Nikko: Kegon waterfall, Lake Chuzenji and Toshogu

One day was all we had here, which I initially thought would not be enough. However, it was. When researching Japan, I found that Nikko was a must see place but I was slightly disappointed. Not sure whether this was influenced by the fog or rain or lack of sleep.

In the morning, I drove up the extremely windy, hilly path up to Lake Chuzenji and Kegon waterfall. If you get travel sick, I wouldn’t recommend it. I love a challenge when driving, the hair pin bends were fun.

The waterfall is one of the countries most famous. There was a lift that took visitors down to the gorge below, but we decided to see the magnificent waterfall from the observation deck at the top. It was breath-taking even though it wasn’t too clear as the mountain was full of fog (this was one of the reason why we decided not to go down to the gorge).

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After, we wandered to Lake Chuzenji, which is the highest lake in Japan. Sitting with my feet in the lake (there were these tiny fish swimming around), watching the boats being rowed across the lake was a peaceful, awe-striking feeling. Walking to the end of a port was fun as it was like a huge float wobbling side to side.

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As we were driving back to our hostel, we stopped off at a beautiful, shallow waterfall with large rocks engulfing it.

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In the afternoon, we wandered around the main town of Nikko, which is basically one long avenue from the station to the Toshogu Shrine. On the way is the red-lacquer Shinkyo (Sacred Bridge),which spans over the beautiful Daiya River.

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From here is a sleep flight of stone steps to the Rinnoji, which is the entrance to shrine complex. In the complex are three temples to visit but we just scouted around the main one at the top. As they are old buildings, one of the temples was covered in scaffolding with a picture of the temple on the front (bit strange and surreal).

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Inside the Toshogu, on the left, is a five storey pagoda of the shrine, decorated with the 12 signs of the Asian Zodiac and the hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa family.

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The gate here are guarded by two fierce red-painted Deva king.

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In the courtyard is a stable, which houses the shrine’s sacred white horse; the carved panel above the door is the famous group of three monkeys – ‘Hear no evil, see no hear, speak no evil!’

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Soon we came to the ‘Gate of the sleeping cat’, where the cat was on top of an entrance and a lot smaller than I thought.

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Through here were 207 stone steps up to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s tomb. I can tell you, I was not expecting this many steps and my legs hurt as I was climbing up. At the top, there was a great view, interesting trees and a cool, rushing stream. The tomb, however, was nothing special.

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The main temple was beautifully designed with intricate details and vibrant colours. Inside, we took off our shoes, watched a monk bless others and speak to us. Then we walked around, where a guy was describing all the parts of the inside of a temple. He also hit part of a statue, which vibrated around the room. All the tourists seemed to be amazed by this, wowing and ohhhing. It was pretty amusing.

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The shrine was interesting but I’m not sure it was worth coming all the way to Nikko. However, it was probably the most detailed temple I had seen on the whole trip.

After, we tried to find a restaurant down the main avenue but wasn’t successful so we had to drive to the next town to get food.

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By the end of the day, I was knackered after the long drive the night before and lack of sleep but unfortunately I had an interesting night sleep in the hostel.

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