Abandoned ropeway stations are creepy – and usually they are hard to reach. Now deserted *hotels*, *hospitals*, *amusement parks* or *museums* were originally built to attract or at least serve people conveniently. Ropeway stations, at least the upper termini, were constructed as bridge-heads to otherwise inaccessible or at least hard to reach places – like mountain tops.
The Shidaka Ropeway Upper Terminal was one of those stations in the middle of nowhere with no road access. Other than that, little to nothing is known about it. It seems like it was opened and closed along with the now also abandoned Shidaka Lift to connect Beppu with the *Shidaka Utopia* and Lake Shidaka – the ropeway covering the Beppu side, the lift covering the Shidaka side, but nobody seems to know for sure, though 1984 and 1998 are years I’ve heard for opening and closing respectively.
After exploring the already mentioned Shidaka Utopia on a wonderful yet hot spring day in 2012, I tightened my hiking boots and made my way up the mountain to have a look at the upper terminus of the Shidaka Ropeway (not to be confused with the still active Beppu Ropeway leading up Mount Tsurumi, which is still a popular tourist attraction). The unnecessarily long path I took lead me along a steep slope up and down the mountain for a few hundred meters in height difference, and finally reaching the upper terminus of the Shidaka Lift felt like heaven. Hiking on unpopulated routes all by yourself is always a risk, even more so in Japan with its nasty wildlife in late spring, summer and early autumn, so knowing that I was on the right track was a big relief. I took a break and some photos up there before looking for the old path that was connecting the lift with the ropeway station. Stones on the ground were a good indication, but after a couple of meters the way was completely overgrown, so I had to fight through thick vegetation… until I finally reached the ropeway station a few minutes later, all sweaty and scratched up.
The view from the station down at Beppu Bay was absolutely gorgeous and well worth the strenuous hike. To my surprise the cables connecting the upper and the lower terminus were still there, a gondola crashed into one of the two holding bays. At the same time the station was in rather bad condition after almost 15 years without any maintenance, a rusty metal and brittle concrete construction, built on a steep slope – me being all by myself I was very careful watching my steps.
After about 45 minutes it was already time to leave as I had to catch a bus back to the city and didn’t know exactly how long the lower terminus of the Shidaka Lift would keep me busy; a story for later this year. While the Shidaka Ropeway Upper Terminus wasn’t a huge and spectacular location, it was a very fulfilling one. Finding out about it and locating it wasn’t easy, getting up that mountain much less so. As much as I like explorations with friends by car, they are quite a different experience than going to the middle of nowhere all by yourself. So when I took a final look down at Beppu, it felt like an achievement, something that I really earned…
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