Friday 15 November 2013

Autumn in Japan - Nikko (part 1)

If you ask a Japanese person which is there favourite season, you will get (99% of the time) one of two answers.  Spring or Autumn.  The weather in both seasons is not extreme.  Spring is loved in Japan as it is cherry blossom timeAutumn is cherished as it is the time when the leaves on a variety of trees (especially the maple tree) change colour.  There are two prized places where you can enjoy this.  One is at Kyoto and the other is at Nikko.  Having recently been to and written a couple of posts about Kyoto, the obvious choice was Nikko, so I arranged two midweek days off (it is crazy busy in Autumn on the weekend in Nikko!!) to head there (accompanied by Dan again) and see the autumn colours of Nikko.

Nikko lies about 140 km north of Tokyo and takes about two and a half to three hours to get there by train making it a viable (although rushed) daytrip option from Tokyo.  The first buildings to go up in the area that is now Nikko was the Rinno-ji temple in 766 AD.  This was followed soon after by Chuzen-ji temple in 784.  The town of Nikko slowly developed around these two temples and in 1617 Tosho-gu shrine was built and this started drawing large numbers of visitors to the area.  

The shrines and temples of Nikko were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999 and understandable, this fact is used heavily in Nikko's promotion of the area.  In fact the first thing you see when you step out of the train station (JR not Tobu) is this sign.

The town is also proud of it's crystal clear spring water, and rightly so!

And help myself I did!  Clear and refreshing (especially refreshing considering it was about 3 degrees Celsius at this time!)

Feeling hungry at this stage the hunt was on for a place for lunch.  As luck would have it, there was a ramen shop nearby!

Lured inside by a couple of Japanese girls waving madly at us, we went in and found a seat.

I ordered the miso ramen and gyoza

which wasn't as good as Oyaji at Machida but still, pretty good, and it hit the spot.

Next we made our way to our accommodation for the night.  We had found Pension L'Escale (their website is here) online and it had received numerous good reviews so we booked it.  Catching a taxi from the train station (only 800 yen) we arrived and checked in.

The owner of the hotel is Kazu.  He is an amazingly nice and friendly guy who goes out of his way to make sure you are feeling at home (and speaks English).  He is very proud of Nikko and is full of information about everything there.  He drove us to a couple of places in his own car and even told us to have the restaurant staff call him when we had finished dinner that night and he would drive into town and pick us up!  I even locked myself out of my room at midnight and he gladly got out of bed and unlocked my room with his spare key!

Here are a few pictures of the bedroom and the common room.

No frills, comfortable and at a reasonable price, everything you need for a sightseeing trip.

The common room is large and well heated (which was great as the temperature dipped to -5 degrees Celsius and started snowing a little during the night!

And Dan relaxing with his soft toys!

Kazu told us that the Rinno-ji temple had a special illumination display in their Japanese garden running until the 15th and recommended that we go and have a look.  He drove us there and made sure we got in ok.  To say what we were treated to was stunning is one of the biggest understatements I have made!!  Just have a look at some of these pictures.  They can do a much better job than I can of showing how beautiful it was there.

This is a shot Dan took with his camera that shows the reflection of the trees in the pond!  Incredible!

The vivid colours were quite simply stunning.

We had come looking for the colours of Autumn, and on day one, Nikko had delivered!!  Reluctantly we left and headed off in search of dinner.  We ended up going to one of the restaurants that Kazu had recommended.  It was a steak and yakitori (skewered meat) place......and it had lamb!!  I was a very happy man!  

 The food was really good, and we left well satisfied.  Kazu came and picked us up and we returned to the Hotel.  We killed a few hours in the common room and the headed for bed excited about what the next day would bring.

This is actually the third time I have visited Nikko, and I have enjoyed each time.  I plan to make another trip there in winter when my brother comes to visit to see another side of Nikko.

Thanks for reading part one.  I hope you enjoyed it.  I will try to get part two done in the next few days.  See you then.


  1. Hi Jason,it seems that just about everyone that visits Nikko applauds it.A chap I use to work with,visited there twice and really praised it.Unfortunately, it was not possible for me to visit there.It seems that one could easily spend 4/5 days in the area.I like the way you always add a touch of history to your writings, together with some wonderful photos.Last Wednesday they allowed the public into the Adelaide Oval.A lot of people turrned up and there is no doubt it will be a spectacular place for watching sport.There is still a lot of work to be done and they say it will be ready for the test match between us and the poms.I felt a bit sad in a way,that the beautiful cricket ground is now gone....some say as you know,it was the best in the world.The mound,scoreboard are still there with the cathedral spires reaching for the skies in the background.The first half of the Rundle Mall has been completed, from King William St. to Gawler Place.When it is all finished it should give a great view to the hills and when the new trees grow along each side and with the much better paving,it will certainly be much better than what it was before.Well it is time to 'nikko" off now( I think one would say "ikanaito" in nihongo)-trust you are now fully recovered...kanpai...noel.

    1. Hi Noel,
      I agree with you, it would be quite easy to spend a few days there wandering around the mountain walking tracks. One and a half days felt very rushed and I didn't even scrape the surface. There will definitely be another post about Nikko in the future.

      I also agree with what you say about Adelaide Oval. I remember going there each summer with my father to watch cricket, both Test matches and One Day Internationals. I remember watching England chase down a target of just over 300 (when scores like that were unheard of!) set by New Zealand. The crowd went crazy! I also remember Joel Garner trying to hook a bouncer and getting a top edge which flew over the Cathedral End boundary for 6! Lots of memories. I hope people embrace the new Oval as it would be a shame to have done away with beautiful Adelaide Oval only for it to be half supported.

      The head is doing really well now, although I still have no recollection of what happened apart from seeing a cat. That is a strange sensation, not knowing exactly what happened or where it happened, but all is ok now.

      Take care,


  2. Hi Jason, what gorgeous colours! I also love the shape of those leaves. They are a great shape for the kids to draw when I do Autumn art tasks as well as al I the different shades...
    As usual, it looks like you had a wonderful time combing food/art/culture!
    3 weeks of the school term left here...crazy time of the year...I'm currently sitting by the beach at Tumby, listening to the waves roll in.
    Hope you are well Jason and I also hope that you've now bought a bike helmet!

    Take care,

    Nat x

    1. Hey Nat,
      wait until you see the colours in part 2 of this post! They are even more spectacular and vivid and it should be up tomorrow.
      Sitting by the beach at Tumby sounds absolutely amazing. I liked to do the same at Wanna beach near Lincoln.
      Here's hoping you get through the last few weeks.
      Take care,