Campervan Day 4 – Ojiragawa Canyon, Hakushu Distillery And Lake Suwa

We spent an hour or so around Oishi park at lake Kawaguchiko in the morning when we woke up, having breakfast and looking around.

This place is a viewing spot for Mount Fuji (however it was hidden behind clouds when we were there), and there are some lovely gardens with plenty of flowers. Don’t forget to get a photo with the Lake Kawaguchiko sign, as we saw plenty of other people doing.

The view out the back of our van in the morning at Lake Kawaguchiko.

There are also souvenirs, snacks, coffee and icecream sold at the tourist information centre and it seems as though buses service the area.

Plenty of room in the car park beside the tourist information centre – for camping cars, for example.

We headed off towards the Suntory Hakushu Distillery after that. Intially we were going to go on one of their distillery tours, but due to only having a single driver (and the alcohol consumption rules for drivers in Japan being strict), we decided a tour wasn’t worth it if the drinks weren’t consumed.

Thing at the entrance to the Hakushu Whisky Distillery.

On the tour you get to see the whole process of making whisky, but being that we’d happened to have gone on a beer brewery tour recently back at home, we weren’t overly interested in the process which would probably be largely the same.

Suntory Hakushu Distillery requires that you call ahead to reserve a spot to go on their tours, which costs 1,000 Yen and includes some tastings. You can also show up and buy a ticket at the door, but you may only enter if there happen to be free spots left on the tour, which is why they say that reservations are required.

However, if you don’t go on the paid tour, you can still check out the whisky museum for free (although be careful with timing, as the museum is closing for maintenance in January 2018 according to the website).

Suntory Hakushu Distillery’s Museum of Whisky.

After calling up to make a reservation and finding out the above information, we decided to forgo any booking and just opt for the museum to take a look around. This allowed us to not have to stick to any particular schedule timing-wise.

Along the way to the distillery, we decided to stop in at Ojiragawa Canyon which was only a short detour off our intended travel route. The plan was to eat lunch there and go on a short nature walk.

Some of the trail’s stairs at Ojiragawa Canyon – some sections are of the walk are steep so wear suitable shoes!

We had a quick bite to eat in the car park at Ojiragawa Canyon before going on the shortest walk.

The Canyon itself is located in what seems to be a rural area popular with outdoor recreation, as we saw people fishing in the streams, plenty of rice fields, and there are several (privately run?) camping grounds in the area.

Clear water at Ojiragawa Gorge.

Ojiragawa Canyon seems to be a little-known about (to foreigners, at least) place to go on a nature hiking trek and view some of Japan’s natural beauty. The main feature appears to be a three-tiered waterfall that goes into 3 round pot-shaped pools of very clear, bright aqua water.

We walked to the first pool, which was really quite amazing to look at and can be reached on foot by about 15 minutes. The photos don’t do it justice, as you can see right through past the first pool into the next waterfall.

The first pool, about 15 minute’s walk from the carpark.

The map below shows the walks (click to expand) and hiking trails.

Ojiragawa Trail Map – Shows routes and walking times on the expanded section

After 5 minutes from the carpark, you reach a beautifully serene mossy area which is a shrine and graveyard.

Shrine and graveyard in the forest.

Then you will get to a suspension bridge which takes 5 people maximum. Cross over this, and another 10 minute’s walk gets you to the first pool and waterfall.

Suspension bridge at Ojiragawa Valley.

Unfortunately due to time restraints we had to turn back after that, but if you are able to do the full walk, it seems as though you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of all three waterfalls and pools.

We left the gorge and headed on to the Hakushu Distillery around 15 minute’s drive away.

Distillery Map. It’s quite large, so you only really get to walk to the museum and shop if not on a tour.

Parking at the Distillery is free, and we were just in time to have a look around the museum and shop before they closed.

The Whisky Museum

The museum doesn’t have a lot of information in english, but there is an english leaflet you can request, and it’s somewhat interesting exploring the museum building which is quite large with several floors.

You can also walk up to the top of the building where there’s a great view of the surrounding mountain ranges and distillery buildings.

Shop at Suntory Hakushu Distillery

We bypassed the bird park at the distillery due to time, and then headed off to Lake Suwa for the night.

Dinner was a pasta in a park near the lake, after which we managed to find a public car park on the lakeside that had a toilet block, where we set up for the night.  Since it was a public area and we didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves camping, we didn’t put up the pop-top for obvious reasons.

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