Nikko Toshogu

The day after Kirifuri, we went to the main Toshogu Shrine complex up from Nikko station. In his will, the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, requested that he be enshrined in Nikko (before he died, Ieyasu was so fat he was unable to mount a horse unaided!). At first relatively modest, the shrine and grounds was embellished and extended by the third shogun, Iemitsu, who also had himself enshrined here (the second shogun is tucked away in Ueno, Tokyo). The whole complex is now a World Heritage Site and is justifiably one of the most impressive sights in Japan.

The red bridge marks the boundary between the city of Nikko and the Toshogu:

Toshogu 1

The entrance to the complex:

Toshogu 3

A dragon welcomes:

Toshogu 4

The main torii entrance to Ieyasu’s shrine:

Toshogu 8

The Yomeimon gate:

Toshogu 6

The famous three monkeys:

Toshogu 5

Carvings beside the gate:

Toshogu 7

The inner shrine:

Toshogu 9

Toshogu 10

Dragon on the inner shrine:

Toshogu 11

We didn’t go up to the actual tomb of Ieyasu because it cost extra.

Kirifuri Falls

This is a hike we did during Spring vacation across 霧降高原 (Kirifuri Plateau) and down to Kirifuri Falls near Nikko. We wanted to hike up Mt Oyama but the path had been washed out/landslide so we had to change route. It was kind of lucky in a way as there were some gorgeous waterfalls that we may not have otherwise seen.

The start of the hike was not particularly interesting. It was just the wrong season – too late for mountain cherry blossoms but too early for Spring flowers so mainly just this grass:

Kirifuri 1From there we walked down the mountain to 丁字滝 (Teiji Falls):

Kirifuri 2Kirifuri 3 From there we climbed back up to マックラ滝 (Makkura Falls):

Kirifuri 4

Then we followed the course along the Kirifuri River:

Kirifuri 5

And up the inevitable stairs:

Kirifuri 6

This is the view from the Kirifuri Falls lookout. The middle mountain is where we started from:

Kirifuri 7

霧降の滝 (Kirifuri Falls):

Kirifuri 8

Kirifuri 9

Oku-Nikko 2 – Senjogahara

A nice walk just above Lake Chuzenji is across Senjogahara (戦場ヶ原), which means ‘battle plain’. Legend has that the gods of two mountains, Mt Nantai and Mt Akagi, fought here over control of Lake Chuzenji-ko. Nantai was losing so he consulted another god, Kashima Daimyojin, who introduced him to an expert archer called Sarumaru (who was actually one of Nantai’s grandsons – why he didn’t already know that I’m not sure). Nantai transformed himself into a white deer to lure Sarumaru out onto the plateau. The gods fought on Senjogahara where Akagi transformed himself into a giant horned centipede and Nantai transformed into a snake. Sarumaru then shot the centipede through the eye. Thus the winner was Mt Nantai who now stands watch over the lake.

There are wooden walkways that stretch across the plain:

Senjogahara - Marsh Walkway

Spring doesn’t come until the end of June so it is rather desolate at the end of winter:

Senjogahara - More Marshes

It is mainly marshland which makes you thankful for the excellently maintained walkways:

Senjogahara - Marshes

The walk ends at Yudaki Waterfalls:

Yudaki Waterfall

Chuzenji-ko

Further up in the mountains above Nikko, about an hour by bus, is Chuzenji-ko lake. The area is relatively not overdeveloped and, being higher up (1269m), it is wonderfully cool in summer. But the best time to visit if possible is October when the spectacular autumn colours come out. These photos were taken with an old Nikon point-and-shoot in 2004 (I think) so perhaps not the best quality.

The lake has its inevitable ‘attractions’:

The highlight of the lake is the almost 100 metre Kegon Falls:

It’s also possible to take an elevator down to the base of the falls:

There are also some nice walks around the lake. Just past the main village is Futarasan Shrine:

While around on the other side is Chuzenji Shrine, from which comes the name of the lake:

View of Chuzenji-ko lake from Chuzenji shrine:

Many years ago, the area was apparently popular with foreign embassies as summer residences. This was the former Italian residence which features beautiful wood panelling:

The colours are spectacular as the sun descends and gives the lake a glistening golden shimmer:

Nikko – Kanman Walk

One of my favourite places in Japan is Nikko, easily accessable an hour to the north of Tokyo in Gunma Prefecture. Its main attraction is the Toshogu Shrine. This is the final resting-place of Tokugawa Ieyasu who finally united Japan and began the 260-year Edo period, and Tokugawa Iemitsu, who instituted the sakoku national isolation policy. Just around the corner from this, however, is a little-known walking trail called the Kanman Walk, that takes you past some mysterious Jizo statues said to be uncountable.

First, cross over the main bridge for Toshogu but turn left:

 After that, the path runs beside the river into a small gorge dramatically called the Kanmangafuchi Abyss:

Crossing the river again, you come to a small park with an inscription of a poem by the mad Emperor Taisho:

Sleeves were wet by the spray at the river of Daiya.

Cold moonlight night comes over the shore.

This leads into a small path lined with the Jizo statues:

Yabusame

These were taken at the practice for the yabusame, horseback archery, on the day before the main Autumn festival at the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko. Yabusame is quite a spectacular display of horseback skill – the object is to hit a small target while riding past at speed. Though, unfortunately, I couldn’t get any good action shots!

The start:

The judges:

The result: