We hope you are staying safe during these testing times. Travel to Japan is not possible for the time being as Japan has shut its borders in order to prevent more infections of COVID19.
Today we're heading to one of Japan's most unique landscapes, Tonomine Highlands in Hyogo Prefecture. The main attraction of the highlands is the beautiful rolling hills that are thickly covered with Japanese pampas grass (susuki), as it's called in Japanese.
The silky white flower of the grass blooms in autumn, creating an ethereal glow over the landscape.
If you said it felt like stepping into a movie, you wouldn't be wrong. The magical landscape of Tonomine Highlands has piqued the interest of some filmmakers in Japan. Most notably, the film adaptation of Haruki Murakami's, Norwegian Wood, features two prominent scenes filmed at the highlands.
With each season, the hills at Tonomine take on a different appearance. Autumn is the most popular time to visit, as the silver flowering pampas grass glitters beautifully in the sunshine. In winter, the area is inaccessible as the roads close due to high snowfall. When the hills come alive again in the spring, there is a spectacular fire show. Locals set the highland ablaze to encourage new growth, leaving a sea of blackened landscape in their wake. In the summer, after the new grass grows, the hills are blanketed with thick green grass.
There are several different walking trails through the hills, including one that loops around the highlands. They are all quite gentle, so you don’t need to worry about having hiking gear with you. Get lost wandering along the maze-like boardwalks, as the grass towers above your head. The trails cross over iridescent marshes, adding to the already other-worldly atmosphere.
After exploring, head into the whimsical wooden lodge visitors centre. There you can grab some local omiyage (souvenirs), and get a bite to eat. Enjoy a hot bowl of udon from the restaurant while gazing over the enchanting landscape. During autumn there’s often small food stalls selling Japnese street food such as takoyaki and hot roasted sweet potato.
The best way to get here is by car, it's about 20 minutes drive from Kamikawa-Cho. Alternatively, there is a shuttle bus that runs from Teramae Station during the peak season. This year peak dates are from October 12 to November 10. Buses depart Teramae station at 9:40 am and 12:00 pm. The return bus departs Tonomine Highlands at 1:50 pm and 3:35 pm. A return ticket is ¥1800 and reservations are required by telephone at least 3 days in advance, so find a Japanese speaker to help you out.
The visitors' centre is open Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 to 5:00.
To make a reservation for the bus, call: 0790－34－1001
Check this flyer (Japanese) for more information on the bus: