Oze: Easy Hiking with Switzerland-like Scenery
Oze is a hiking area which is as high as 1,400 meters and located on the border of three prefectures: Fukushima, Gunma and Niigata. It offers very beautiful scenery, especially in June when the skunk cabbage is in colorful bloom.
There are several trailheads where you can begin hiking in the Oze area. Here is how I went:
- From Tokyo I took the Shinkansen to Takasaki Station.
- At Takasaki I transfered to the JR Joetsu Line (上越線), a local JR Line, to Numata (沼田) Station.
- Here, I took a bus to the bus stop Hatomachitouge (鳩待峠) which is near the popular entrance to the Ozegahara plateau (尾瀬ヶ原).
If you find taking local buses a little complicated, you can participate in a tour offered by travel companies. Some tours are for one-day visitors, and others are for overnight visitors which includes a stay in a cottage on the plateau.
Why Is Oze So Popular?
Why is Oze so popular among Japanese people? First of all, the scenery at Ozegahara (the plateau at the top) is just so beautiful. It make you feel relaxed and refreshed, and you can enjoy mountain flowers and trees there. Before going I had heard that Oze was too crowded because so many people want to see the skunk cabbage in bloom. However, luckily or unluckily, I was a bit late and missed the peak season for the skunk cabbage blooms. So I didn’t have to get stuck behind a bunch of people walking in one line on the sidewalk. Secondly, the walking paths in the Oze area are paved. Even if you are a beginner totally new to mountains, you can just walk along a safe sidewalk. I am an outdoors person but new to mountains, so Oze was quite perfect for me.
Have a Fun Stay in a Cottage!
It is possible to visit Oze on a one-day trip if you are good at hiking. However, I recommend staying at a cottage on the plateau. On the top of the plateau, there are several cottages that accommodate overnight visitors. Just make sure to make a reservation beforehand. Here are some of the benefits to staying in a cottage:
- You can have a good dinner and breakfast
- The early morning view is fantastic, and something you can’t get later in the day
- It’s fun to share the experience by talking with other guests
- You can start out fresh again on the second day
The cottages are very clean, and some offer nice private rooms with futon (Japanese bed). You can stay in a large room where you share with other guests if you are on a budget. Usually people who prepare for hiking for the next day sleep early–normally just after the dinner–so you don’t have to worry about noises that other people would make at night.
Things to Be Aware Of
Walking through Oze’s beautiful scenery can be really exciting after a few days stuck in one of Japan’s metropolises. However, here are some things to keep in mind when visiting:
- Bring hiking boots.
Even though Oze is not so steep, I recommend you be prepared by wearing hiking boots rather than ordinary walking shoes or other footwear.
- Stay aware of your surroundings.
Even in early summer when I visited, some snow remained and almost made me slip while I was walking on the sidewalk.
- Even if it’s sunny, you should still be careful of slipping.
If it’s rained the day before, surfaces can still be slippery.
- Eat something before you start hiking.
At Hatomachitoge, which is the most popular entrance, some shops offer something to eat, such as noodles. Even if you are not hungry at that moment, you should eat something before you start up the mountain. Although Oze is comparatively easy and safe, you should always be well prepared.
Have you been visiting only big cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya while in Japan? That’s a shame! You should also consider visiting some of Japan’s beautiful mountains and relax on your holiday!