Life in Tokyo, Japan is extremely different to life anywhere else in Japan. That is one of the major things anyone traveling to Japan will experience. Taking the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nikko is, in my opinion, one of the must-do day trips from Tokyo.
Arriving at the cutest train station is the first sign you are not in Tokyo anymore. The main street makes you feel as though you have stepped back into true ancient Japan. I was lucky I was with another person while in Nikko, as I could have stayed and watched one of the locals paint dragons all day. I purchased many of these as gifts for my return home!
The World Heritage Shines & Temples of Nikko are nestled in the Nikko National Park, adding more spirituality to the place as if that were possible. Upon entry there is a beautiful zen garden where you can feed the biggest koi I have ever seen in my life. Seriously, beware not just your fingers but your whole hand! The zen garden leads you through to some gift shops where you can purchase some incredible art, or some incense scented for each of the four seasons.
Obviously there will be a lot of walking to get to each of the temples (I believe there was 8 all up) but you have no idea how much the Japanese love steps. I wholeheartedly believe there are more steps in this one small area than there are in the whole city of Brisbane. I dare anyone to prove me wrong!
Now, this is an incredibly sacred place of worship and history for the Japanese. I would never intend to take anything away from that at all, and believe me I felt the spirituality of this place as much as anyone, but in the 40 degree heat of September my equally unfit travel buddy and I decided that as beautiful as it was, 6 temples is enough for us, and we walked back into the main street to go and get something to eat. We stopped at this little noodle house that had postcards, letters and monetary notes from diners from all over the world. Everyone in the town of Nikko is so very welcoming regardless of the language barrier, and it showed.
Next stop was Kegon Falls and we loaded up on a bus to go up further into the mountains. I can safely say this was the scariest bus ride of.my.life. No exaggeration. The Japanese passengers on the bus were literally screaming around each bend and corner we took. I was 100% convinced that we were going to roll off the mountain, never to be seen again.
Once you reach the entrance to the falls you can see them from above. It was striking to me that it was relatively easy to get to – they’re pretty much right there when you get off the bus. The best view is from the bottom, which you need to take an elevator ride to get to. I have a vision burned into my brain of pictures that are hung above the doors of the elevator, the same pictures of the waterfall but each taken in different seasons. Each incredibly beautiful in their own way.
We had a little time to spare before our train back to Tokyo, and it was strangely beautiful to watch the Swan Boats be paddled around the lake as the afternoon sun descended from the sky.
I wish I had have been able to spend more time in Nikko, as there is so much to see and do. I believe it is far more than a day trip; 2 or 3 days could easily be spent here. Like pretty much everywhere in Japan, it would be like seeing the place with new eyes if you were to see it in each season. I hope I will be able to do that one day!