Nikko… time to enjoy the mountains

Despite being not very far way north from Tokyo, Nikko village is considerably colder as it’s located almost 1300 meters above the sea level. But on the other hand, it’s the ideal place to find the autumn colors that densely cover the steep slopes of the surrounding mountains.

The main reason why Nikko receives so many visitors due to a relatively close location fro Tokyo that allows a day trip to visit the impressive Tosho-gu Temple surrounded by an impressive cedar forest. And that is already a good reason to come, but Nikko has more to offer if you move away from the village area, offering a big diversity of landscapes, with lakes, waterfalls, Natural Parks with several hiking trails… and onsens, that with the winter days are a good treat to warm up the cold evenings.

It’s winter, and in Japan, the sunset is around 4:30pm, so it’s better to wake up early to enjoy the short winter days. And nature rewards anyone who dares to get up early facing the cold mornings with amazing landscapes, where we can see the steam coming off the still lake surface, heated by the nearby hot spring waters. It’s a magical moment where time seems to stop to offer this natural scenery where around there has been nothing but the silence that surrounds the dawn.

And Lake Yunoko was one of the magic places visited around Nikko, where the boiling smelly water from the nearby hot spring offers a kind of apocalyptic vision, with the dense steam almost hiding the surrounding trees and the soil cover with yellowish colours left by the sulfur waters rich in mineral and with therapeutic properties. Nearby, the Okunikko Yumoto Onsen offers the chance to bath in these waters in an old fashion but comfortable place open to the public… and without restriction to tattooed people!

Okunikko Yumoto Onsen

Senjogahara is part of the Nikko National Park it’s a flat area located 1400m above the sea level, where the lake located in this plateau is slowly being naturally drained and transform in wetlands, rich in wildlife, where it’s easy to spot monkeys. In November you’ll find here a typical winter landscape where the yellow birch leaves cover the ground leaving exposed the white tree trunks. It’s a kind of meditative experience, walking along these trails, where we feel that nature is preparing to face the cold winter temperatures, that here bring snow.

Senjogahara

Senjogahara
Senjogahara

Around Nikko:

For this is better to get a car, but many of the places listed below can be reached by bus, starting from the Nikko bus terminal.

  • Nikkowanoshiro Onsen Yashio (can be reached by public bus from Tobu-Nikko), with sulfur water, offering also sauna (400¥).
  • A scenic road that winds up the mountains from Kiotaki to Lake Chusenji
  • Kegon falls nearby Lake Chusenji… many visitor but still a great landscape and an impressive waterfall
  • Senjogahara-moor hiking trails… different options according to length, but all in almost flat areas.
  • Okunikko Yumoto Onsen (about 30km north from Tobu-Nikko) located nearby a Lake Yunoko, with very strong sulfur water (500¥)
  • Kirifuri Plateau from where you can climb the steps that take you from the 1345m to 1450m, to reach a high point that according to the local information you can even see and Tokyo Tower in clear days!!
Lake Chusenji

Where to sleep in Nikko:

Tora Nikko Guest House… located very close to the train station, in a traditional wooden house with basic rooms and dorms. Very homey and with a super friendly owner, that also runs the cafe in front. The door isn’t easy to finds and there isn’t a clear sign with the name of the guesthouse, but is just next-door of Nikko Guest House Sumica.

How to reach Nikko:

The easiest way to reach Nikko village is by train, and there’s a direct line from Tokyo, but if you are traveling by Shinkansen train you need to change trains in Utsunomia Station to catch the Tobu-Nikko Line (the JP rail pass is also valid here).

Just watch out that Nikko has two train stations… the last one is Tobu-Nikko, and it’s the one close by the hostels and the Toshu-gu temple.

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