This is apparently silver week here in Japan, as there just so happens to be two public holidays within the same week (unfortunately not one after another). On the Saturday I did a little solo exploring and headed up going to Kawagoe in the Saitama prefecture (a separate post coming on that hopefully). For the Sunday and Monday, Justine and I escaped Tokyo and headed off to Nikko, about 2 and bit hours north of Tokyo.
We left Asakusa station at 9 and arrived to the pouring rain (which unfortunately did not stop the whole time we were there). We made our way to the hostel but it was closed so we had to take our bags around with us for the day. The trusty app ‘Happy Cow’ helped us find a vege friendly place for lunch. So after heading to an information centre where we had a lovely conversation with the Ojiisan who worked there, we made it to the restaurant. There was only one person working yet each dish (completely vegan) came out looking absolutely beautiful. The atmosphere was so calming, just what we needed as the rain was coming down quite hard outside.
After lunch we heading into the world heritage Nikko national park. At the entrance is the Shinkyo (sacred bridge). Very picturesque. (I ended up investing in a proper umbrella, which came so much in handy over the weekend!)
Then we headed off to the most popular of all the shrines in Nikko – Toshogu Shrine. We somehow ended up stalking a Japanese tour group, trying to pick up on the explanations that were being given about the various parts of the shrine.
We climbed up to the top of the two hundred or so steps (very slowly due to the crowds) but it was so serene and misty. Just stopping and taking it in, though being surrounded by people, was pretty awesome.
On our way back we wanted to get some dango (sweet dumplings made of rice flour) but unfortunately it was just after 5pm and most of the shops had started to close. Luckily we managed to get some daifuku (sweet rice cakes). The super nice lady at the shop sold us one instead of the standard three. It was so good!
We headed back to the hostel to check in, the girl manning the front desk was lovely and helpful and she helped us narrow down a vege friendly place for dinner. We chilled out the hostel for a bit before heading out. We settled on a pace but it ended being full so we went back to a strange hybrid of a restaurant (Italian/Chinese) we had passed earlier and were served but a very curt but efficient Obaasan. Nikko is so quiet at night that even the traffic lights were turned off!
The next day we started the day at around 10am looking for breakfast and ended up a chain restaurant before making our way to the Bakejizo statues (in other words ghost statues!) Apparently each time you count them, the total never comes out the same! Not before stopping for the dango that we wanted to get the day before!
It was pouring rain most of the way as we went a roundabout way through the national park. We may have walked a couple of kilometres too far and had to double back but it was just nice to be out and about in nature. We then came to an isolated bridge with the river flowing underneath. There was no one else around and it just felt so peaceful.
We then came to the Kamafuguchi Abyss – just absolutely nothing like anything I have seen before. Slightly eerie as we were once again the only people there, surrounded by the sound of the thundering river it was absolutely amazing.
If you count the stone statues on your way and then count them again on the way back, there is supposedly a phantom statue that appears to confuse travelers. I managed to count 88 both ways, but Justine got 89. I probably just lost count both ways haha.
We went for a little walk in between and came across the Dainichi bridge.
And that was pretty much the end of our little mini break! We headed back into town (me completely losing what little bearings I had, thank goodness Justine got us back to the right place! haha) and bought some Omiage (souvenirs) for the teachers at our schools. Then it was time to catch the train back to Tokyo.
Note to self – invest in good rain gear! And get out of Tokyo when you can, as Tokyo is not a reflection of what the rest of Japan is like.