By Eri Konno / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterSUWA, Nagano — If you drive along the Venus Line road from Suwa, Nagano Prefecture, you can find a mountain cottage with beautiful chocolate-colored exterior walls on your way to Lake Shirakaba. Korobokkuru Hutte is located at 1,820 meters above sea level in an area called Kurumayamakata, which is part of Mt. Kuruma, the 1,925-meter main peak of the Kirigamine highlands.
This year the lodge marked the 60th anniversary of its founding in 1956 by Muneyasu Tezuka, the father of current owner Takane.
From the hut, visitors can enjoy a close-up view of plants in the Kirigamine wetlands, with Mt. Asama beyond if the weather is good. During summertime, the wetland is home to blooming orange-yellow day lilies, while gentians are in bloom as autumn deepens. In winter, you can see the wetlands fully covered with snow.
The hut’s major attractions besides its scenic beauty are coffee brewed the old-fashioned way using a siphon (¥500) and cheesecake (¥500). Borscht (¥950) is another dish favored by many customers.
Takane upgraded Korobokkuru Hutte’s cafe service when he took over running the hut after Muneyasu died at the age of 80 in 2012. Now a terrace with sun umbrellas is frequented by so-called yama-girls, or young female mountain climbers wearing colorful outdoor gear.
The environment of the Kirigamine highlands has significantly changed since the time when Muneyasu was a pioneer in the grassland area, which had no sewage system or electricity when he started his cottage business.
The full opening of the Venus Line in 1981 caused the most common type of visitors to Kirigamine to change from climbers to tourists coming by car. The grasslands have been damaged by tourists walking on them, while the number of day lilies has also been dropping in recent years because deer eat the flowers, requiring fences to be placed around them for protection.
Takane shares the best parts of the highlands with visitors to his cottage. “I’ll do my best to maintain the scenic beauty of Kirigamine that my father loved,” he said.
Open: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. from late April through the end of November. (From early morning to sunset during summertime) Closed irregularly depending on weather.
Access: 1 minute from Kurumayamakata bus stop in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture. Bus services available from JR Kamisuwa and Chino stations.