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 time. Autumn 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.