Parc Georges Valbon (Parc de la Courneuve)

Parc Georges Valbon (aka Parc de la Courneuve) is a huge park (417 ha) in Seine-Saint-Denis. After my visit to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, I walked to the park and spent the rest of the day there, until sunset. The weather was really nice and the park looked great in fall colors.

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Mount Royal

Mount Royal (Mont Royal) is a small mountain in Montreal, immediately west of downtown. It is the site of Mount Royal Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and the city’s largest park.

Above, Mount Royal seen from the observatory of Au Sommet Place Ville-Marie. The Belvédère Kondiaronk, on the left, offers a great view on the city. The Mount Royal Cross can be seen on the right.

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Autumn at Kyu-Furukawa Garden

Kyu-Furukawa Garden is a park in Kita City, Tokyo. The park includes an old western-style building designed by architect Josiah Conder, a rose garden, and a traditional Japanese-style garden.

Above, the rose garden.

Above, the western-style residence.

Above, toro lantern in the Japanese-style garden.

Above, a turtle in the pond.

Lake Tama

Lake Tama is an artificial lake in Higashiyamato City, in western Tokyo, right at the border with Saitama Prefecture. It was formed by damming up a river running through the Sayama valley, a project started in 1916 and completed in 1927. The lake now serves as a water reservoir for the residents of Tokyo.

The lake is surrounded by parks and forests and there is a popular cycling course extending from Nishitokyo City to Lake Tama. North of the lake towards Lake Sayama lies the Seibu Dome, home of the Saitama Seibu Lions baseball team. Also worthy of a visit are the buddhist Yamaguchi Kannon Konjoin (山口観音 金乗院) and Sayama Fudoson (狭山不動尊) temples.

Above, on the cycling road outside the Musashi-Yamato station.

Above, forest in the Metropolitan Sayama Park.

Above, gate leading to the Lake Tama dam.

Above, the eastern dam.

Above, the Seibuen Amusement Park.

Above, on the cycling road circling the lake.

Above, the Seibu Dome.

Above, on the western dam.

Above, leaving Tokyo and standing in Saitama Prefecture.

Above, gate to the Yamaguchi Kannon Konjoin Temple.

Above, the temple seemed to have a dragon theme.

Aboe, the Mizuko Jizo terraces. The statues serve as memorials for miscarried or aborted fetuses.

Above, red five-story pagoda. The inside of the pagoda was closed when I was there but it can be visited.

Above, entrance to an underground statue gallery.

Above, statue of Kannon, the buddhist goddess of mercy.

Above, a horse statue near the entrance of the temple.

Above, entrance to the Sayama Fudoson Temple.

Above, main gate to the Sayama Fudoson Temple.

Above, the nearby Seibu Dome.

Above, the indoor Sayama Ski Resort, right next to the Dome.

Above, inside the Seibu Dome.

Above, Seibu train decorated with characters from Leiji Matsumoto’s manga Galaxy Express 999.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a large park in Tokyo that blends the French, English and Japanese styles of gardens.

Above, the Shinjuku Gate.

Above, the skyscrapers of Nishi-Shinjuku can be seen from the park.

Above, the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building.

Above, there was a chrysanthemum festival going on.

Above, pond in the Japanese traditional garden.

Above, more chrysanthemum.

Above, in the Taiwan Pavillon (Kyu-Goryo-Tei).

Above, in the French formal garden.

Above, in the English landscape garden.

Above, the greenhouse.

Above, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building from afar.

Above, the Sendagaya Gate.

Nagatoro: Iwadatami Rocks & Mount Hodo

After getting down from Mount Buko, instead of directly going back to Tokyo, I made a quick detour by Nagatoro, north of Chichibu City. The area is famous for the Iwadatami Rocks, next to the Arakawa River. It is possible to ride a traditional Japanese boat through rapids but I was too late for that. However, fall colors were in full swing. The other attraction of the area is Mount Hodo, a 497m high mountain. There is a ropeway to the summit about 20min from the Iwadatami Rocks. I arrived just in time to watch the sunset.

Above, on the Iwadatami Rocks.

Above, people riding the boat down the Arakawa River.

Above, torii on the way to Mount Hodo Ropeway.

Above, Hodosan Shrine.

