Nagasaki’s “Unzen Ropeway”: Now is the Time to See the Amazing Fall Foliage!
On March 16th, 1934, Unzen was the first park in Japan to be designated as a national park along with the Setonai-kai National Park (Hiroshima) and Kirishima-Kinkōwan National Park (Kagoshima and Miyazaki). In 1956, with the inclusion of the Amakusa area, it became the Unzen-Amakusa National Park.
Some places that have amazing views are the Mt. Unzen-dake (Fugen-dake, Heisei-shinzan, Kunimi-dake, Myoken-dake), Nita-toge Pass, Unzen-onsen hot springs, and Suwa Pond. The Heisei-shinzan, which is a relatively new mountain formed by an eruption in 1990, from lava flowing and hardening at the Fugen-dake Mountain summit, can be viewed up close. There are many visitors who enjoy the view of this mountain along with the scenery and nature that has been there from a prior time.
Today, we would like to introduce the “Unzen Ropeway” which allows for a close view of the Heisei-shinzan Mountain as well.
What is the Unzen Ropeway?
The Unzen connects the Nita-toge Pass Station and Myoken-dake Stations (174 m difference in elevation, distance of about 500m) in about 3 minutes. The vast scene you can see underneath while travelling mid-air at 1,300 m above sea level is quite amazing. The changing scenery with the seasons is beautiful and from the Myoken-dake observatory on Myoken-dake Mountain, you can see Fugen-dake Mountain and Heisei-shinzan Mountain.
From late October to early November the leaves of the Komine maple (acer micranthum), red-vein maple (acer rufinerve), Siebold’s maple (acer sieboldianum), hawthorn-leaf maple (acer crataegifolium) and the dodan-tsutsuji (enkianthus perulatus) change to beautiful colors of yellows and reds. The fall foliage that show through the green leaves appears like coral that live under the sea and the view as the gondola approaches the Myoken-dake is amazing.
Let’s Ride the Unzen Ropeway!
The tickets for the ropeway can be purchased at the shop in the space by Nita-toge Pass. If you use an online coupon beforehand, you can get a 10% discount.
To get to the ropeway station, after you purchase the ticket at the vendor, you have to go outside once and go up the stairway. The ride itself is only about 3 minutes long so if you wait 5 to 10 minutes, you should be able to get on the ride.
How is the Area round the Summit Observatory?
After arriving at the Myoken-dake Station and going up the steps, you can go out to the summit observatory. From here, you can overlook the Shimabara Peninsula, and across the sea you can also see the Amakusa Islands and the mountains of the Kyushu Mountains.
When I visited, it was unfortunately foggy and did not allow for a very clear view. However, I was able to see the Unzen golf course and the Unzen Onsen Hot Springs town. You can fully enjoy the crisp air and refreshing sense of openness!
You can go even further up above the summit observatory. On the way to the mountain summit observatory to Myoken-dake observatory there is a small roofed rest-house. Shown on the display board there is documents on the Shimabara Peninsula, the origins of the Unzen Volcano, the history of eruption and reports on the Heisei-shinzan. Please do stop by for a break, and to learn more about Unzen.
If you go further up the steps on the side of the rest-house, you will arrive at the Myoken-dake summit. Near the summit is the Myoken-dake Jinja Shrine and further back is the highest peak at 1,333m. Myoken-dake Jinja is located less than a 5 minute walk from Myoken Station. The silver frost arch that crosses over Myoken-dake Jinja in the winter is a very mystical sight.
Souvenirs From Unzen Ropeway
The shop that sells the tickets has a souvenir area next to it called the “Rosie Shop”. Visitors are able to purchase stuffed animals and other souvenirs here.
My recommendation is the “ago” or flying fish that is prepared to eat as-is, and another long time favorite known of the Unzen region is the “Yu Senpei” crackers. I actually often bought and ate the yu senpei crackers in my childhood. It is a simple snack with a texture like wafers. Once you start eating them, you won’t be able to stop.
Lastly, during the fall foliage season you can expect a lot of people to be visiting. Particularly, the circular Nita passage that connects to the Nita-toge pass to where the Unzen Ropeway is located is a one-way street that does not allow for u-turns. Thus traffic gets congested for a long way from the Nita-toge parking area. Therefore, I recommend you get an early start in the morning.
Also, on the way to and from the Ropeway, you pass by the hot spring town of Unzen so I recommend you to tour the onsen or to have a soak in the hot springs as well. Official Website