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Nikko

Nikko Travel Blog

 › entry 11 of 174 › view all entries
Trained to Nikko yesterday.  Took two different JR trains: a shinkansen, or bullet train, and a local express train.  I have ridden the shinkansen before, and let me tell you, it does not get old.  Yesterday I entertained myself as a six year old would and tried to count the seconds that two trains would be side by side as they passed each other.  I couldn't get to five.  I'm not even kidding.  Three, tops.  Do you know how fast that is??  These trains are nine cars long.  NINE.  And a car length is the same as it is at home for Amtrak or similar.  In other words, one train with nine cars strung together is the length of several city blocks.
  I don't know if we're talking one football field or two, but for two of these trains to pass each other before I can count to three?  Como se dice HOLY CRAP.

So I arrive in Nikko and my first thought is Toto, the conductor screwed up, we're in Juneau.  The small cluster of storefronts that comprise downtown Nikko most closely resembles Juneau.  At least, that's what sprung to mind for me.  I whip out my directions and read "turn right, walk straight, cross the bridge, turn right, take the first left that veers off the main road, we're just opposite the museum."  Great.  It's a snap.  Easy Peasy.  Oh contraire.

My first alert should have been the "15-20 minutes" estimate so helpfully included in the directions.
160 (180?) year old farm house
  I've learned that when the Japanese estimate time for walking distances, they're assuming you're moving at the speed of the shinkansen.  I'm no slow walker -- I'm often told I walk fast, even for a New Yorker (quite the compliment, thankyouverymuch) -- but I'm no bullet train either.  Particularly when I've got a pack strapped to my back that weighs as much as a rhinoceros.  My second alert should have been the mountains jutting up toward the sky directly in front of me.  But hey, I don't have Steve Smith genes for nothing.  Throw in some "high knees!" and we're good to go.

To my credit, I didn't get lost or need to backtrack or any of that.  But when I finally stepped into my lodge bedraggled and gasping, the guy behind the desk must have thought to himself "lay off the McDonald's, hombre.
160 year old farm house
"  I made it in about 35 minutes, every one of those minutes climbing a fairly steep incline in the blazing sun, with the rhino strapped to my back, my day pack precariously (and therefore constantly falling off) swung across my front, and a third (third!) small bag in my hand with that pesky roll of toilet paper (jumbo size) I seemed to think would be suicide to leave home without and my fleece and bottled water.  And of course I'm stopping every 50 yards to take photographs because (obviously) the scenery and the views just keep getting better and better, and nevermind that I'm huffing and puffing and sweating like a baboon.  (Do baboons sweat?)

Oh it gets better.  Check-in isn't until 3pm, and this is a bit after 12:30.  The guy was happy to take my money, and was nice enough to show me my room so I could leave my things.
  He then promptly showed me the door and told me to beat it.  So much for catching my breath.  So my planned day off from touring turned into more temples and shrines and off-roading (on foot) in the mountains.  Turned out to be a great afternoon, it's just too bad I looked like an orphan as my mom would say.  Here I am wearing yoga pants and one of my dad's undershirts, figuring I'd be comfortable to travel and shower and change when I arrived.  I was so self conscious that everyone was scowling at me and snarking about my sloppy appearance.  I'm sure they weren't, but still.  I was keenly aware how disheveled I looked.  That'll teach me.

Ok so onto the good stuff.  Yesterday I visited Tosho-gu, a World Heritage Site renowned for its centuries-old temples and shrines.
  I've seen more temples and shrines than I can count in the past week, but yesterday's beat them all.  By far.  They were spectacular.  Absolutely phenomenal.  The price increased 30% than what Lonely Planet had listed, which had me grumbling as I walked into the first temple, and hooo baby did the grumbles stop right there.  And they just got better and better.  If you're ever in Japan, do yourself a favor and go to Nikko.  You won't be disappointed, I promise.  Robbed blind, absolutely.  It's a tiny little town up in the mountains and you're hosed for every penny you own because you're trapped, and kid, they saw you coming a mile away.  So far every single thing I've had to pay for has been more than even Tokyo -- accommodation, food, temple admissions, local transportation, you name it.
  It's like Disneyworld prices, except the attractions are actually enjoyable here.

Today I took a bus 10 kilometers west of Nikko to Chuzenji-ko.  Chuzenji-ko is even higher in the mountains (1,400 meters above sea level), and it's draw is the abundant nature available for hiking and viewing and things of this sort.  (I should say that both Nikko and Chuzenji-ko are located within Nikko National Park, so it's beauuuuutiful everywhere you go.)  Kegon-no-taki is the main attraction, a massive waterfall that is 97 meters high.  You can hike trails from Kegon to other falls in the area, circumnavigating a lake as you go.  There are docks and paddle boat rentals lake-side, and the other side of the road is lined with enough souvenir shops and restaurants to rival even Mr.
Disney's cash cow.

