On entering Senjogahara marsh you are welcomed by a life-sized rendition of an Asian black bear. I imagine the wordless roar depicted by the artist would've sounded something like "Yum!" had it been voiced. In order to avoid a similar encounter, you are advised to carry a 'bear bell'. Apparently, it's a great deterrent as Asian black bears don't like the sound. I find this hard to believe. It sounds like a dinner bell and its constant chiming is bloody annoying. The bear's more likely to kill you for some peace and quiet. Nevertheless, I endeavoured to trust the advice and strapped it to my pack.
My first impression of Senjogahara marsh was that it's not very marsh-like. We arrived shortly after the winter snow had receded and the land was very dead and dry. My second impression was that I needed a bigger camera lens. In 20 minutes we had passed no less than three fellow explorers lugging huge telescopic barrels (the size of a mid to large child) over their shoulders. Maybe they doubled as a weapon in a bear attack?
The undergrowth was covered in little yellow-green plants. Rugged, desperate-looking trees sprouted forth ahead of us endlessly, filling the horizon. Winter had clearly done them no favours. Wander south and you will meet a stream, which quickly dissolves into rapids and tumbles into a fall. Pockets of evergreen foliage light up the banks, helping envision the green that summer must bring.
Once you near the outskirts of the dense woodland the little yellow-green plants recede. In their wake lies a hay-like spread of straw-like grass. The woods turn barren and tree-topped. Scorched mountains rise up. The place has the impression of a desert. Clouds cast the only shadows and huge crows play as vultures on leafless branches. Taking a closer look, clues as to what is to come appear. In brown puddles, frogs and toads wriggle themselves into a muddy blanket. Tucking themselves in, they wait for the rain.
Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@_scott_norris) // spring 2015
From Tobu Nikko Tobu station (¥1500) or JR Nikko station take a bus to Yumoto Onsen. You will need to get off before the onsen at either Ryuzu falls or Akanuma Shako bus top (best to say these names or simply Senjogahara Marsh to driver).
2 day passes can also be bought for around ¥3000 and local buses ferry between Chuzenji-cho and Senjogahara marsh if you want to explore a bit.
Unfortunately we can provide no directions for this walk as it was undertaken before the website was a proper idea. The path is well signposted and clear if you have a map. Click here for help printing/saving the map above.