One of the reasons I always wanted to visit Japan was because of the way some of my Japanese friends always described it to me. Such a different culture, habits, sceneries and everything else you can possibly imagine compared to what I am used to in Europe.
There were many places high on my list that I couldn’t miss whilst in Japan, Nikko was one of them. I know what you are thinking, it sounds like one of the typical tourist destinations and admittedly it probably is, but for me there was more that pushed me to visit it.
My good friend Taka is from Nikko and him and his family had us staying at their place. I can’t stress enough how that made the whole experience unique and pleasant, in fact Nikko has a special place in our memory when we go through our month spent in Japan, it’s one of our favorite places visited in Japan.
Somewhere I read an old Japanese saying “Never say ‘kekko’ until you’ve seen Nikko”, kekko meaning beautiful, only after being there I can understand why.
Since we stepped out the train station, we noticed how the town is completely surrounded by mountains which it was a nice change of scenery considering we were coming from the busy-ness and grayness of the cities.
We enjoyed our walk around the temples and shrines area despite the amount of people there. It wasn’t the first time we saw sacred places like those, but it felt very different. I guess that had something to do with the very old age of some of these temples, how they are extremely decorated, they are very colorful, some are quite golden and there are so many in a relatively small area.
I personally prefer the ones that are more minimalist, without too much going on, but it was surely interesting to see something different.
What made a difference to our experience was spending an entire day in such close contact with nature, it’s not something that we always chose to do but in this case was the best decision we could have possibly made.
We couldn’t have been any luckier with the time of the year too, in fact during the autumn season the leaves change color and the entire area is a mixture of greenish, yellow and red leaves that make the view simply stunning!
We went up the mountain, hiked around the Yunoko Lake and walked until we found the Yutaki Falls, which aren’t the Kegon Falls we saw later which Nikko is famous for, but very nice indeed and breathtaking too.
In fact you can get very close to the falls and listen to the water rushing and crushing down.
It was a lovely hike away from the street which really made me feel so relaxed: there was no need to rush, no pressure to get to somewhere else, no train to catch, just us walking at our own peace.
And the Best Still Has to Come!
Later on the same day, our friend took us to a not so popular and busy area, in actual fact there was nobody there apart from us, AWESOME!
Kanmangafuchi Abyss is a small gorge kind of hidden from the main street, but not that difficult to reach if you know where you are going to and search for it beforehand.
It is such a peaceful place where the only thing we could hear, apart from our own steps, was the water running between the now rounded rocks and the wind moving the colorful leaves.
Facing the river there are quite a few jizo protector statues, most of them have red hats, usually handmade, and other small gifts. You can tell they have been there from quite a while because some are crumbling with age, some are missing body parts and some are completely gone leaving only an empty space instead.
Our friend Taka told us a legend that made me smile which says that the statues always change places and if you visit the Abyss again you will never see them in the same order. I found that very cute!
Maybe when they move around is when they leave pieces of themselves behind? 🙂
Dale especially loved this place along with his first experience of fishing. I think what he liked the most and made him very proud, was the fact that we actually ate a fish each after the lady that owns this place kindly cooked it for us. Never had a fish as fresh and tasty as that one!
The whole experience was superb also because we slept in a Japanese style bed and most importantly I learned how to make Onigiri which we absolutely love.
If you are in Japan you cannot skip Nikko, it is a great change to the crazy and busy life of the cities like Tokyo. It is a very unique place that exceeded my expectations, we felt sorry to leave and I would definitely go back to one day maybe during another season to see how the whole place changes.