Nikko is great for the body and soul. It's located about 130 kilometres from Tokyo, and is a must visit if you plan to spend a few days in the Japanese capital. The welcome given to visitors of Nikko is spectacular. Upon arrival there are many old houses and the formidable Shin-Kyo, or sacred bridge. Taking photos is practically mandatory. They say the bridge already existed in 1636, but they are sure it's older than that. The purpose of experiencing this place is to access the mausoleum of the first Tokugawa shogun, by crossing the Daiya River. However, access is now prohibited. It's worth it to view its 28 meter length. It's beautiful.
The Kanganma-fuchi gorge is a magical place where you can walk under the eye of Jizo flanking the road. Although not much of a gorge, the river has ran over the rocks over the centuries, smoothing edges and forming some odd formations. A different experience compared to the shrines that are overrun by tourists.
Despite being in the middle of a typhoon while visiting my beloved city of Nikko, I decided to spend a day visiting Taiyuin-byō, the mausoleum where the ashes of Tokugawa Iemitsu (the third Shogun Tokugawa clan) have been laid to rest. During my previous visit to Nikko I didn't have time to visit because I was running out of time and it was closing (everything closes around 5:00 pm). So I decided to go despite my wet shoes. It's a marvel to enjoy this temple in harmony with the nature of Nikko National Park and listen to the sound of Japanese cicadas. There are plenty of things to admire in the Mausoleum, for example, the Nitenmon door (the door of the two gods), the largest in Nikko. You can sit a while in the tatami of the oratorio Haiden and admire the 140 dragons that are painted on its ceiling. A marvel of many things that you can't miss on your visit to Nikko.
The 48 curves in total are each marked by a hiragana syllable, forming a poem created about 1000 years ago. It is also a pangram, but it is not perfect because no syllable is repeated. Other areas of interest nearby include Kegon Falls, Lake Chuuzenji or the temples of Nikko.
I got to see the lovely Zen garden of this villa from the 3rd floor. You can climb to the top floor on someÇ days of the year in January so we were lucky ... It is considered within the 100 major historical parks in Japan,and one can see the Imperial Tamozawa in Nikko, close to the Botanical Gardens, near where we stayed and Bake Kanmangafuchi Jizō and Abyss. The Imperial Villa Tamozawa was established in the year 1899, constructed around part of the former residence of a branch of the Tokugawa clan, which reached the domain of Japan between the years 1603 and 1868. The Villa is 39,390 square meters but in the actual construction time it was over 100,000 square meters. It was damaged during WWII, and after being restored it opened to the public in the year 2000. You can visit its 106 rooms on 3 floors where you can find cedar doors with Japanese classic paintings and prints. At the end of our visit they gave us a small gift. You put your hand in an urn and depending on letter you touch, you got different things. It opens from 9:00 to 17:00 from April to October and from 9:00 to 16:30 from November to March, with the last admission one hour before closing. The tour price is 500 yen.
Utsunomiya (宇 都 宫), is the capital of the Tochigi Prefecture, near Tokyo. It's 312.16 km ² and nearly half a million people live here. Here, you can find the Canon Inc. central factory, and Honda design centers. Getting here is easy if you take one of the express trains departing from Ueno Station (Tokyo). The things I have mentioned are not why this city is well-known, however. The real reason that make this city special are its specialty Gyoza restaurants, which claim to be the best in the country. The gyoza (饺子) is a dish of Chinese origin but adapted to Japanese cuisine. It is the equivalent of our turnovers, a dough folded over itself with meat (usually pork or chicken) and some vegetables inside. In Japan they are grilled with a little olive oil and accompanied with a sauce. If you're salivating thinking about this delight, you can not miss visiting the restaurants in this town, where in addition to the best gzoya, there is also a restaurant that claims to make largest (18 cm) in the archipelago.
This river coming down the mountain in length Nantai houses some of the points of interest to travellers going to Nikko. In the highest part of the river we find one of the most impressive waterfalls in Japan, Kegon waterfall, with a 97m drop. These cascades were deviated from the main river by the eruption of Nantai. Below, we can find the beautiful abyss area, belonging to the Mausoleum Kanmangafuchi Futarasan, we have the Kyo Shin sacred bridge, considered to be one of the most beautiful bridges in Japan. According to legend, in the year 766 the Buddhist monk Shodo and his followers were preparing to climb to the top of Mount Nantai to pray for national prosperity. They could not cross the river as it was flowing to quickly for Daiya. Shodo started praying to a god called Jinja-Daiou who has two snakes coiled around his right arm. The god gave the snakes to Shodo and they became the rainbow-shaped bridge that is well known throughout Japan. As a result, Shodo and his followers were able to cross safely, and that is the story of the Daiya River.
After enjoying the amazing temples of Nikko, such as the Tosho-gu, Nikko Matsuri's was stunning, and the lovely waterfall Kegon as well, and we had to visit the chuzenji-ko. It is a lovely lake in the Nikko National Park and put the icing on the cake of a fantastic day trip. We were lucky to visit the chuzenji-ko when vegetation begins to take some lovely reds. I think autumn is one of the best times of year to visit Japan, and chuzenji-ko is a proof of that. The combination of red, green and blue in the lake are perfect to unwind from the hectic pace of Tokyo. The waters are calm and there are barely any tourists in the area at this time of year. Since Tokyo is less than 1 hour away, don´t hesitate to relax one evening in a place as lovely as this one.
The visit to Nikko is amazing in itself, but if you are lucky enough to go to a matsuri or festival, it is even better. And that's what happened to us on our 1st trip to Japan. On October 17 we went to visit the temple of Tosho-gu when we ran into this fall festival where many people appeared in samurai costumes. From children to seniors, hundreds of people dressed in medieval costumes. In a solemn procession down the Tosho-gu temple with shrines, on horseback, on foot, it was definitely a sight that was incredible. This event reminded me a little of the Moors and Christians, but maybe I missed the music that often encourages these celebrations. We were happy to run into this matsuri the day we visited Nikko.