This post is about Oku-Nikko, a region located in the northwestern part of Nikko in western Tochigi. If that sounds a little confusing, just know that Tochigi is a biiiiiig prefecture.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (on this blog, on social media, on my sharing sessions at JR cafe), I must repeat again that Tochigi is full of sightseeing wonders. On just Nikko area alone it took me 4 blog posts to complete, and I have YET to cover many other nearby attractions and popular spots like the famous onsens in Kinugawa, Edo Wonderland, and other parts of Tochigi such as its capital city Utsunomiya, and also the one place I really really wanted to go – Nasu Alpaca Farm!
Well, looking forward to next time. ^^
Nikko Kanaya Hotel is famed for being the first ever Western-style hotel in the entire Japan. With more than 130 years of history, this hotel has served distinguished international guests, and Albert Eistein was one of them!
I’m glad I visited during the perfect time as the maples turns beautifully red, giving the hotel an elegant ambience.
This was the view from my room.
Kanaya Hotel has an interesting East-meets-West architecture and interior in its finest balance of both.
If you wake early, take a refreshing morning stroll around the hotel.
Something I don’t get back home.
Take a walk through the Garden Path. It was absolutely calming.
I was alone hence the rare selfie haha.
Akechidaira Ropeway (明智平)
For the best view of Oku-Nikko, you will want to take the ropeway up the Akechidaira Plateau.
It’s a very short ride up to go up the observation deck.
Here we are!
Akechidaira is a popular autumn foliage spot as the beautiful gradation of fall spread across the landscape. It was mid-autumn in most parts of Japan where maples were in their most glorious hues, however in Nikko autumn came early and apparently I was two weeks too late for the best view. The leaves had fallen leaving most trees bald to meet winter.
It was nevertheless magnificent. That’s Kegon Falls, one of the 3 most beautiful waterfalls in Japan. And I could see why.
Just to show you how it would have looked like just two weeks ago:
Omg I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that… I wasn’t disappointed though, because I feel that it gives me one more reason to come back here for this unbeatable sight!
Also, you get to take a look at Irohazaka, the winding path which you would have taken to come up the plateau, and it looks like this:
On the way down looking at all the fallen leaves that fills the ground. See you next time ^^
Chuzenji Lake (中禅寺湖)
We then came to Chuzenji for a relaxing cruise at the famous Lake.
Here’s the cruise station.
If you are more adventurous or come with family, you could also rent a boat or the cute swan boat.
This is the cruise we took. They have a few different routes/courses, and the fee ranges from a few hundred yen to 1500 yen.
Again, we missed out the fall colors in their peak, if you come at the right time it is the best way to enjoy the most beautiful sight of Oku-Nikko from within a cruise.
There were still some warm colors left around the mountains!
A little island in the middle of the lake.
If you come at the right time it was gonna be like this omg…..
I really wanna come back here again!!!
Kegon Falls (華厳の滝)
As mentioned, this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Japan, along with Fukuroda Falls in Ibaraki Prefecture and Nachi Falls in Wakayama Prefecture.
Before going to the waterfall I was told that we would take a 100-meter deep elevator from the top down to the base of the waterfall for a closer observation and I was like what elevator?! @.@
In my imagination there’s this transparent tube-like slide in the middle of the air which serves like an elevator bringing you down parallel to the waterfall lolol. Haha apparently it was not like that, but it was quite amazing how they built that “elevator”. Go there to experience it yourself!
You can see that the Kegon falls is accompanied by many mini waterfalls around it. That sight itself is like… an orchestra. With many instruments playing small but important parts of the beautiful melody. It was truly magnificent.
I was told that the water is flowing from Chuzenji Lake, and joked that if the cruisewe took just now had gone a little further we would fall off along with Kegon Falls and my brain just suddenly stopped working (cannot brain it lol) and I was like what?! How does that geography even works!?
And then I remembered the scenery from Akechidaira just this morning…… and then all the dots connected (quite literally), and suddenly it was picture clear (yeap! lol):
The lake where we cruised, Kegon waterfall, and yes, the observation tower where we were right then!!
So yea, that’s Oku-Nikko all in one photo for you.^^
Our lunch place was at an unexpected spot – a hotel. And the meal of the day was French cuisine.
Belongs to the Kanaya Hotel group, this hotel was just so beautiful. Like an elegant classic cottage in the middle of a Canadian forest.
Looove the cosy feel of a log house!
The hotel is said to be beautiful in all seasons, because I was told that many of the beautiful maple-colored trees I was looking at are all cherry blossom trees. I did a quick search online.
This is in summer, the hotel is among lush green that feels so fresh.
In autumn they turn warm-colored. Which was the scene I was looking at.
Comes spring, it’s all painted pink with Sakura T___T. (Sorry I couldn’t find a better photo). So no matter which time you visit, it is bound to be a beautiful, calming experience!
Our lunch was a very rare French course meal. The hotel is very particular about local ingredients, so most of the ingredients used are sourced locally from Tochigi, such as Tochigi beef, local seasonal greens, and fishes from the rivers and lake (Tochigi is an inland prefecture).
This is such a special dish! It was Tochigi Wagyu Pate wrapped in Nasu Pork Bacon, served with daikon (omg the daikonnnnnn T_T), local vegetables in Hakubijin negi sauce.
It was really really good.
The bread are freshly baked rolls from Kanaya Hotel Bakery which has many outlets including Tokyo!!
We took a tour around the hotel later.
A real fireplace!! They chopped their own woods from the nearby forest.
The suite room, so spacious and luxurious.
With a veranda for a beautiful view.
Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park
The last stop of the day was the summer retreat for the imperial family.
The villa was built in Nikko in 1899, using parts of a residence that originally stood in Tokyo, and is is one of the largest remaining wooden buildings in Japan.
It has been carefully and extensively refurbished before opening it for public visits. Many parts of the building were the original remains, such as the glass windows, which you could see is clearly (no pun intended) very different from modern glass we have these days.
The interior is really interesting, as it is build with an intentional western influence for the imperial family to welcome its foreign guests, so you can see very luxurious carpets AND tatami at the same time.
A beautifully manicured Japanese-style garden from within the villa. I also feel so impressed by how the Japanese artisan gardener maintain all the Japanese garden to be in such a immaculate condition. I saw a documentary once and I was super touched by the love the 庭師 (professional gardeners) have for maintaining the perfection for their zen garden.
A feel of autumn.
This big tree over here, is also a cherry blossom tree, Shidarezakura, a type of weeping cherry blossom.
When I get to stay in Japan one day I wanna plant cherry blossom in my garden. ^^
After the visit, we took the TOBU Spacia Limited Express train back to Tokyo.
That’s all for Tochigi this time around. Hope that many of you will consider visiting this nature-abundant area for a short (or long!) getaway from Tokyo!