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Travels: Nikko: Tochigi Prefecture, Japan


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Tobu line Train to Tobu-Nikko


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Spring Water Pool in Nikko Town

Its a scouting trip because I’m fed up with the weather. Its just too much. Cloudy and raining the whole weekend and I’m here expected to be hanging around all the time in Tokyo. Rain or no rain, I’m off to Nikko to have a look. The temples will be covered today, but what I will really scout are the wilderness and mountains this place offers. Next trip will be more specialized. However don’t think for once I’m going light!

In the backpack, a Mamiya RZ67 with 50mm lens, and 2 film backs. One loaded with Velvia 100 I don’t expect to use at all considering the weather, and a couple of Tri-X rolls. In the utility pack, Ricoh GR Digital and a Leica M2 with 35mm Summicron ASPH.


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Forest in Nikko

Train to Nikko, or shall I say, the cheapest way to get to Nikko I can find is the Tobu line to Tobu-Nikko from Asakusa Tobu line station. Cost 1320yen. Taking the 7:10 train today. The 7:30 express train cost 1400yen extra because its more ‘express’. One thing to be really sure is that your train car actually reaches Tobu-Nikko. The last few I saw has different destinations, so my guess is along the way they drop cars so only the Tobu-Nikko train actually gets there. The train is oldish, but hey, it moves. Going to take a nap… Been a chore to get to Asakusa before 7 am.


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Stream on the way to Jakko Waterfall

937hrs: And it has to happen. Just arrived at Nikko and the rain is coming down hard – for Japanese standards, that is. So hard it is probably stupid to walk anywhere in this rain. So its time for a morning katsudon and salad in a restaurant next to the station. Could be a nice weather to shoot b&w in. Although this place is not full of people today (likely because of the rain) its mostly elderly hikers at the station. Should have borrowed an umbrella on the way here! The buses plying the routes here are from the Tobu group and they look quite high class for a town bus! Too bad I have plans to take the bus today. Walk is good!


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Spring water for washing up and drinking?

1242hrs: Finished walking throught the shrine area, skipped all except a small one. Saw the pagoda. Quite a lot of tourists there. Didn’t feel right, and everything here requires some kind of entrance fee. Not for me. I’m sure this place will be preserved can I can visit it when I can’t walk sometime in the far future. Right after walked south to route 120 and followed it westwards and branched off to the right along route 194 towards Jakko waterfall. Its a good 2km uphill on the small 1 lane road, on the right is a hill, rather steep too. There are not too many houses, on the left side of the road however, are many what looks like summer houses, or holiday homes because they all look deserted. These houses overlook a small fast-flowing stream in a  valley. The road up to Jakko falls is quiet and when I was hiking it, and it was raining… Naturally since I was going light, I did not have an umbrella with me. Had my army surplus boonie on though, but I can guarantee its not waterproof. The backpack from Arcteryx was rain resistant enough, but unfortunately not the Artisan & Artist bag. It stops very light sprays but not rain. So with no one in sight, I’m holed up at a small shrine next to the falls waiting for the rain to stop so that I can shoot some velvia (light permitting) and the go back to tokyo. This place don’t even have a mobile phone coverage or even a vending machine! But it sure is peaceful here, bar the occasional sound of planes overhead.


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Jakko Waterfall in the Rain

1332hrs: Still at the shrine. No soul in sight. At least no physical person is anywhere near this place and its starting to get chilly since its up in the mountains. Just checked my bags and it looks like the Arcteryx backpack is not water resistant either. The 120 magazine for RZ67 is all wet. Its wrapped in plastic, but the little holes are letting in water. Took a couple of photos of the quiet shrine with 6×7 Tri-X. Light is challenging, and I think the rain will render the scene rather soft.


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Shrine near Jakko Waterfall in the Forest


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Timber mill on the way to Jakko Waterfall, Nikko

Waited till almost 2pm when I have to go back to the station, rain or shine, in order to catch the 4pm train back to Tokyo. Can’t wait any longer. When I got my little break in the rain, meaning its drizzling a little, I ran down to the valley floor, whipped out the RZ67 camera and took a few photos of the waterfall with 1/8s shutter speed and mirror lock up with Velvia 100 film. I dont know if its going to be sharp, but I’m using a 50mm lens so worth a try.


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Bare Trees on hillside, Nikko

Then its time to move quickly downhill towards the mainroad. Passed some nice looking forests, but the light was too low and the rain was still coming down so no photos. Everything is now wet. Should have packed a couple of plastic bags to keep the cameras in. When I reached the mainroad, cheated a little by taking the bus for 3-4 stops before getting onto the road again. When going through the city, found a little hut with fresh spring water and a sign that invites you to drink from it. Refreshing indeed. Time to rest a little and wring water off my hat and t-shirt.

Got to the train station at about 1530hrs, and bought a cheap 1320Y ticket back to Tokyo Asakusa station. Hung around the train station and had my little snack made of coated peanuts and bought a souvenir keychain (first souvenir!). Train back to Tokyo was uneventful.


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Abandoned Tennis Court

Nice trip overall. If not for the rain. I should have packed some Provia 400X film into the RZ67, I think I need to buy one one of these days and keep it handy. Especially shooting nature in Japan during this rainy season. A tripod would be nice too but I dont know if its possible at all to trek with a medium format SLR and tripod. The RZ67 was fun to use, not that difficult to use on the field, and I find that eventually I use the built in loupe to focus all the time since the side walls block the light and the image looks very clear. Only issue is that looking down all the time hurts the neck! At the end, I shot 1 roll of 35mm film and 1 roll of 120 film. The Ricoh was used only as a light meter the whole trip.


Leica M2, Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, Kodak 160NC: Steps in a Shrine

Lessons learnt: I think I need to buy a can of teflon spray and have it sprayed onto the backpack and my camera bags in general. I might be able to carry one of the weather covers from my think tank pouches too. Need to investigate that. Nikko is a nice nature trek. There are a couple of places more I would like to go to, and will involve taking the bus in the future. Senjogahara Plains is one of the choice. I’m sure my legs are going to hurt tomorrow, but all in all, enjoyed this trip. Didn’t get to see too many places in nikko, but that’s the idea: its a scouting trip and it is better to take my time and visit just a few places and suffer a little. AT least I will remember this trip for some time! Now I hope my RZ67 shots shot handheld all the time comes out sharp. Oh, another trip where I forgot my GPS so I didn’t get any coordinates at all. Then again, since I was in the forest most of the time, I doubt I’d be able to get any satellite lock on at all!


*end of post*

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