What surprised me most about Japan is how they are able to preserve such huge areas of nature while they are currently running out of space in cities like Tokyo. If it were other countries, they would have exhausted and exploited the land until there is nothing left.
Nikko is a town serves as a proof that the Japanese know what they are doing since this little town is located just 2 hours away from Tokyo and contains large areas of well-preserved forests, mountains, waterfalls and walking trails and hikes for all type of travelers.
When I was planning my trip to Japan, Nikko was an afterthought, but now that I am back, I can say that Nikko is one of the places I enjoyed most and I highly recommend you to give this place a chance.
Still not convinced? Maybe these photos below might change your mind.
Japan Travel Video
How to Get to Nikko from Tokyo
I took a train from Asakusa train station in Tokyo to Nikko which arrived at around 2:30 PM. I bought myself a 2 days pass bus ticket for 2,670 yens and took the bus to the 7th station where my hostel (Nikkorisou) is located.
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Where to Stay in Nikko
Nikkorisou is a very nice small hostel that catered to solo travelers like me. Being in this hostel felt like I was truly living with the local. The owners were very friendly and expressed interest in actually knowing their customers.
What is cute about this hostel is that, the walls are covered with cute illustrations that teaches you how to behave in Japan. You will find them everywhere. There is even one in the toilet!
You even have the option to bath like locals, but at an extra cost of course.
Visit the Famous Shinkyo bridge
Nikkorisou is very well located. It was on the opposite side of this iconic red bridge called Shinkyo bridge.
Hike Around the Magical Forest of Nikko
Across the intersection near the Shinkyo Bridge, there was a walking path up north. Since the rain was about to stop, I decided to go for a walk in this 2 hours trail recommended by the staff at Nikkorisou hostel.
There were many beautiful red temples along the trail.
Look at all these amazing trees. From a year of traveling around Asia, I have never seen such harmony between a man-made architecture and nature like this.
After walking along the trail for a bit, the scenery shifted from temples to tall trees. From this point on, I didn't see any human being for the next 2 hours.
Since the sun was about to set and the fact that it was after the rain, I got the whole forest to myself. It's amazing to think that I was able to find solitude just 2 hours away from the buzzing city of Tokyo.
The forest and the trail was very well maintained, and yet they somehow still look ancient!
The trail is very easy and can be done by anyone. Not too steep and it doesn't take long. You could do it in one hour if you are a fast walker.
It felt like I was Indiana Jones discovering ancient ruins every time I stumbled upon abandoned shrines like this.
Found another ancient shrine deep in the middle of the forest. I love this place!
I really couldn't count the number of shrines I found on the walking trail.
Several small statues by the side of a small mountain. Must be very creepy to stumble upon one of these at night in the forest!
There is something to appreciate about this symmetrical, ancient-looking shrine.
Since it was getting really dark, I decided to rush back in time for dinner before everything is close. By 6PM, most places in Nikko will be closed for some reason.
As a nature lover, this place hit me right on the spot. Well preserved nature that actually feels like a real wilderness, not very touristy and has several beautiful walk paths for all types of trekkers.
Before ending it for the day, I decided to take a walk around town and snapped this photo of the wonderful Shinkyo bridge at night.
Visit Kegon Falls
After the Mt Fuji incident, I thought it would never get worst for me. Apparently, being severely dehydrated while you have another 2 hours of hike left was pretty bad enough that almost cost me my life.
The day started out just fine where I took a 45 minutes bus up through several mountains to the Lake Chuzenji bus station, a very quiet town located by the lake that was formed millions of years ago by the volcanic activities. Near the lake, there is a famous water fall called Kegon Falls. One of the three best waterfall in Japan.
It is free to look at the fall from the top but if you want to see it from an angle below, you need to pay for a ticket and take a 100m elevator down to the platform.
I paid 500 Yens for the ticket and off I went. As I arrived at the bottom, there was a tunnel that lead me to the platform. It was really cold in the tunnel possibly because of the spray from the falls.
It was well worth the price though. The view from the bottom was spectacular. The spray created this dreamy atmosphere in the fall. The spray was surprisingly less than I thought, but since my last waterfall experience was the Victoria Falls in Zambia, everything else seems little in comparison. :)
Hike from Lake Chuzenji to Mt. Hangetu (1,753m)
After the Kegon falls, I decided to go for a walking trail and here was where it went wrong. From the map (top) above, there are 2 trails, which will take me 5 hours one way to get to the summit of Mt Hagetsu and give me the perfect view of the lake and the mountains that surrounded it. Since I was consumed by my ego, I thought that I could do it in 3 hours up and 2 hours down. Oh, how I was so wrong.
From the map, I thought I would need to climb just one mountain and that is it. Turned out, I had to climb 3 mountains before I reached the summit of My Hagetsu. I didn't have a daypack with me, and I only have one small bottle of water and a map. Why? Because I was an idiot. I underestimated the mountain, and that is something a mountaineer should NEVER do.
Four kilometers until the summit, and it was already noon and I didn't have any food on me..
One hour and a half later, I wasn't even half way through my trail as I expected. I was starting to panic and rush through the trail instead of walking slowly and enjoying the view like I love to do.
That moment went I wish I brought lunch with me...
This was me arriving at the first lookout point. The view was nice but not as nice as I had hoped. The weather started to not be in my favor.
"Where has all my drinking water gone!?", he shouted.
I'm an optimist so at least I did get to see the scale of the lake from the top. :)
This was a similar amount of distance I walked for 3 hours straight. I had already gone through half of my bottle of water already.
Still happy I did it. No regret at all!
The sad truth was that I still had 2 - 3 hours of trek I had to go through before I will find another vending machine.
The weather went to shit. My sight was reduced to merely a few meters away at one point and I had to rush through it all just because I knew I was in big trouble if I couldn't get to the vending machine in time.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the face of someone who is severely dehydrated, and I still was in the mood to capture this accomplishment. :) That is how optimistic I am.
After 5.5 hours of hiking up mountains with less than 500ml of water, and a few hallucinations (I thought I saw vending machines behind trees and rocks) I eventually reached the city area at 3 PM. I ran to the nearest vending machine at the pier, grabbed all the coins I had, slowly inserted them into the machine as my hands shook like crazy, and drank a whole bottle in one go. I was finally reborn!
I literally had to sit myself down and recollected what happened up there because I was so dehydrated that I barely remember the events that put me into that situation.
Never underestimate the mountain no matter how small it is and always be over prepared than under prepared
To reward me for learning those hard lessons, I treated myself with a giant Japanese feast before heading back to Tokyo.
And that's the end of part 3 of my Japan trip. Next part we will explore the old city of Kyoto and the Gion Matsuri that apparently was in full swing when I was there. I guarantee you, there will be no more of me dying in the mountains in the next part! Stay tuned.
Continue Reading the Next Part: 8 Fun Things to Do in Kyoto during Gion Matsuri.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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