addition, there are also sites for outdoor activities such as fishing, barbecues and camping, where you may want to set aside time to enjoy yourselves.

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And finally, the long-awaited Awamata-no-taki (栗又の滝), at the end of the course.

In a nutshell, despite of its remote location, hidden in the middle of Chiba prefecture, Yoro Keikoku is indeed a lovely place to experience nature's artwork in full splendor, and get off the beaten track at any time of the year, especially during the amazing autumn season.


|| INFORMATION ||
Yoro Keikoku
Taki-meguri Course (滝めぐりコース): Approximately 4 kilometers.
Bungalow-mura & Kōbundoōato Course (バンガロー村・弘文洞跡コース):
Approximately 7.4 kilometers.
Daifukuzan & Umegase Course
(大福山・梅ヶ瀬コース):
Approximately 9.6 kilometers.
Parking spaces:
Available

Tel: 
0436-22-8355 (Ichihara Tourist Association) (closed on Monday)
Tel: 0470-80-1146 (Otaki Tourist Association) (closed on Monday)

Website:
http://www.youroukeikoku.com/ (Japanese only)
(Yoro Keikoku Sightseeing Association)
Access:

Train:

※ Tokyo station (東京駅) to Goi station (五井駅) (approximately 60 minutes), on JR Keiyo Line and JR Uchibō Line (limited express) (JR京葉線 & JR内房線), and then
Goi station (五井駅) to Yoro-keikoku station (養老渓谷駅) (approximately 60 minutes), on Kominato Line (小湊鉄道)
Ohara
station (大原駅) to Kazusa-nakano station (上総中野駅) (approximately 60 minutes), on Isumi Line (いすみ鉄道), and then
Kazusa-nakano station (上総中野駅) to Yoro-keikoku station (養老渓谷駅) (approximately 8 minutes), on Kominato Line (小湊鉄道).
Car:
From Tokyo, exit Ichihara IC (市原IC) (via Tateyama Expressway, 館山自動車道), take Route 297 and Route 81 (via Ushiku, 牛久) to Yoro-keikoku.
From Kanagawa, exit Kisarazu IC (木更津IC) (via Tokyo Bay Aqualine, 東京湾アクアライン), take Route 410 and Route 32 (via Kururi, 久留里) to Yoro-keikoku.

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