My travel plans this year have been somewhat haphazard. I didn’t even decide to come to Japan until April, so when Nikko was recommended to me by some people at a hostel a few days back I decided to add it to the list. So far I am glad I did!
Getting up to date with the last few days post-Kawaguchiko, I took the train back to Tokyo and stayed at Khaosan Laboratory, the fourth different hostel I have been to in Tokyo so far. I would have preferred Khaosan Asakusa again but alas it was full – the hostels here seem to fill up very quickly. Laboratory was fairly quiet, not a lot of buzz going on around the place so I settled into some home made spag bog (yes you can shop reasonably normally at a supermarket – even in Japan) and some Jim Beam and Coke. Have I mentioned 750ml Jim Beam bottles go for around $11! Yet again, it is a myth about Japan being expensive. Random fact – Jim Beam is now owned by a Japanese company.
The next day it was out to Nikko. This involved my first ride on the Shinkansen AKA the bullet train! It was very smooth and indeed very fast, but I didn’t get a massive sense of speed, certainly nothing on drag racing. I am not sure what speed we got up to, this train didn’t have the speed read out that I have seen some trains use on TV shows and so on. The seats are very comfortable, it’s more like being on a plane than a train. I transferred from the Shinkansen to a slower line to go from Utsonomiya to Nikko.
Arriving in Nikko I headed to my hostel, Nikkorisou. First impressions were that this place looked a bit dodgy, but it had good reviews on Hostelworld. Walking in any fears were allayed as the owner is very friendly and the place is well put together, if a little rustic in places.
That afternoon my first stop was the Shinkyo Bridge. I’m not sure how old it is, reading on Wikipedia it has been rebuilt many times, just in the same design. You can pay to walk over it or just take photos from the nearby traffic bridge, which I chose.
This area is World Heritage listed, owing to its beautiful temples and shrines.
They were closed by the time I wandered into the precinct but it was very peaceful to wander around still among the tall trees and old buildings. There were hardly any people around, very surreal.
Day two in Nikko and it was time to push into the wilderness for a bit and go and see some waterfalls and do some hiking. A couple of random things to mention first.
I went to the supermarket to buy some stuff for lunch. Bread in Japan is a bit different to back home – it’s very sweet. I miss normal bread. Second random thing is that I have a crazy superpower of being able to luckily catch public transport. Somehow I always seem to manage to fluke things to the minute. I digress.
The Nikko area has some beautiful waterfalls and mountains. The drive into the national park (I’m not sure where the park ends and begins, there seemed to be development still in most places) wound up into the mountains and would have offered some stunning views were it not covered in with cloud.
My first stop was Kegon Falls. That dang cloud completely obscured the falls. Hmmm, I was worried this day trip might have been a bust!
I did get excited to see my first wild monkeys though. These things are actually kind of intimidating outside of a zoo environment. They are smart and know a lot more about how to get your food than you do about keeping it. Signs recommend not to carry white plastic bags because they have learned that they often contain food and will steal them. The sign also featured a diagram which showed how the monkeys have learned that the bridge is the best spot to harass people – that’s some military strategy right there! And I mean just look at that dude up there, he’s waving his balls in the faces of tourists and not giving a fuck.
The monkeys were in trouble when one went into a store looking to steal some food. This lady chased it out.
I decided to go and do a hike along the Senj-Ga-Hara hiking course. It was a fairly flat six kilometres of walking featuring some neat waterfalls. A Taiwanese lass who was on the same bus joined me for the walk, which was good for some chatting along the way.
Yutaki Falls was where the hike started, this was certainly a much improved view to Kegon earlier!
At the top of the Falls, in the opposite direction to the hike, is Lake Yunoko. This is looking from the top of the falls away from the lake. I should really have given you a photo of the lake at this point but I like this photo too much! Go down to the gallery and have a look if you want to see the lake…sorry bout that.
The hike crosses a plateau with a great view of Mt Nantai. It was very dramatic with all the clouds around. Strangely though just minutes after the above photo…
…this is what it looked like. Things change fast at altitude!
The hike finished at Ryuzu Falls. More a series of terraces than falls, it was still pretty cool. Hike done and it was time to go back and see if Kegon would be visible!
Thankfully it was. Very impressive one hundred metre drop down.
There is also an elevator you can take down to the bottom for Y600. Sure why not. It did offer a different view and gave a sense of the power of the falls.
Shortly before leaving, there was another glimpse of the monkey troop just to round out what was a pretty cool day.
Arrghhhh one more photo – it was a pretty good day in the end photo wise despite the cloudy conditions. The sun poked out at the end of the day to say hello.
One more day in Nikko tomorrow, then on to Kyoto I think.