|Lake Chuzen-ji, Nikko National Park|
|Torri gates at Lake Chuzen-ji|
|Amanda window shopping in Nikko|
Amanda and I decided to head up there after overhearing some Americans on the train talking about a nice lodge that has an English speaking staff. We got off to a later start that we were expecting and being the "frugal" travelers we are we decided to trek it from the train station to the lodge instead of taking a taxi. From what we read online it was only supposed to be a 15 min walk, and that we could definitely handle. Amanda got the directions from the lodge staff and it seemed fairly easy. Well, an hour later, still walking uphill, and no lodge... not good! (It's already about 11pm at this point too and not too many street lights in a rural area) We kept calling the lodge and they said only a little further. Finally, one of the other staff members got on the phone and told us to back to the hotel we saw a while back and wait there, he was coming to get us. Needless to say, we were probably at least a mile or so out of the way uphill. We missed the turn at the bottom of the hill (next to the house with all the Christmas lights... too bad they were already turned off for the night).
|Kegon Falls (315ft high)|
The Nikko Lodge is a quaint and cozy family run bed and breakfast that I would recommend to anyone traveling to Nikko. It's set away from the hustle and bustle of the small city and actually is pretty easy to get to (just go during the daylight). Wild monkeys and other local wildlife are a common sight around the lodge. We enjoyed breakfast with a few other travelers (some who were actually from Chicago too!) and then set off for the day.
The first day there, we hopped on the bus headed into Nikko National Park to see the waterfalls and onsens (mineral baths). It was so beautiful up there driving through the mountains and hiking to the waterfalls. Trust me, the pictures don't do them justice!
|Yudaki Falls (my favorite)|
Alright, and about the onsen, lets just say that Amanda's and my friendship just moved to a different level! We were already warned on what to probably expect, but we still wanted to check it out. The lady at the onsen didn't speak any English and just pointed us in the right direction. So of course, we were completely clueless on all the correct customs on going in an onsen. We started undressing and walked into the bath house with a towel wrapped around us only to be greeted by two (naked) Japanese women speaking something in Japanese and motioning us to leave our towels in the locker room. ARE YOU SERIOUS! WOW! Well, let's just say it was an experience. Not really sure how else to explain it. But on a good note, my skin did feel amazingly soft after soaking in it for awhile.
|Looking out at Yumoto, a lakeside onsen town|
|Finally got to Yumoto... time to try an onsen!|
The following day we checked out all the historical shrines and temples around town. Here's a fun fact I didn't know... The saying "Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil", with the three little monkeys, actually originated from this town.
|Three Wise Monkeys (Bryan, Kristin, Amy)|
|5 story Pagoda, each story represents an element - earth, water, fire, wind, and heaven - in ascending order|
|Shinkyo Bridge spanning the Daiya River|