Sunday, 10 January 2016

Early Flowering Wintersweet in Gumma Prefecture

Sherpa-kun (a diesel locomotive and two coarches) stands at Touge-no-yu Terminal
Isn't it a mild winter this year? The balmy weather prevails across the Tokyo metropolitan area. Because of the record warm, wintersweet has already been fully bloomed here and there. Wintersweet is a flowering plant, which has yellow colored blossoms with a sweet perfume.

Roubai-no-sato (Wintersweet Village), which has 12,000 wintersweet trees, is a good example. It is located in An-naka City, Gumma Prefecture, about 120 km north of Tokyo. Wintersweet has come into bloom in January in the past, but the full-blown wintersweet was seen when I visited there in December last year... one month earlier than usual.

Along with Roubai-no-sato, Usui-touge Tetsudo Bunka-mura (Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park) is the other place of interest in An-naka City. A torokko train (light railway), named Sherpa-kun, is operated between Bunka-mura (Heritage Park) and Touge-no-yu (Mountain Pass Hot Spring) station on the weekends of the high seasons. There are three stations over a total operating length of 2.6 km. Ex-Shinetsu Main Line is used for this sightseeing light railway. The track is single and un-electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

Sherpa-kun consists of a diesel locomotive (DL) and two coaches. The DL was built by Tsukasa Kikou in 2012. It is an 11 m-long locomotive powered by a 345-horsepower engine. The axis arrangement is Bo-Bo (UIC notation).

Please do not forget to stop at the hot spring in front of Touge-no-yu Terminal. It is heaven, specifically for people who are leading a life of hustle and bustle in the city.

Wintersweet blossoms are seen in Roubai-no-sato (Wintersweet Village)