During our one long weekend of the semester, I went on a trip to Nikko, a small town surrounded by nature about 2 hours from Tokyo. I went with 2 of my friends from the program and my friend Claire, who was visiting from Whitman!
The town of Nikko is beautiful. Everywhere is surrounded by lush green mountains, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s also way cooler, temperature-wise, than Tokyo in the hot summer. Close to Nikko is a big lake called Chuzenji, which is where we went our first day there!
Right next to the lake is a big mountain called Mount Nantai. Summer is downtime season for Nikko, so the whole place was pretty deserted of tourists. It didn’t help that the weather was also not too good, with mist periodically spilling down across the lake and obscuring everything. But honestly, it just added to the mood of the area!
There is also a big waterfall called Kegon falls. When we first got to Chuzenji, we planned on going there, but it was completely invisible in the mist! Luckily the mist tends to clear out quickly so we just waited until dissolved and then ran to the waterfall.
As you can see, we barely made it before the next round of mist came rolling in! The waterfall is gigantic and beautiful though. It was truly a sight to behold. After seeing that, we took a bus back to our hotel. Because Chuzenji is at an elevation, the bus has to go down over 20 switchback roads. Needless to say, don’t eat anything right before you get on the bus back!
The next day we first went to a ropeway that gave a panoramic view of Kegon Falls. And wow, the view was spectacular.
Center is Kegon falls, and behind it is Lake Chuzenji. To the right is Mount Nantai.
Then we went on a hike in an area called Senjougahara. It’s a bunch of marshland and was about 3 miles roundtrip. None of us were in very good shape, but luckily the hike was pretty easy and almost completely flat. We passed a lot of elementary school students on fieldtrips doing the hike as well!
On our last day we finally went to what Nikko is most famous for: its world heritage site, an area with many ancient shrines and temples, including Toshogu shrine, which was built to honor the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. In fact, he personally chose Nikko to be the place his shrine was built before he died! The shrine complex is very beautiful and has many different famous sights, such as the “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” monkey carvings.
Overall I would highly recommend Nikko to anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. It’s pretty easy to get to and a beautiful area, even if the weather isn’t good!