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12 hours in nikko
day trippin'

Nikko temple 

Tosho-gu Shrine

I don't know if it's rebellion or sheer obstinance that prevents Patrick and me from listening to guidebook recommendations about day trips.  The guidebook will tell us to take the train out to such-and-such-place, walk around in the afternoon, and then head back ot the city; we will instead stay several nights, hoping to find hidden alleys, restaurants, and charm once the day trippers leave. 

Nikko Tayuin Byo Shrine

Futura-San Shrine

Usually, this plan works to our favor but, in Nikko, staying overnight was a bad choice.  The city shut down after 5:00 p.m., leaving us wandering for hours to find an open restaurant for dinner, and did not open until 10:00 a.m., causing us to make a breakfast out of a package of cookies we found in a souvenir shop.  If we had to do it over again, we would do Nikko in 12 hours on a route like this.

Garden in bridge Rinno-ji Temple Garden at Rinno-ji Temple
Garden at Rinno-ji Temple Rinno-ji temple

Garden in Rinno-ji Temple

I would wake in the morning, leave Tokyo on the 9:00 Shinkansen Tsubusa line to Utsonomiya and then take the JR Nikko Line for 45 minutes to Nikko, assuming that you have a JR Rail Pass (don't worry - I'm going to cover the Rail Pass issue in a future post).  The trip takes an hour and forty five minutes and arrives at the JR Rail station in Nikko.  If you walk up the hill to the Tobu bus station, you can hop on a local Tobu bus to the World Heritage area.

Monkeys on the Sacred Stable Sacred Stables

Monkeys on the Sacred Stable

The World Heritage area is a compact complex of opulent temples built by Tokugawa Ieyasu and his grandson Iemitsu in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Our favorite temple was Tosho-gu Shrine, carved and  gilded  with gold paint, and the cheeky monkeys that topped the Sacred Stable.

 Shinkyo Bridge

Shinkyo Bridge spanning the Daiya River

Stone lanters at Taiyuin-byo Shrine Kegon Falls

Stone lanterns at Taiyuin-byo Shrine; Kegon Falls

After lunch at the innumerable soba shops along the road from Rinnoji Temple, we would hop on the bus to Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls in Nikko National Park where water cascades down 915 feet into the river below, spraying the visitors with mist and fog.

Kegon Falls

 Kegon Falls

A stop across the street at the crepe stand would fortify us for the bus ride back to Nikko and then the train to Tokyo.  The perfect day trip . . . if only we had done it this way. 

07/01/2010 23:03
Looking at the photos, I get a sense of a desolate place. I'm not a big fan of guide books so I understand your frustration.

I loved the sake drums at the entrance of temples in Japan!
Gourmantic's recent blog post: Le Tour de France Gourmantic
07/04/2010 09:34
/sigh

Pictures like this make me ache to be back in Japan. When we were in Takayama, we had to entertain ourselves with UNO from 5p until the bars opened due to the city shutting down. Its definitely different than what I'm used to but still loved it nonetheless.
Erica's recent blog post: Travel Photography July 1
08/02/2010 08:05
Thanks Gourmantic! It actually was packed with people but they had roped off most of the temples so we got lots of pictures without people in them.

Erica, yep - I know exactly what you mean. The Japanese schedule in the small towns is so weird.
Akila's recent blog post: turning japanese

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