Yudaki FallsNikko

Train again, this time the local train to Shin-Aomori, then shinkansen and a final local train to Nikko. Although the shinkansen is fast, and smooth, and wonderful, we'd grown to appreciate the local trains as well - they seem to go almost everywhere.

Nikko was a real surprise. Everywhere else we'd travelled in Japan the cities were bigger and more developed than we initially expected, with hotels clustered around the railway station and all the trappings that go with large cities. Nikko isn't like that at all. It is rural, a small, if somewhat strung-out town. There were two railway stations (private and JR) close to each other, and some tourist development around them including small guesthouses/hotels, but most accommodation was dotted around the more remote parts of town. Because of this we had some difficulty in finding a hotel, so we used the local tourist reservation system and were booked into Turtle Inn. We had intended to walk there, but the weather dictated otherwise.

The taxi dropped us at a small inn right on the rushing river - nice setting. Nikko is a real tourist town, but the river and the wooded hills are lovely, and the inn was just fine. Walked around for a bit to suss out the restaurants and shops - got back as it started to rain.

I finally had my real onsen experience; there was a private onsen in the inn, so we took advantage of it to soak - wonderful. Being out of town meant that there weren't a lot of places to eat nearby, but the owner of the inn directed us to a street where we could find a couple of restaurants, and they proved to be perfectly good.

We decided to go out to the waterfalls and lakes west of Nikko. It was quite a long bus ride, up and over the mountain on an extremely bendy road. The road is so tortuous it is one-way for the worst section. After reaching the lakes our bus headed north and finally dropped us off at a beautiful waterfall that flowed down the hill - a proper cascade.

We were at the foot of the falls. To reach the lake we climbed up the stone path alongside the waterfall, then we walked around the small lake - very peaceful, with patches of snow still there in the shaded bits of land. A number of people were fishing on the lake, mostly from small boats, but the person who looked most content with his lot was a lone fisherman fly-fishing down the furtherest end of the lake, quietly catching, photographing and releasing his fish. The forest was rather lovely to walk through, and very few people were out on the trail.

We walked back to the waterfall area and caught the bus back to Nikko. As we came back the clouds formed over the big lake and up the hill tops. By the time we were on the twisting road we were in thick cloud ourselves.

What can I say about Nikko - it is just fantastic - so many temples and so much to see. Despite the grey weather we went to most of the temples in the afternoon, including Takino Shrine, situated somewhat more remotely in the forest - rather lovely out there, and the walks there and back were just great. We decided to leave the biggest temple until the next day, and went back to the hotel for another onsen to soak away the cold.

After breakfast we packed and left our luggage at the hotel. Went up to Toshogu shrine and looked around that area, then went across the river to Narabijizo (Bakejizo) - stone park to visit the boddhisatvas with red bibs and beanies. A final visit to the red world heritage bridge, lunch at an indian restaurant run by some Bangaladeshi blokes (fabulous naan and good curry) and we were off to Tokyo.


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