Nikko Travel Blog› entry 11 of 174 › view all entries
September 27th, 2009 – by: domnicella
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.
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.
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.
Ok so onto the good stuff. Yesterday I visited Tosho-gu, a World Heritage Site renowned for its centuries-old temples and shrines.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
It was a delightful morning. Probably my favorite thus far. Cheers to Nikko!
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