Day 16: Nikko – Trespassing and Triumphs
Just 125 km from Tokyo, Nikko is well worth a daytrip from the city, may be longer if you’re feeling the old-town vibes of the place. Tip for JR pass holders: To avoid paying on other routes, take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen (from Tokyo or Ueno Station) to Utsunomiya Station and transfer to the JR Nikko Line. Takes 1.5/2 hours depending on the connection. At this point in the trip I felt fairly confident about getting around on the (sometimes complicated) train system, but there are a few things I thought are useful to know, which I’ve written about here.
Nikko is very much how I pictured a ‘traditional’ small Japanese town. With the tourist attractions of the highly decorated Toshogu shrine, and the surrounding Lake Chuzenji area, I can imagine it’s not authentically traditional Japan – but I got a kick out of it.
The Nikko National Park is where all the ornate buildings are found; many are free to view, others you pay a fee. Because I was being a cheapskate, and had in the previous two weeks discovered that paid entry doesn’t guarantee a worthwhile sight, I decided to attempt to see as much as possible without forking out more Yen. I think the following photos are evident of my success:
It wasn’t long before I pushed my curiosity off the beaten track. Who doesn’t love a stroll in woodland without any signs in English?
Occasionally I would see an odd brightly coloured ribbon; a kind of bird-proof Hansel and Gretel approach to way finding I guess. Thoughtful. Soon I was welcomed by this vague eyesore, which had me very pleased with myself. I must have discovered a set of private onsen that weren’t on the typical tourist trail! I plucked up my courage and went to the small house attached to enquire. It would be crazy for me to miss the opportunity of having a soak in the wilds of Japan, without 20-odd baffled Japanese women around me.
I slid open the paper door (security here is a joke…) to find a man writing at a desk. ‘Onsen?’ I asked clearly and inquisitively. ‘Ah… no… home!?’ was what the gentleman replied timidly. After some garbled apologies I slid back out and ran for my life. I still don’t know what one man would need all those baths for.
Returning to ciciliastaion, I got a few last pics. So much in Japan is ‘under construction’. Curse their dedication to beautiful wooden forms!
This temporary shrine is free to view and possibly my favourite in the park. According to this factual site, this is built to ‘store divine spirit when the main hall is in fixation’.
I finished with one more exploration into the woods – just to be sure I hadn’t missed anything. I found these guys who freaked me out so much I had to leave the park.