After the trips west and south of Tokyo, this weekend me and four others headed for Nikko.
The main attraction were of course the shrines and temples, but the amount of visitors (both Japanese and foreigners) sort of ruined the tranquil and meditative atmosphere that usually surrounds places like this. So afterwards, we walked to the nearby Kanmangafuchi Abyss to see the Narabi-Jizo, a series of stone statues arranged in a row, looking at the river nearby. Each of them wears a red knitted hat and a little apron. Some of the statues are partially or completely destroyed, but the remainders still wear the hat, even if it’s just a couple of stones.
After (again) relaxing in an Onsen in the evening, we tried to look for our hostel. Both the map on the website we had printed, and the location shown on the phone’s GPS were wrong, so we were forced to walk through town with no clue which direction to head, black-and-green spiders looking at us from every lamp post, street sign, railing and corner. After the help of some other tourists, we managed to find the right place, but it was not quite as we had imagined it. We had to step over a fallen metal fence and a rusty chain to reach an abandoned supermarket. Apparently, part of its storage rooms had been converted into a little hostel with two rooms and a tiny lobby run by an older man. Some of the stainless steel doors had just been covered with wooden panes, and the “kitchen” (a toaster and little coin-locker-like freezers) looked like they had been designed for industrial use. Needless to say, we were the only guests. The fact that all the manga comics in the bookshelf were all killer-themed didn’t help in making things less creepy. However, the owner was quite friendly and the beds and sheets were clean, so we slept better than expected.
The following day we took a bus to Chuzenji Lake, to see the Kegon and Ryuzu waterfalls, and the autumn leaves, which attract many tourists every year. Japan even has an “autumn forecast” that recommends the best place to view the changing colors at any given time. For that reason, we woke up before 5 AM and took the first transport of the day to avoid crowds and traffic jams. While it was probably not yet the peak of the season, the views were quite amazing.
I am thinking of returning to Nikko in the winter time, when the yellow and red leaves are replaced by snow!
To end the day, we went to see Tobu World Square, an open air museum that houses miniature replicas of world famous buildings. Be it the Eiffel Tower, the Skyline of New York, the Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto or the Great Wall of China, the models were extremely accurately made and the little people arranged in fun poses; definitely worth seeing! Plus, the Japan section gave us an idea of where to go in the coming months, to see the real version of some of the buildings.