You could say Tochigi is my playground. I just love the place. Take a long slow train over to Tobu-Nikko station and there are many options. Most tourists would spend the whole day at the temple complex, Toshogu, Rinnoji and of course, snap photos of the stable with 3 monkeys. But the hidden gem of Nikko is the many hiking opportunities like Chuzenji to the northwest and Kirifuri area to the northeast.I’ve been to Senjogahara and Kirifuri before, and the links are embedded in the two names in this sentence.
Senjogahara is in the northwest just further up from Chuzenji. Chuzenji is, of course, synonymous with a waterfall, not just a normal waterfall, but one that drops hundreds of meters. The lake that feeds the waterfall, Chuzenji lake, is relatively large, and on a plateau in the highlands. On a summer day, there are anglers spaced evenly along its banks. I don’t have proof, but it does look like you need to have permit to fish there and you are probably assigned slots. They do look spaced out a little too evenly to be random!
According to all the information I have, after all, I ‘ve been here twice already, Chuzenji lake used to be a lot larger than what we have today. At one end, where the Yukawa river joins the lake, the dried lake bed makes up Senjogahara plateau. It is basically marshland today, with a habitat of its own and generally wet ground. The good thing about the place is that the air is fresh, and there is a long plank walkway for hikers.
Going up towards Yumoto Hot Springs, you will enter a forest area before reaching Yutaki waterfall. Along the way, especially in the forested area, there will normally be fly fishermen (permits required again) along the Yukawa river. This is normally a nice area for plants and insect macros. People walk around with bells attached to their bag, and I was told that this was for scaring away bears. I have never seen one in the two times I have been here.
All in all, this is a nice place to spend the day out of Tokyo. Take the train from Asakusa early in the morning, the slow train takes about three hours to get there, and best thing to do is to take the second train out (first is an express that cost more) at 6:30 in the morning and sleep there. When arriving at Tobu-Nikko station, jump on a bus that goes to Yumoto Springs and get off almost an hour later at Yudaki-iriguchi station and walk down towards Akanuma. Walking slow to enjoy the sights and nature, it should take 4-5 hours to get there. Then take the bus back towards Chuzenji and stop at the midway station to enjoy sights of the waterfall. Then back to Tobu-Nikko station and back to Tokyo and you’ll be really tired, and end the day with a nice bowl of soba!
Enjoy the photos. I’m sure I will be back to Senjogahara again in the future. I have heard that the marshes are starting to dry up. Next trip will hopefully be during winter.
Gears: All pictures in this post shot with a Leica M6 Classic with Leica’s excellent Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH and with Kodak’s new Ektar 100 film. Scans are a little cool, and I blame my lack of calibration with vuescan before really scanning it.
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