Time Required: 1 h 54 min. Distance: 3.8 km
This course features a nature trail on the banks of the Abukuma River in the Nasukashi Highland. The headwaters of the Abukuma River flow from Mt. Kashiasahi in Nishigo Village, where the Shin-Kashi nature trail is located, and eventually end up in the Pacific Ocean off of Miyagi Prefecture. The Shin-Kashi Nature Trail takes you on a stroll along the headwaters of the Abukuma River where you can listen to the pleasant burbling of its stream as you walk. The course then continues on into the Kibitaki-no-mori Forest where you will be surrounded by the songs of the wild birds as you walk beneath the trees. Kibitaki-no-mori Forest also has a high-altitude training course which is highly recommended for more active visitors who would enjoy running through the cool primeval forest during the summer.
On the Shin-Kashi Nature Trail, you can walk alongside the headwater stream of the Abukuma River while enjoying the scenic sights of the seasons. In spring, the charming flowers of the Nippon bells (Shortia uniflora) and Rhododendron quinquefolium colonies (a kind of azalea) emerge along the path, and in autumn, you can take delight in the colorful changing leaves. The source of the Abukuma River is Mt. Asahi in Nishigo Village (Nishishirakawa County) of Fukushima Prefecture where the trail is located.
The Ken Katsura Tree is an estimated 370-year-old katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) that stands 45 meters tall and has a thick trunk that is 9.7 meters wide. The tree has split into several main branches from the root of its trunk. Legend has it that the feudal lord of the Shirakawa Domain, Sadanobu Matsudaira, brandished his sword and confined a fierce deity that was tormenting the local people into this tree. Afterwards, travelers gave it the name Ken Katsura, meaning “the sword katsura” in Japanese. As many worshipers were attracted to this sacred tree, a small shrine was built next to it. The Ken Katsura Tree is also distinguished as one of the Forestry Agengy’s “100 Forest Giants of Japan.”
Kibitaki-no-mori Forest is located next to the Shin-Kashi Nature Trail and outfitted with a forest training course for runners. Take a pleasant stroll through this thick woodland along its softly sun-speckled nature trail and breathe in the forest air. It is also an excellent place to go bird watching, as many wild birds live in the forest, including the narcissus flycatcher (Fukushima Prefecture’s official bird), great spotted woodpecker, and blue-and-white flycatcher.