Sunday, December 7, 2014

Autumn Leaves in Nikko: Hiking in Senjogahara + Vlog!

Sometimes, I can't get over how lucky I was to be placed in Utsunomiya, Tochigi. I have all the conveniences of city life, such as a variety of interesting shops and restaurants, movie theatres, parks, sports events, and a well-connected train station (complete with shinkansen straight to Tokyo) without the crowds and stress of a big city. But at the same time, I get a taste of the Japanese countryside - people are friendly and welcoming, my school is amongst farms and rice fields, and I can easily visit small-town festivals. What's more, I'm only an easy 40 minute train ride from one of Japan's most famous shrines, and places of stunning natural beauty: I'm talking about Nikko.

If you've done some research about things to do in Japan, you've probably come across Nikko. It's highly recommended in guide books and websites, including japan-guide.com, where it's ranked the 11th best place to visit in Japan.The most popular attraction in Nikko is Toshogu Shrine, where you can see many intricately carved and decorated buildings built in honour of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Japan's infamous historical shoguns, whose ashes are held at the shrine. I've visited Toshogu Shrine more times that I can remember, and I can fully vouch for it as a beautiful and interesting experience in Japan. However, I recently visited another part of Nikko which I think is just as worthy a visit, which I'd like to share with you!

A hike in Nikko! Photo by the wonderful Dale of Dale Baby Tours.
I went with a group of friends to see the beautiful autumn colours of the trees in Nikko. The peak time for autumn leaf-viewing can be tracked across Japan via weather reports, much like how the blooming of cherry blossoms across the country is monitored in spring. This year, the leaves in Nikko changed colour in late October. We decided one of the best ways to see as many beautiful orange leaves as possible was by hiking in the Nikko National Park; specifically, the Senjogahara marshlands.

We caught the Yumoto Onsen bus from Nikko Station, and got off here, at this lake near Ryuzu Falls. 
Just the beginning of the many lovely sights we saw that day. Photo: DBT.
Looking out over Ryuzu Falls.
The trail leads you down to the bottom of the waterfall.
Although I call this a hike, it was a very easy walk, being downhill the whole way, and with most of the path covered in boardwalk, which you will see in some photos. I think it could easily be accomplished by people of all ages, and levels of fitness.

There are also chances to go off the trail...
Especially for good photo opportunities! Thanks again, Dale Baby Tours.



Just don't go too far off trail.




Senjogahara is a popular area for walking, especially around Autumn, but our group was still largely by ourselves along the walk. The biggest groups we saw were of elderly people sitting down to eat lunch about halfway along the trail. We were never crowded whilst walking.



The boardwalk through the marshlands was very well maintained.
Back in the town of Nikko, the streets were covered in fallen leaves.

While we were in a long line for the bus home, a wild monkey scampered out of the bushes nearby. One of the staff members from the bus company came out from an office with a big stick, ran over to the money, and banged the stick loudly on the ground, and metal railings to scare the money away. It was quite funny to watch, but very effective! The monkey was soon gone. These kinds of signs and scenes can be amusing, but please make sure to follow their advice. The monkeys in Nikko can be vicious, and friends of mine have been chased and even scratched by them while exploring the area. 

Just like on my tour of Mashiko, I took some short footage of our walk that day, and made a video of it. Watch some clips from our day here!



If you come to Japan, a trip to Nikko is well worth it. If you have time, go beyond the usual sightseeing spots like Toshogu Shrine, and try a relaxing hike like this one!

- Annabelle.

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I've been a high school English language teacher on the JET Programme since August 2013. Read about my experiences, advice on being accepted into the JET Programme, and travel tips around Japan on my blog:
 
 
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