When I got off the bus I couldn't tell which way was which.  The fog was so dense you couldn't see 10 feet in front of you.  I knew the street was immediately to my left, I could hear the cars and probably touch them if I wanted to, but couldn't see them.  I randomly started walking in the direction the bus was facing when it dropped me off and finally came to a sign in Japanese.  Seeing as I can't read Japanese it wasn't particularly helpful, but I figured I was on the right track.  A few steps later I stumbled upon a few people groping their way through the fog too.  Finally I found the waterfall, which I knew to be true because A, the souvenir and snack stands suddenly tripled in quantity, and B, I could hear it.
Shin-kyo sacred bridge
  As for seeing?  I couldn't see squat.

In the name of being a trooper I attempted to buy a ticket to the platform at the base of the waterfall, but even the ticket guy shook his head and gestured to a screen that was blank white with fog.  Other Japanese were still buying tickets and going down, but he had a point.  My view wasn't going to change either way, and thanks to him I saved that admission fee.

I opted to walk along the lake for a bit, figuring I'd stop at a shrine halfway between this fall and the next and pat myself on the back for at least accomplishing something.  About 10 minutes into my walk I realized I could suddenly see, and that the dampness had lifted from the air.  I looked out over the lake and you could see this massive, thick curtain of fog and mist unfurling across the water.
Nikko National Park
  It was surreal.  I continued on to the shrine, and as I was leaving I lost visibility again.  Sure enough, the blanket had closed back over the lake and you couldn't even tell there was a giant body of water lying right there.  Talk about Mother Nature up close.

Went on a shopping spree and bought a whole mess of tasty goodies to ship home.  An assortment of famed Nikko cakes and mochi and tofu cheese cake (don't think cheesecake, think tofu cake with cream cheese -- scrumptious, I assure you), and the lovely woman at the shop (whose English was so great I complimented it and told her it was "excellent," at which point she told me I was excellent, which still has me giggling) gave me a free cake snack as a gift since I just spent a small fortune in her shop.
  I swear, these Japanese are so kind and gracious and hospitable I want to kiss them all.

I then rode the bus all the steep windy way back down the mountain to Nikko, snagged two sweet potato cakes for lunch (as came recommended by Lee Ann Hwang, more on her and her family later), and trekked back through the woods to the lodge.  Quick aside: upon checking-in to the lodge, the guy highlighted two paths through the woods to various parts of town on my map.  Finding the entrance to the first path proved somewhat tricky (and irksome) yesterday, and trickier still after I realized I literally came full circle around a famed old farm house, as opposed to merely passing it by.  But now having learned both paths well, I'm far more fond of trekking to and from the lodge through the woods as opposed to the paved roads.
  I mean really, how cool is that?

It was a delightful morning.  Probably my favorite thus far.  Cheers to Nikko!
tkm256 says:
Is it really very expensive? We have reservations at a minshuku for about 7000 yen per night for 2 people, which I thought was very reasonable after reserving rooms in Tokyo for 105,00. But we opted out of breakfast because we thought we could get it at the convenience store for less than the 525/person charge at the inn...was that silly?
Posted on: Apr 26, 2010
fransglobal says:
So you walk fast, even for a New York City Girl. Don't think I could keep up with you.

I agree - Nikko is great. I went there twice.
Posted on: Sep 27, 2009
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160 (180?) year old farm house
160 (180?) year old farm house
160 year old farm house
160 year old farm house
Shin-kyo sacred bridge
Shin-kyo sacred bridge
Nikko National Park
Nikko National Park
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Tosho-gu
Famed three wise monkeys: hear no …
Famed three wise monkeys: hear no…
Hippari Dako restaurant. See the …
Hippari Dako restaurant. See the …
vegetarian curry udon
vegetarian curry udon
Hippari Dako restaurant
Hippari Dako restaurant
Hwang Family and me
Hwang Family and me
Dont remember what this is called…
Don't remember what this is calle…
Chuzenji-ko
Chuzenji-ko
Kegon-no-taki
Kegon-no-taki
Fish being smoked on a stick - so …
Fish being smoked on a stick - so…
Fish on a stick
Fish on a stick
Kegon-no-taki. What?  You cant se…
Kegon-no-taki. What? You can't s…
Kegon-no-taki
Kegon-no-taki
Yummy mushrooms
Yummy mushrooms
Daikon - giant radishes
Daikon - giant radishes
Chuzenji-ko
Chuzenji-ko
Chuzenji-ko
Chuzenji-ko
Chuzenji-ko
Chuzenji-ko
Fog lifting over the lake
Fog lifting over the lake
Fog lifting over the lake
Fog lifting over the lake
Chuzenji-ko
Chuzenji-ko
Futarasan-jinja
Futarasan-jinja
Futarasan-jinja
Futarasan-jinja
Futarasan-jinja
Futarasan-jinja
One happy dude
One happy dude
Proper cleansing ritual
Proper cleansing ritual
Futarasan-jinja
Futarasan-jinja
Futarasan-jinja
Futarasan-jinja
Sweet potato cake - piping hot and…
Sweet potato cake - piping hot an…
Talk about fresh spring water! Fam…
Talk about fresh spring water! Fa…
Nikko Hostels review
Nice Lodge in Nikko
Nikko Park Lodge is very nice. Clean, quiet, family-friendly. Terrific staff; several young American ex-pats working in the kitchen. It is a bit pr… read entire review
Nikko
photo by: Shakar81