Today, we signed up for a full day tour of Nikko, Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls. Our first time in Japan we intended to go on this tour but decided not to and to save it for our return trip. We loved it and it turned out to be really awesome.
Today we got up early to head over to Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku to get on our tour bus. We left with spare time, since Shinjuku, or Tokyo in general, can be tricky to navigate from time-to-time. On our way to the hotel our GPS switched the final destination on us from the previous night when we looked it up so we actually had to walk a bit further than intended. Due to this we were running late, but we made it to the hotel in time to get signed in. We boarded our tour bus with about 16 other people and headed out to Nikko. Nikko is a small city situated in the mountains north of Tokyo and is famously known for Toshogu, which is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who founded the Tokugawa Shogunate. Toshogu was built in the 1600s and is a very famous site to visit for foreigners and japanese alike. When we arrived, the site was filled with swathes of people from various tour groups and even school groups for field trips. Our tour guide led us throughout the grounds explaining the Shinto and Buddhist influences in architecture and purpose to each structure.
Here is a five story pagoda, where each tier represents an element of the universe in accordance to the Buddhist mythos. In order from bottom to top the tiers represent: earth, water, fire, wind and space.
After viewing this pagoda, our tour guide wrangled us back in to hand us our tickets to enter the main grounds to Toshogu. We were equipped with earbud receivers, since microphones were forbidden on the grounds. Also, if you became separated from the group, a bit, you could still hear about the grounds from our guide. Next we entered the main grounds to Toshogu. Here are some pictures from there:
This building pictured above was a storehouse.
The building pictured above here was used as a stable for a white horse intended only for use by Shinto gods. No mortal was allowed to ride it. If you look carefully around the mid-section of the stable you will see monkey carvings, each one representing different virtues.
Just beyond the point these two pictures were taken is a large gatehouse that leads to the main shrine. It is extremely ornate and covered in gold-leaf. Here’s a picture of the entire gate, followed by some close ups to detail the artwork and craftsmanship:
Beyond the gatehouse we entered the main shrine where everyone was required to take off their shoes. Also photography was forbidden inside too, but as you may imagine the interior was as immaculate as the exterior. Inside there was a monk too explaining some of the rituals to a bunch of school kids. After the main shrine, we were able to adventure around the grounds on our own, so we headed up about 200 and some odd stairs to see Tokugawa’s mausoleum. The stairs were rather steep and and some points very narrow too. On our way down we heard many japanese complaining about being tired, it was funny to hear the same gripes everyone makes in english but this time in japanese.
After Toshogu, we headed to lunch and had a traditional japanese meal, it was a ton of food and all very well prepared. It consisted of such things as, shrimp tempura, vegetable tempura, rice, ramen, soy milk skin, steamed vegetables and seared beef. As we had finished eating an elderly japanese gentleman came up to Sara and I and asked where we were from and he went on to tell us, which we only understood this part by help of our tour guide, that he was part of a non-smokers tour group. He then asked if we smoked to which we replied, “no”. We used as much japanese as we could and he seemed to enjoy the effort.
Our next stop was Lake Chuzenji.
http://rollingdough.ca/bed/SVNEww0tV8E Lake Chuzenji:
The route to the lake would have been an arduous trek had it not been for the tour bus. The lake lies atop a meandering, hairpin-turn, covered road. Forty-eight hairpins to be exact and reached an altitude of 4163 ft (1269 m) above sea level. The turns at some points were so tight it was amazing our driver managed them with as much ease as he did.
The lake itself sits at the foot of Mt. Nantai, which actually created the lake after it erupted 20000 years ago. The volcano has been dormant for the past 15000 years but just this past spring has become active again. Once we reached the top of the mountain the lake is on, we got out and enjoyed the brisk breeze coming off of the lake and the pristine view of the area:
To the right of the picture is Mt. Nantai. The lake is huge and crystal clear water; it even reaches depths of about 508 ft (163 m). Here we are with the volcano behind us:
When we finished up at Lake Chuzenji, we headed to Kegon Falls, which is one of the three most famous waterfalls of Japan.
lady era price Kegon Falls:
Kegon falls stands at about 330 ft (100m) and is a beautiful sight to see. Due to increased rainfall from the typhoon the output of the falls was increased drastically we were told. Here is the picture:
The falls were very impressive with a deep roaring sound that filled the valley and plumes of water vapor filling the air around for a good distance. If you look to the left of the falls you will see smaller water flows coming from underneath the cliffside. These flows are from water permeating the rock bed itself.
Before we jumped back on the bus we tried dango (said don-go), which is a sweet japanese dessert made from rice balls and a sweet brown sauce served warm on skewers. They were extremely good. We will have to get more on our trip and get a picture of them then.
Tomorrow we will explore Tokyo proper even more.