November 26 2019
A Long Climb To See The Fall – Harunakomachi in Gunma Prefecture – November 2019
Trying to synchronise your own schedule with that of Mother Nature can be a frustrating experience. A daydreamed vision – a pink cherry-blossom-lined riverside, a silver-frosted mountaintop, or an autumnal forest aflame with crimson foliage – is often shattered by a day of dreary drizzle and overcast cloud cover.
With this in mind, we set off on this trip into Gunma in a fatalistic frame of mind – our mid-November excursion date a full two weeks later than the forecasted high season for seeing the mountain of Harunasan, overlooking Harunako Lake, in its autumnal glory.
Our journey there was in two parts; firstly a train trip to Takasaki Station, which is one of Gunma Prefecture’s main stations and a stop for several bullet train (shinkansen) routes between Tokyo and Northern Japan. After that, we took a 90-minute, north-westerly bus ride, which mercifully incorporated a thoughtfully-provided toilet stop midway.
The second half of that bus trip – after several passengers had used the opportunity to lighten their load a little – became a steep grind uphill through the burnished colours of the area’s mountain forests, making a brief stop at Haruna Jinja, before finally arriving at Harunakomachi Bus Stop, at an altitude of 1,084 metres.
Despite grey conditions for much of our passage there, soon after we arrived we were blessed with sunshine and blue skies, which served to illuminate the surrounding scenery fabulously.
Sure enough, many of the trees had already succumbed to the impending cold weather – a visit at the very start of November would have certainly been even more breathtaking – but plenty of stunning colour remained, providing a beautiful day out spent cycling a rental bicycle (¥500 from Ebara, opposite Cafe Terrace Eve) around the 5.5 km circumference of Harunako.
Some of our fellow visitors took the cable car to the summit of Harunasan, while others ventured out onto the lake in pleasure boats. However we satisfied ourselves with just the leisurely trek around the lake on our boneshakers.
The forlorn sight of some abandoned former hotels and restaurants lent some parts of the lakeside a Scooby-Doo-like air of decrepitude, however the magnificence of the surrounding mountains reflected in the surface of the lake provided the most enduring memory of the day.
At time of writing, buses from Takasaki Station to Harunakomachi Bus Stop leave throughout most of the day at 30 minutes past the hour.
The bus leaves from bus stop number 2 at the west exit of Takasaki Station, costing ¥1,120 (pay as you alight from the bus).
The return buses from Harunakomachi Bus Stop to Takasaki Station also leave throughout most of the day at 30 minutes past the hour.
Harunakomachi is located beside the border of Shibukawa, one of the 100 locations chosen for Japan – 100 Hidden Towns.
Read more about Shibukawa here.