Despite the fact that we were in Nikko a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its many temples, we were here just to get away from it all and chill out, we’ve seen plenty of temples and shrines (and anyway we can always come back here to do that) so didn’t feel the need to hunt these out. The first day we spent just mucking around in the river, skipping stones, building dams, looking for fish, swimming and sunbathing. Having spent the last year living in Tokyo the kids had missed the freedom of playing around in the water with no one around and in such beautiful surroundings. It was great to be able to be outside and doing nothing, with nobody around, something which apartment living in Tokyo isn’t renowned for. After spending the afternoon in the water we went for a short walk up the road to the nearest cafe (Seiryuin Yamagoya Cafe) where we enjoyed a coffee and Jimmy had the most delicious Kakigori (Japanese shaved ice) he has tried. The owner of the cafe had built himself a traditional ice shaver, used natural ice due to it being harder than man made ice and flavoured it with natural sugar syrups rather than the sickly commercial flavours you get elsewhere with the result being a shaved ice aficionado’s dream.
The next day we decided to do the tourist thing and take in the sights of the highlands catching the bus from Nikko Station heading to Yumoto Onsen. On the way up we stop off at Lake Chuzenji for a look around and to visit the Chuzenji Standing Kannon. This is a really beautiful area, which unfortunately like a lot of rural Japan seems to be dying out. It is noticeable how many of the stores and eating houses are operated by elderly couples and also how many places have closed in recent times, I guess due to urban migration of all the young people from these places who are more attracted to the bright lights of the big cities combined with a down turn in tourism. This isn’t the first place we have noticed this sort of trend in either, we saw it in Fuji when we stayed there on our way home from Hiroshima. Here it is a real shame as Lake Chuzenji is very similar to Queenstown in our own country with regard to what it has to offer and unfortunately while many Japanese tourists will spend a lot of money to travel to New Zealand and have their pockets vacuumed of all evidence of money in Queenstown, they don’t want to visit the same sort of place here in their own country, which is way more affordable. After getting caught out in a heavy downpour on our way back to the bus station we dry out for a bit while we wait for the bus to take us further up the mountain. At Yumoto we take a stroll around the village, trying to find somewhere to eat, again this once thriving place is down to about 2 eating houses, finally finding a nice little restaurant / store overlooking the lake so enjoyed lunch while watching everyone out fishing on the lake. After lunch Jimmy and I tried the outdoor onsen while Angela and Molly did the foot onsen. It is great that Jimmy really enjoys the local experiences where ever we have been, whether it is a Finnish Sauna followed by a streak to beach or a Japanese ofuro (public bathhouse) or onsen (hot spring) he is happy to get his gears off and get into it with everyone else. The bath here was fed directly from the volcanic springs out the back of the bathhouse, and was quite nice in the slight drizzle we had that day.
|Fishing on Lake Yumo|
Our last full day in Nikko was again spent pottering in the river, the kids first entered the water at about 11:00 am and didn’t emerge till around 6:00pm. It is amazing how much kids can entertain themselves when they are in a river….. We built a small fire on the opposite bank of the river, hunting through the bush for some suitable sticks and logs to fuel it, where we cooked some sausages on sticks for lunch, something we haven’t been able to do for a long time now. It was here that we came face to face with our first wild snake when Angela calls us over to look at something in the bush (not far from where I had previously been pulling out branches and twigs….) and there is was slithering away from trouble. After describing its markings to Scout we discovered that it was the most fearsome of Japanese snakes the Mamushi, so lucky we didn’t annoy him enough to bite. After emerging from the river we enjoyed Scout’s Pizzas for dinner.
The best way to get to Space Riverhouse is via the Tobu Skytree Line which you can catch from either Asakusa or Kita-Senjo Stations. To Shimogoshiro Station it takes about 2 hours for a cost of around 1,200 yen, which compares favourably with the Shinkansen which is about 2-3 times the price and by the time you get to the right station takes about the same amount of time.
We stayed at Space Riverhouse to get away from it all, cost was 14,000 yen per night including breakfast for all 4 of us. Even though you are a bit further away than the Nikko metropolitan area, Scout will happily drop you off and pick you up each day to suit your requirements. They have both hostel beds and private rooms.