Make a wish while suspended over dream-like crystal-blue water.
Deep in Shizuoka’s Southern Alps mountain range, Sumatakyo is full of crystal-blue water, deep ravines, swinging rope bridges and rejuvenating onsen (hot springs). Yet, besides the feeling that you’re entering a hidden natural wonder, one of the best parts of Sumatakyo is how you travel there.
Sumatakyo is accessible by car, bus and train, but when your train option is a steam engine, why would you take anything else? Oigawa Main Line is where you’ll be able to ride a steam engine as far as Senzu station. From Senzu a bus will take you the remaining 20 KM to Sumatakyo. Four steam engines run the line, and each one was built in 1940 and maintained currently. For those with children they even have a real running “Thomas the Tank Engine” that the whole family can travel on.
Once on the hiking path to Sumatakyo Gorge, which in total is 2-3 KM, you’ll go through a tunnel that is rumored to be blessed by a healing wind. Upon exiting the tunnel the view opens up in a way that makes you feel small when compared to the surrounding mountains.
One of the main attractions is the Yume no Tsuribashi Bridge, the most famous of the rickety suspension bridges in the area. A rope bridge that spans over the intersecting crystal blue waters of Oma River and Sumata River, only 11 people can cross at a time because of how narrow it is. While crossing with care, it’s tradition to stop in the middle and make a wish about somebody you think fondly of. Due to this superstition, expect a line of people waiting to cross at any given time.
Once done crossing the bridge, be ready to climb around 300 stone steps. When you emerge on the other side, if you take a right along the path you’ll find a observation deck with a lovely view. Complete with an old steam locomotive that you can sit in and pretend to drive. When walking back the view is far from over, as you’ll cross another bridge that allows you to see far into the span of the gorge that includes Oma Dam Lake.
This area really comes to life during autumn as the leaves are changing colors, and that makes the mountains appear as if they’re on fire in the setting sun.
If you find yourself hungry and winded after the day’s hike, there are plenty of inns, onsen, and restaurants back at the trail’s entrance. The Sumatakyo hot spring has restorative benefits for your skin, and the onsen water is the same blue color that you saw wind through the gorge.
From start to finish, the venture to this scenic gorge is worth every step of the way. Just one day will suffice, but for those wanders and explorers, you’ll want at least a few days to really discover the local nature (and food)!