Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Carl here... (The English one!)

I believe that Lawrence has already posted on this blog about Nikko, but I thought I'd give my 'take' on it since it is a 'must-see' sight if you're staying in Tokyo for more than a few days...

To Nikko
Last Sunday, Amy and I decided to do a bit more sightseeing. It was 50 / 50 whether we would go to Yokohama or to Nikko. In the end, the ideas of mountains and temples won out against the metropolis that is Yokohama.

We had an early start, setting off at precisely 7:41am and we arrived in Nikko at 9:15am. We are quite lucky living in Sugito, because we can take the train direct to Tobu-Nikko station from Tobudobutsu-koen station (4 minutes train from Wado). If we lived in central Tokyo, you could easily put another 2 hours onto the journey!

Most people travel to Nikko for one or two reasons (or both). The huge 17th century Tosho-gu shrine to Ieyasu Tokugawa (a world heritage sight) and the Nikko national park (Nikko Kokuritsu Koen) which is on the heights above Nikko. The centre piece of the national park is Chuzenji-ko, a large lake which feeds Japan’s most famous waterfall, Kegon-no-taki which falls a dramatic 318ft.

We went with fool’s logic and bypassed the very convenient tourist information centre, which is actually in the Tobu-Nikko station. We’d even forgotten to pick up a tourist map of the area! We therefore just winged it! We strolled out of the station and up the 1 mile long main Nikko high street to the temples, taking in the sights along the way. We made a note of some of the more interesting tourist shops which weren’t open yet (it was still early!). The best shop specialised in ‘dragon art scrolls’ visit for more details. We decided to have a look on the way back to the station.

Shinkyo Bridge (Sacred Bridge)

The bridge crosses the river at a crossroads just before the temple complexes. The original bridge was built in 1636 for shoguns and imperial messengers on their visits to the shrines; this was destroyed in a flood. The current bridge dates to 1907. This was our first glimpse of the crystal clear water of the Daiya-gawa.

Without a map, we followed a small group of Japanese tourists up some stone steps which led to the Rinno-ji and Tosho-gu complex.

There were hundreds of people visiting Tosho-gu, which somewhat spoilt the experience. You had to force your way through crowds at some points, there was even a TV crew filming two well known Japanese TV presenters there!

I thought the buildings were very interesting, the level of detail is incredible. Though I do think they went overboard with the gold leaf, the effect of it is that, whilst some of the buildings, such as the five story pagoda (below) are fantastic, others simply look tacky.

We spent hours looking around the various temples, and then we headed back down the high street to pick some souvenirs. Amy bought a really cool, hand painted painting of a dragon. Then we strolled down to the bus station, and took a ride up the mountain road (with great views of the valley) to chuzenji (Lake Chuzen).

After wondering around the lake for a while, avoiding the wild monkeys, we headed to a viewing platform to see the Kegon-no-taki, the Kegon waterfall.

The waterfall was pretty cool, though again you had to fight through the crowds to get a good view.

All in all, it was another good day of sightseeing and I would recommend a visit to Nikko. Next time we come back, we'll probably come mid-week to avoid the crowds and I'll definitely be bringing my hiking boots, those mountains are just asking be climbed!

No comments: