Hike – Nikko Senjogahara Marsh 日光 戦場ヶ原

21 11 2009

Quick Overview

Yugawa

Yugawa

A nice and easy walk along a river from Lake Chuzenji 中禅寺湖 to Lake Yu 湯ノ湖.  There is a lot of beautiful scenery to look at along the way like waterfalls and the marsh.  It’s very popular when flowers are in season or when the leaves change in autumn.  Suitable for families, as it is mostly a walk up a gentle slope,  and there are many places to stop for a picnic lunch.  The area also has a number of other walking trails so it’s worth picking up a map (in English) at the Tourist Information Center in Tobu Nikko Station 東武日光駅.

Distance: 8km
Duration: 2 to 3 hours
Difficulty: easy
Season:  All year, however in winter the area does have snowfall.
Starting point:  Ryuzu Falls/ Ryuzu-no-taki 竜頭ノ滝 bus stop
Finishing point:  Yumoto Onsen 湯元温泉

Maps

A map of the hike  can also be viewed at GPSies

The Mapple 山と高原地図 map series number 13, which includes Nikko and it’s surrounds, can be bought on Amazon.co.jp. Note, these maps are in Japanese, but have some English and furigana.

The Hike

Ryuzu Falls

This hike follows Yugawa 湯川 to Yunoko 湯ノ湖, and is very popular and well signed.  From the Ryuzu-no-taki 竜頭ノ滝 bus stop, turn right and cross the road to get to Ryuzu Falls 竜頭ノ滝.  Here there is a small restaurant and souvenir shop from where you can take a picture of the bottom of the falls.  To the right is a small shrine.  Take the path on the left of the shrine to follow the falls to the top.  It’s not a very tall waterfall, and it should only take about 10 minutes to reach the top.

From the top of Ryuzu Falls 竜頭ノ滝, cross the road and follow the path that runs along side the river.  You will be walking in a lightly wooded area for about 10 minutes, until you reach another road.  Cross this road and stick to the path that runs along the right hand bank of the river.  There are a couple of alternative routes from here (on the left) if you want to go to Oshirogahara 小田代原.  Continuing on, you will walk for another 10 minutes until you reach another alternative path to Oshirogahara 小田代原 (over the bridge).  Follow the sign pointing to Akanuma 赤沼 for a short distance, and you will reach another sign post.

Entrance to Senjogahara

If you turn towards Yudaki 湯滝 you will enter the Senjogahara marsh 戦場ヶ原.  This portion of the walk is all board walks, and is really easy with a number of bench seats and tables along the way.  It’s also super pretty!  You’ll walk along the boardwalk for about 45 minutes until you reach a more wooded area and another sign post indicating another route to Oshirogahara 小田代原.  Keep headed towards Yudaki 湯滝 and Yumoto 湯元, and after 10 minutes there will be a sign post pointing to Kotaku Pond 光徳沼.  Again keep on to Yudaki 湯滝.

Senjogahara

From this point you are leaving Senjogahara 戦場ヶ原, but will still be following the boardwalk alongside the Yugawa river 湯川.  20 minutes along the river you will reach Odaki Falls 小滝.  From here you can take either path to Yudaki Falls 湯滝.  The path to the left is 15 minutes, and 10 minutes to the right.  At Yudaki Falls 湯滝 there is a toilet and some small shops with food.  Walk up the stairs on the right side of the falls to reach the top.  At the top of the falls is Yunoko 湯ノ湖.  You can walk around either side of Yunoko 湯ノ湖 to reach Yumoto Onsen 湯元温泉.  Both paths take 30 minutes.

Yunoko

In Yumoto Onsen 湯元温泉 the bus terminal is 3 blocks back from the lake on the largest road in town.  Just turn away from the lake at the Nikko Yumoto Resthouse 日光湯元レストハウス, and you’ll see it on the right.

To and From

As always, the following routes are just recommendations.  Please use Hyperdia or Jorudan’s Train Route Finder to find the most suitable route for you!

From Tokyo 東京 to Nikko 日光, the easiest and cheapest way is the Tobu Nikko line 東武日光線 leaving from Asakusa 浅草.  The Limited Express (reserved seating) costs 2,620 yen and takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes.  The Rapid train (no reserved seating) is a little longer, but cheaper, at 1,320 yen and 2 hours and 10 minutes.

If you are travelling on a JR pass, catching the Shinkansen to Utsunomiya 宇都宮, and then the JR Nikko line 日光線 to Nikko Station 日光駅 would be faster.

From either the JR or the Tobu Nikko Station 日光駅, catch the Tobu Bus that’s headed towards Yumoto Onsen 湯元温泉.  The hike can be started from either the Ryuzu-no-taki 竜頭ノ滝 bus stop (as described here), or from Yumoto Onsen 湯元温泉 if you want to walk down hill.    To Ryuzu-no-taki 竜頭ノ滝 it takes 70 minutes (depending on traffic) and 1,350 yen.  To Yumoto Onsen 湯元温泉 takes 90 minutes and costs 1,650 yen.

If you want to spend some time in Nikko 日光 and see the sights or do more hiking, the Tobu All Nikko Pass covers the return trip from Asakusa 浅草 and all Tobu buses in a set area.  It’s valid for 4 days and costs 4,400 yen.  See this site for more information.

Links

Tobu Railways website – information about Nikko and Kinugawa (English) http://www.tobu.co.jp/foreign/index.html

Tobu Railways train timetables (English) http://www.tobu.co.jp/foreign/timetable.html

Tobu Bus routes and schedules in Nikko (Japanese) http://www.tobu-bus.com/pc/area/nikkou.html

Nikko Tourist Association – Lots of information about Nikko and the surrounds. (English)  http://www.nikko-jp.org/english/index.html

My Flickr photo set from Senjogahara http://www.flickr.com/photos/michelelisa/sets/72157622526837139/

Map of hike on GPSies http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=hpjtrradwajkqali

Useful Kanji

Nikko 日光
Senjogahara 戦場ヶ原
Lake Chuzenji/Chuzenjiko 中禅寺湖
Yunoko/Lake Yu 湯ノ湖
Tobu Nikko Station 東武日光駅
Ryuzu Falls/Ryuzu-no-taki 竜頭ノ滝
Yumoto Onsen 湯元温泉
Yugawa (river) 湯川
Oshirogahara 小田代原
Akanuma 赤沼
Yudaki (falls) 湯滝
Kotakunuma (pond) 光徳沼
Odaki (falls) 小滝
Nikko Yumoto Resthouse 日光湯元レストハウス
Tokyo 東京
Asakusa 浅草
Utsunomiya 宇都宮





tickled pink

25 10 2009

In a way, not much has been happening lately, but on the other hand, lots has.  We’ve just finished the mid semester exams and sports day at school, and during that time I had a number of days off.  Now its the 5 week hard slog until end of semester exams and winter break.

Because I’ve had extra time off, and because the weather has been great (well, barring that late typhoon on Oct 8th), I’ve had plenty of time to go hiking.  I’ve actually gone 3 times this month, which has me at a never before achieved physical fitness level (^-^)v

Firstly I hiked from Mt Takao to Mt Jimba.  It was probably the hardest hike (barring Mt Fuji) that I have done to date.  Mainly because it was 19km.  But I survived and had a great feeling of accomplishment afterwards.  It was actually really good timing, after the typhoon, because the sky was really clear and I could see Mt Fuji, Tokyo, and even all the way to Mt Tsukuba, which is pretty rare.

Last weekend I went to Hakone for 3 days 2 nights.  While I was there I did two hikes, the first from Gora to Hakone Yumoto, and secondly a walk around Lake Ashi.  The Gora hike was pretty hard, and I have to admit that I was kinda freaked out about the possibility of seeing a bear.  The hike around Lake Ashi was a lot easier, and I actually meet with a friend I had made at the summer camp I worked at, which made the hike really pleasant.  And of course I went to onsen and had a massage, so it was also a pretty relaxing weekend.

On Friday I decided to go to Nikko for the day and walk the Senjogahara marshes.  I was a little disappointed I was too late for most of the leaves changing, but despite that, it really was a beautiful walk.  I think I might try to go again in summer next year.

I worry a little that I’m somewhat of an addictive personality.  I really seem to have caught the hiking bug, but I also know I’ll probably only be able to go once a month from now, at least in the winter months.  But I’m totally excited about using my new thermal cup when I do go hiking –

Thermal cup/mug thingyopen thermal cup

Is it possible to have a thermal bottle/mug fetish?  because I swear I have about 6 things now….  Anyhow, this one is specifically designed for hot drinks, and is really easy to use.  Its kinda sad, but I’m particularly impressed with the pouring cap –

openclose

You just push down on the red button to open the spout, and to close you push the tab on the side in!  Very smart – I like that you don’t have to touch the spout.  I tried it out on Friday, and I was also surprised at how long the water inside stayed hot.  It’s supposed to keep it at 70deg for 7 hours or so, but it lasted longer!  So now I’ll be able to take tea with me when I go hiking.  How exciting!!Azuki Flavoured Pepsi

Apart from hiking not much has been happening, however there are a few things that have tickled my fancy.

At 7-11 the other day I spotted Azuki (sweet red bean) flavoured Pepsi.  Only in Japan…

It wasn’t flavoured cola, but more like flavoured sprite.  Actually, it wasn’t bad, however it really didn’t taste much like azuki to me.  But I’ll try anything once.

I also got a delivery of bulbs the other day, in the hopes that come spring I’ll have a lovely pot of lovely flowers.  I planted them up this morning, and here’s what it looks like now –

one day, I'll grow up into beautiful potted flowers....Let’s just hope I don’t manage to kill them…  I’ll post photos when they bloom…  If they bloom…  Really, I’m good at killing plants….





The Life Conspiracy

9 10 2009

wow I fail at updating my blog!  As I mentioned before, I am working on a write up about Mt Tsukuba, but I could at least blog about whats going on too right??

Anyway.  Almost directly after my last post, my school had a group of students from New Zealand come on exchange for 12 days.  We had a lot of trouble finding host families, so I had one of their teachers stay with me (in my double shoe box), which was really good because I could also participate with them in their activities.

Each year the Kiwi trip always happens at the same time so that they can see the school’s cultural festival.  However this year things were a bit different.  The festival had been changed from 2 days to 1 day due to swine flu being everywhere in Japan at the moment.  Then, late on Thursday afternoon (Friday is a preparation day) it was announced it was totally cancelled because 4 classes in the whole school had been sent home with the flu.

Which meant that instead of 3 days of culture festival, 2 days at Nikko, and 2 days with their host families, we had a whole week off, only broken by those 2 days at Nikko.

It actually turned out to be really really fun.  On the Friday we had some problems with one of the Kiwi students (she was homesick), so we weren’t able to do much.  Beth (the teacher I was hosting) and I went for a walk at Soka, which has some historical significance in being a trade area.  And then that evening there was a big drinking party followed by karaoke.

Soka River Walk

Soka River Walk

The next day, all the adults from NZ, myself and another teacher went to Mt Mitake to do an easy hike.  Mt Mitake is a lot of fun.  We caught a cable car to the top, visited the shine, and then walked over a ridge to Mt Hinode.  Mt Hinode is great, because on a clear day you can see Tokyo in the distance.  And we could even see a little of Mt Fuji.  However, it’s not easy hiking while hungover…

On top of Mt Hinode

Mt Mitake Shrine

Sunday, the whole group of us went to Tobu Zoo, which is very close by my house.  It actually isn’t just a zoo, it also includes a small theme park, with a brilliant rollercoaster.  Suffice to say, the kids had a great time!

Monday and Tuesday was a pre-arranged trip to Nikko.  We went to Edo Wonderland, which is a village of Edo-era buildings and attractions.  I had been there before, and its okay, but it’s also something I think you could skip on a trip to Japan.  We also went to Tobu World Square, which I had wanted to go to for a long time.  It’s a park full of miniatures, with the theme ‘Travel the world in just one hour!’.  I loved it and highly recommend it!  After that we also went to Toshogu (I think it was my 5th or 6th time), which was pretty unremarkable (see my previous post).

Tower Bridge from Tobu World Square

Wednesday was mostly spent shopping, afterall, what’s a vacation without shopping? And Thursday was once again hiking!  This time we went to Kamakura, home of the biggest outside Buddha in Japan.  Our Kamakura hike was pretty easy, and included a lot of shrines and temples.  The most interesting ones were Zeniarai Benten, where you wash your money and it multiplies (and it really did work for me!), and another temple, of which it’s name escapes me, with a lovely garden.

Garden in Kamakura

Garden in Kamakura

After that it was back to school until the New Zealanders left.  But being back at school has also had its challenges.  We pretty much had to jump straight into preparing our classes for their exams, which are happening this week and next.  AND yesterday a major typhoon passed over Honshu, so school was cancelled for the day.  It was nice to sleep in, however, it did throw a bit of a spanner into the works.

And now it’s mostly back to normal.

Until something else comes up…





ACK!

10 09 2009

ACK! It’s been over a month!?! Boy you must be thinking I’m slack. But I have a good reason, really!

Um… okay….

Maybe not that great. But yeah, things have been happening to conspire against me blogging. I think summer holidays do that to me. Either I’m incredibly busy or sleeping. However, that’s all over now, and I will endeavor to stick to Goal #1. Both Goal #1s…

My school’s summer holidays are from about mid-July until September. I always have the best intentions to spend as much of my vacations travelling around. Last year I managed to go to Kyoto with a friend, travelled to Aizu Wakamatsu and Sendai for the Tanabata festival, climbed Mt Fuji, visited my family and friends in Australia, then travelled with my parents to Hakodate, Sapporo and Furano in Hokkaido. It was a very successful vacation! A number of these trips were part of my ‘Things I MUST do in Japan’ list, so I was really happy. This year I intended to do a number of things from that list too, however time and money constraints limited what I was able to achieve.

As I mentioned in my last few updates, I did go to Hakone and Nikko, but apart from that I didn’t have the chance to travel much in Japan. Some of the events I did manage to go to however included the Sumida River Fireworks and Summer Sonic.

Japan is very big on summer festivals, particularly fireworks. Sumida River is the biggest and oldest firework festival in Tokyo. The fireworks themselves go for about 90 minutes, but it is near impossible to get a good vantage point unless you reserve your spot some insane time in the morning. That being said, it’s still an experience going. Festivals are a lot of fun, with people in yukata, food stalls, and a fun atmosphere. However, I think next year I will go to my local city’s festival instead, because I actually want to see the fireworks.

In recent years, as well as summer festivals, summer music festivals have become popular in Japan. Summer Sonic, which is held in Chiba and Osaka, and Fuji Rock, in Niigata, are the two biggest. I really want to go to Fuji Rock, however this year the line up wasn’t great, and Niigata is quite a way away. So I went to one day of Summer Sonic instead (it’s a 3 day festival). Although there weren’t any acts that I was dying to see, I did enjoy Dragon Ash, Phoenix, Mercury Rev, the Silent Disco, and Nine Inch Nails(totally surprised me, but NIN were the best act of the day). Overall the day was more fun than I expected.

Apart from those couple of events, there wasn’t much else to my vacation. I did spend a day at the ‘seaside’ (or bayside to be precise). Odaiba is an island of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay. You can catch a boat from Asakusa along the Sumida River to Hinode Pier, and from there across to Odaiba a ferry. During July and August a special life sized statue of a Gundam was built to promote ‘Green’ Tokyo. I have no idea what Green Tokyo was about, but the statue was very very cool. Every once in a while it would play theme music, move its head, and steam, which was pretty cool. But what really impressed me was the details, things like the decals, and hydraulics (fake of course), which made it look like it could have just walked off its stand. Too bad they are taking it down. I think it would have been a very good tourist attraction. Anyway.

While I was in Odaiba I took the time to go to Miraikan or MeSci as it’s known in English. It’s a museum that is supposed to ‘share’ innovative science. There are a lot of interactive displays, and it’s well set out and very funky, but I was disappointed that there didn’t seem to be that much. I suppose when I think of a science museum with interactive displays I think of basic sciences. There’s not many ways you can have a display of the International Space Station and make it interactive. And driving a robot remotely just isn’t my thing. However, the one exhibit that was really cool was the internet display, designed to show kids how information is sent around the internet. Using black and white balls as bits you try to send a word to another input station, but the balls have to go along all these ramps and through big windy things. Very cool. Overall, even though I found Miraikan to be a bit dull, young kids would like it.

Oh, and I finished off my day in Odaiba by conquering my fear of heights and walking across the Rainbow Bridge. Got some great pictures of Tokyo too, check them out!

For the rest of my vacation I knew money was going to be sparse, so I took up an offer from my company to teach at an English summer camp. The camp was a lot of fun, and really wasn’t very hard work. I got to meet 3 other teachers from my company who were lovely ladies, and my group of kids was friendly and tried hard. I think the most enjoyable part of the camp was the BBQ/bonfire/ghost walk evening. We ate a heap of meat, got to light small fireworks, dance around, and freak out the kids (we were the monsters)(and yes, I am kinda sadistic).

The final part of my vacation was two weeks spent in Australia. Two weeks seems like a long time on paper, but it really flew. I visited my grandfather, aunt, uncle and cousin, and also managed to catch up with a few friends. I went shopping for clothes (I just can’t buy pants/underwear in Japan), multiple doctor/dentist appointments and ate many foods I missed. It was really wonderful to go back home, I’ve been missing it a lot lately. And believe me, it was very sad to leave. It was also very distressing to get my credit card bill (4 days of shopping, and averaging $500 a day… you do the math) but at least I have clothes now.

And now it’s September and it’s back to school. Admittedly it’s only the first week of school, but things have been slow so far. I’m expecting to get slammed next week. But I would have to say the most interesting thing about being back at school is the ‘measures’ the school is taking in regards to Swine Flu… It’s not even flu season yet!?! Regardless, if a kid comes down with a fever during class time, we have to give them a mask, send them to the teacher’s room, and then to the nurse’s office. And on top of that, the school has decided to limit the Culture Festival in a few weeks time. Now, if you’ve ever watched a school-based anime, Culture Festival is when all the kids open a maid café or make a haunted house in their classroom. People from outside the school (family/friends/complete strangers) can come and look around, etc. This year however, the school has limited the festival to one day, no food will be sold, and only families that have returned their RSVP’s can come. I can tell you now a lot of the kids will be disappointed.

But such is life in a society prone to panic.

Did I ever tell you about how natto sold out when a TV show said eating it every day was good for dieting??? Crazy group mentality….

*edit – apparently the swine flu panic isn’t over reacting, at the moment about 12 kids from the school have contracted it…. great….





visiting with the guardian of peace keeping in Japan

27 07 2009

Last weekend was a long weekend, with Monday being Marine day. So with three days off, traveling to a place like Nikko is ideal. Nikko is the home of Toshogu Shrine, the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, but also has over 1000 years of Shinto and Buddhist history, beautiful scenery, and hot springs (^-^)v

My friend Reiko and I had planned on going to Nikko for some time. Despite living most of her life in Japan, she had only been to Nikko once. And despite our best intentions, plans weren’t finalized until the day before. Nikko is seriously one of the best places to take a day trip if you are visiting Tokyo. It’s really gorgeous, and has so much natural beauty, history and culture.

If you plan to stay overnight in Nikko, it is best to chose a hotel, pension or ryokan that includes dinner. Not many restaurants are open in the evening. Previously I have stayed at the Turtle Inn, popular with foreign tourists thanks to Lonely Planet, which is a lovely place to stay, however this time Reiko found a pension for us to stay in.  We stayed at L’ESCALE, a charming French restaurant and pension in the Kirifuri Highlands.  I cannot rave enough about this place!

L’ESCALE, as i mentioned, is French themed.  Dinner is a French five course meal, including salad, soup, fish or vegetable dish, main dish, and dessert.  All meals are cooked by the owner and his staff, and it seems to be a family run operation.  The owner speaks some English, so people who don’t speak Japanese should be comfortable.  The rooms are large and comfortable, and the rates are quite reasonable, and include dinner and breakfast.  It is a hike from the station, but you can catch a taxi for less than 800yen.  And it is also within walking distance to the World Heratige site (ie, Toshogu Shrine), and the Nikko Beer factory (which made Reiko very happy).

Unfortunately we had a very late start on Saturday, and didn’t make it to Nikko until late afternoon, so we went directly to the pension and had dinner.  Sunday was a lot more active.  After leaving the pension we walked to the World Heritage site, and along the way we passed a horse riding place, the Nikko Beer factory (where we stopped for a drink), and a fishing place.

Nikko Beer

Nikko Beer

Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine

Eventually we arrived at Toshogu Shrine, and bought a multipass for 1300yen, which gave us admission into Toshogu, the tomb of Ieyasu, and Honji-do.  Toshogu Shrine is a splendid place.  It has many elaborate carving, beautiful paintings, and gold leaf everywhere!  At the time of rebuilding (originally it was much smaller) it cost billions of yen, and it really shows.

Nikkos Famous Monkeys

Nikko's Famous Monkeys

Within Toshogu one of the first things you’ll notice are the carvings.  ‘Sanzaru’ is probably the most famous carving, and in English is known as ‘Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil’.  These three monkeys are one of the first graphical representations of the phase, but on the same building you will also notice a number of other monkey carvings.  In fact all the monkeys represent all stages of life.

Some of the other carvings can be rather strange in appearance.  The artists hadn’t actually seen many of the animals in real life and had to rely on their imaginations.  Opposite the monkeys is a prime example of what an elephant *doesn’t* look like.  But many of the other animals are mythical beasts like dragons and kirin, so I guess we can forgive them.

Nikko Elephants

Nikko Elephants

When entering the tomb of Ieyasu, above head is a small carving of a sleeping cat – ‘nemuri-neko’.  This carving is also very famous with the Japanese, as a symbol of the peace that the Tokugawas bought to Japan.  And then it’s a climb of over 200 steps to get to the tomb.  It can be pretty taxing on a hot and humid day

Ieyasus Tomb

Ieyasu's Tomb

Nemuri-Neko

Nemuri-Neko

Inside the Honji-do the ceiling is painted with a large dragon.  When standing under the dragon’s head if you clap the sound will reverberate, and only in that spot due to the acoustics of the room.  Pretty smart if you ask me.

Its easy to spend most of the day at Toshogu, there is a lot to look at inside and outside the shrine.  When we finally stopped for lunch (pretty late at 3pm), we walked down to the main road to find some Yuba ryori – Tofu skin dishes.  Nikko, as well as Kyoto, is famous for Yuba.  Its kinda plain in taste, but with some soy sauce I think its a yummy and healthy dish.

By the time we finished lunch it was quite late, and in Nikko many places close at 5 or earlier, so we found our way back to the pension to relax before dinner (which was really really good!).

On Monday we went to a glass blowing factory to make our own blown glass tumblers.  I have to admit this was a lot more fun than I thought it would be.  Unfortunately it seems they only speak Japanese at Glass Studio Punty, but the staff really do most of the work in making your creation so its not so hard.  And if you aren’t in Nikko the next day they will send your creation to you by mail.

Making glass tumblers

Making glass tumblers

After overheating in front of the kilns, we made our way to the Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park.  On the grounds here are buildings that have been used by the Imperial family as a summer villa since 1899.  The actual buildings weren’t all built at the same time, and some were moved to Nikko from other places, but its very interesting to see Meiji era architecture that combines tradition with western styles.  Much of the villa is carpeted, but still very Japanese in design.  And the gardens were also very beautiful.

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Looking outside through a circular window

Looking outside through a circular window

So after spending the afternoon there we had to make our way back to Tokyo and back to ‘real life’.  It was a lovely, relaxing weekend overall!