Above, the “Bambi” ropeway car.

Above, at the summit.

Lake Okutama

After reaching Lake Okutama at the end of the Mukashi Michi trail, I spent some time on the Ogouchi Dam itself. I then walked in the area north-west of the dam: There are some nice view points of the lake. Finally, I ended the day by hiking up Mount Kurato (倉戸山). However, the view at the summit was blocked by trees so it was a bit of a letdown. I also managed to get lost on the way down… Another option would have been to walk the combined Ikoi trail (奥多摩湖いこいの路 ; literally “Lake Okutama Relax Trail”) + Lakeside Path (湖畔の小道), two easy trails that follow the south bank of the lake all the way from the dam to the so-called Drum Bridge (a floating bridge), near the Ogouchi Shrine.

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Okutama Mukashi Michi: Walk from Okutama Station to Lake Okutama

Okutama Mukashi Michi (literally “Okutama’s Old Road”) is a 9km path that roughly follows the Tama River from Okutama Station (the last stop of the Ome Line) to Ogouchi Dam and Lake Okutama. It used to be the main road in the area, until 1945 when the new road, which had been constructed originally for transporting material for the construction of Ogouchi Dam, became open to the public. Nowadays, the Mukashi Michi is a popular walking course that goes through mountain trails and paved roads, passing by suspension bridges, shrines and waterfalls along the way and offering a great view on the surrounding mountains, especially now with autumn colors near their peak.

Here is an official map of the trail in English. There is also a large map right outside the train station and there are regular markers on the trail itself. It takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete. For the way back, there are regular buses running from Lake Okutama (schedule).

Above, the Information Office, a 2min walk from the station. They give out pamphlets (in English) with maps.

Above, the new road.

Above, red Japanese Maple leaves.

Above, view of Tama River from the Shidakura suspension bridge.

Above, on Dodokoro suspension bridge.

Above, view of Ogouchi Dam and Lake Okutama.

Fuji 5 Lakes area: Lake Kawaguchi, Mount Ashiwada, Aokigahara Forest

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a day trip to Fujikawaguchiko, in Yamanashi Prefecture. The area is located on the north side of Mount Fuji, west of Tokyo, and is famous for being a great spot for watching the mountain. It also known under the name “Fuji Five Lakes” (after Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Sai, Lake Shoji, Lake Motosu and Lake Yamanaka). On top of the lakes, the area has mountains and swathes of woodland, the most well-known being Aokigahara Forest, also called the “Sea of trees” (and sometimes “Suicide Forest”).

While I was there, starting from Kawaguchiko station, I walked on the south bank of Lake Kawaguchi for a while, until I reached a mountainous area. I then hiked a forest trail up to the summit of Mount Ashiwada. It was possible to see Mount Fujji along the way. Then, I went down towards Aokigahara Forest, stopping to enjoy the views at Sankodai and Koyodai. In Aokigahara, I walked the well-marked trails and visited the Ice Cave and Wind Cave. Finally, I went to Lake Sai to catch the bus back to the train station.

Here is a map of the path I walked (download KML):

Above, fishermen on Lake Kawaguchi.

Above, Mount Fuji.

Above, Mount Fuji from the bridge.

Above, the path next to the lake. It goes all the way to Katsuyama Road Station and offers splendid views on the lake, the surrounding mountains and, occasionally, Mount Fuji.

Above, a Peace Pole with the usual message: “May Peace Prevail on Earth”.

Above, Mount Ashiwada.

Above, view of Katsuyama Road Station and Lake Kawaguchi from the trail.

Above, Lake Kawaguchi.

Above, Mount Fuji from the summit of Mount Ashiwada (Gokodai).

Above, Lake Sai.

Above, it did not feel that cold but some ice still formed on the ground.

Above, Sankodai view point.

Above, mountains, with Aokigahara Forest in the foreground.

Above, view of Lake Motosu from Sankodai.

Above, view of Mount Fuji from the Koyodai observatory.

Above, view of Lake Sai from Koyodai.

Above, Aokigahara Forest.

Above, entrance to the Ice Cave.

Above, entrance to the Wind Cave.

Above, Lake Sai.

Above, back at Lake Kawaguchi, watching the last of the sunlight on the mountain.

Above, “See you again” sign on the way to the train station.