We enjoyed two scenic mid-March days in Nikko in the Nippon region of Japan. Off-season here allowed for a truly uncrowded and splendid winter wonderland. The emerging buds on the cherry trees promised change in the weeks to follow.
Our first day was spent on the Tobu bus line with a hop-on, hop-off ticket to Sambonmatsu, where we started our day gazing out on the expansive snow-covered Senjogahara Moor. The area boasts top cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, with rental shops at the Sambommatsu bus stop. We opted for sunny road-side walking due to our clothing choices for the day! For lunch we stopped for a tea and dumpling set at Ryuzu No Taki waterfalls after a short hike to the top of the falls and back. To round out our sightseeing for the day we wandered around pristine Lake Chuzenji and took the late afternoon bus winding down the dramatic mountain switchbacks to Nikko.
Our second day we ambitiously started with a copy of the Nikko Historical Walking Map to tackle first the Takino’o path and then one half of the the Kanman Path Loop, each approximately 5 KM loops. Unless you are a crack-of-dawn kind of person, there is far too much to see in these areas in a single day, so be prepared for a two day journey or concessions on seeing ALL the World Heritage sights. On the Takino’o Path we first visited the Rinnoji Temple and Taiyuin Temple (800 Yen ticket.) Heading further into the forest of old growth conifer trees, we realized the depth of spectacular free temples and landmarks there were to see. In a steady rain, we had the area nearly to ourselves. I love hiking in the rain. But waterfalls AND rain together-even better!
On the Kanman Path, the sky opened up, and we gingerly walked through the mud past the 74 stone statues of Jizo (Buddhist Guardian Deity, carved in the 1500’s!) and the dramatic Kanman-Ga-Fuchi Abyss, an area of the Kaiya River formed by lava from Mt. Nantai. After a total of about 8 KM we arrived wet and weary at the Yashi-No-Yu Onsen (hot spring) to soak the day away! What a great stop and full of amenities, including a stellar massage chair to write home about! We took the easy public bus back to town, relaxed and ready for sleep after two fully satisfying days of Nikko sights.