Nikko National Park, around 2 hours north of Tokyo, was our half term destination of choice last weekend. We’d heard rave reviews from virtually everyone who had been, so we decided to check it out for ourselves…
After taking the rapid express from Skytree direct to Nikko (click here for details), we arrived in the early afternoon heat. What a difference to Tokyo – not a person in sight. We walked through rice paddies for around 20 minutes to our campsite.
Camping season clearly hasn’t started yet, as we were the only people using the free-camping field for the entire 3 days! Facilities at the campsite were great however . There was a soothing chorus of frogs croaking throughout the night in the nearby paddies.
The shrines and temples of Nikko are a UNESCO World Heritage site, so this was our first port of call. The crowds were thick and there were plenty of school children, happily saying “Hello” and giggling as they did so. The sites were fantastic. Luckily, we managed to enjoy much of them before the crowds arrived.
We managed to catch a glimpse of the three wise monkeys. They embody the proverbial principle “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” and are a famous attraction in Nikko.
You can easily spend a day wandering around and seeing the religious sites that Nikko has to offer.
The National Park, however, is the part of Nikko that stands out the most. The scenery is breathtaking; stunning waterfalls, volcanic mountains, marauding monkeys, lakes, rice paddies…..Nikko is a site to behold regardless of the season.
At almost 100m tall, Kegon Waterfall is the most famous of Nikko’s many waterfalls. It is even ranked as one of Japan’s three most beautiful falls. In the winter it freezes….I need to go back to see that.
Just a 5 minutes walk from Kegon Falls is Lake Chuzenji, formed 20,000 years ago when the adjacent Mount Nantai erupted and blocked the river. The lake is nearly 1,300m above sea level, and the drive up through the mountains to reach it doesn’t disappoint. We took a little 1 hour boat trip around the lake, taking in the scenery, the volcanoes, and plenty of local fishermen whom you can wave at!
About a 20 minute drive up the road from Chuzenji is Lake Yuno. This was a really quiet place with virtually no tourists. There were lots of local walkers whom we greeted with a hearty “Konichiwa”! We decided to walk around the lake and stumbled across a troop of monkeys passing through. It was incredible to be among them.
At the far end of Lake Yumo is Yudaki Falls. This was an unexpected surprise for us. We’d already seen Kegon Falls earlier in the day, a really picturesque scene with a gentle flow of water. Yudaki, on the other hand, was much wider and louder, and around 70m high. Again, there were virtually no tourists there.
Our time in Nikko was nearly up. It was a short trip, but it’s without doubt one of the best places we’ve visited in Japan. It’s one of those places that you want to go back and see in a different season. The sights are spectacular, especially the natural wonders. Camping added a different dimension (a less comfortable one!), and we saw some interesting wildlife there too: frogs, a big yellow and black snake, a troop of monkeys, geckos….
In short, I could go on and rave about Nikko at length. What a place – I can’t wait to go back!