Sunday, October 30, 2005

Nikko... Take 2

Headed out to Nikko today to check out the leaves and we had a simply amazing day from the time I was picked up at 7AM to when I was dropped off a few minutes ago, everything pretty much fell into place, which made for a great day!

Before I delve into the intricacies (supported by photographs of course) of the day, let me digress into a quick word or 6 about crowds in Japan. One of the things which I expected to happen to me when I got out here in "crowded" Japan from the "practically unpopulated" land that is Canada is that I would feel constantly cramped, surrounded by people and unable to do anything about it. I am glad that is one of the expectations which ended up not being true. Of course, I am not living in one of the major centers (Tokyo\Kobe\Osaka) which are in fact quite busy, but life here hasn't been that cramped\crowded\etc. One of the times I do feel the most crowded however is when on any kind of excursion in Kanto (meaning, within striking distance of any Tokyo-ite with a car) to any kind of "famous" or "well-known" location. The moment you see the break lights of hundreds of cars stopped ahead of you as you try to head into the mountains early in the morning, you realize you are in fact in Japan... Today was no exception. With the Fall colours at their peak in the Chuzenjikido area of Nikko, we were greeted by the familiar line of break lights a full 22 kilometres from lake Chuzenji, and were promised a 2-3 hour climb up the mountain by a helpful toll both operator. While it didn't end up being THAT bad, only took us an hour to get up there and traffic wasn't so bad on the way back, it certainly serves as a quick reminder as to the sheer amount of people around here. Now, on with the day's events.

So after being rudely awoken for the second time this weekend at 6AM by the sound of exploding firecrackers (big ones, sound like rifle shots, no little pop pops) announcing some kind of event at Futara-san Jinja, I stumbled around for a while trying to get organized and headed out the door just in time to hop into my travel companion's vehicle. As we headed out, the day started to look like it was gonna be a beaut! After fighting a gaggle of traffic in Nikko, we attacked Nikko's famous Irohazaka Winding Road, which is essentially a series of switchback roads which take you up to Lake Chuzenji's 1.3Km altitude above sea level. Here you can see a chunk of the road taken from a rest stop along the way.

Here's a shot of yours truly, and you can see one of the 48 hairpin turns on the way up the mountains.

After winding our way (literally) up the mountain, we arrived at Lake Chuzenji, a much sunnier lake then when we were here last 4 weeks ago.

The first plan was to check out the grounds of what was until 1997 the official summer retreat of the Italian Ambasciatore to Japan, on the shores of Lake Chuzenji. As we parked, this is the view which greeted us, breathtaking.

We came at pretty much the peak time for the change of colours for this year. Most of the trees have changed, and some were bare of leaves so it was perfect timing!

On the way down to the Italian Embassy, I took this shot of this leaf overlooking the British Summer Retreat... just fiddling with the camera and focusing and such...

This is the dining room of the Italian residence... quite a nice shack!

Of course, like any lakeside retreat, the view makes the cottage... and this is a pretty damn nice view. You can spot some snow on the top of the mountain peak on the right if you look closely. Keep in mind this pic was taken at 1300M elevation, and these mountains climb up higher than that.

More view, this time from the front of the cottage along the lake.

This mammoth of a mount is Nantai-san, which rises to more than 1000 meters higher than Chuzenji to a height of 2484M over sea level.

Leaf caught in the middle of a change...

Lovely shades of red on the embassy grounds.

A last glimpse of the fantastic view of the lake, and then we headed out to Ryuzu no taki (Ryuzu Falls) for some Soba and some viewing of falling water.

These are Ryuzu Falls, essentially a river which splits in half and tumbles it's way down into a pool at the bottom.

The right side of the Falls, somewhere in there is a dragon's head...

LUNCH!!! Great big thanks goes out to Scott for his suggestion of the Ryuzu Falls Soba shop for lunch... this was great! Soba on the right and Udon on the right... topped off with some green tea, perfect for a cool Fall day and quite tasty!

After lunch, we decided to check out that foot onsen we went to last time and so we headed out past all the popular attractions and deeper into the mountains. When we arrived, we were a tad dismayed to find a tour bus had just unloaded a bunch of tourists and thus crammed up our free foot soak... decided to wait them out and headed to the side of a little lake and had some ice cream, best soft serve I've had in Japan! Funny thing, as we were sitting there talking, I kept glancing out onto the lake at some poor schmuck who was trying to manoeuvre a row boat out on the lake. Unfortunately for him, the rental obviously didn't come with an instruction booklet! He was propulsing the boat backwards, meaning the square stern of the boat was what was "slicing" into the water. To make matters worse, he was pushing the oars, instead of pulling them... and his rythm was all messed up... at least he was facing the right way! We eventually headed back out to the foot onsen and had our soak, tootsies are right happy at the moment! Driving back, got another view of Nantai-san.

We of course hit traffic again near Chuzenji but it didn't last long and only took us about 45 minutes to get down the mountain... another half hour and we were back in town. After fooling around a bit in Southern Utsuno, we headed out to dinner at Roberts and then headed on home. Great cap to a great day!

Tomorrow, hooking up with Scotto and possibly Alex and gonna have some more of the Kumamato ramen, possibly... or Indian... Oh and Thursday is a national holiday, which means this work week is comprised of two 2-day stretches... not too shabby... it's a hard life... really... stop laughing...

Also, this day was made possible by good ol' Alex-sensei who graciously accepted to work Sunday for me after I'd forgotten about the commitment and had made plans which I didn't want to break... YOU DA MAN ALEX!!!

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Blogger Schutty said...

Hey Buddy, those pics look a lot like it does here along the Mighty Madawaska in good old Calabogie. Had a lot of rain lately so our leaves are almost gone. Pulled the boat out today and brought it home. Wish fishing and hunting weren't such short seasons.........
Take care............

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Smee said...

Hey Mophone!

Once again great pics. I do however have a question about the one in the Italian place. What's with the funkey Tribal-Africa ear rings you are wearing in that picture?

Now, I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'......

Bizzare and disturbing my friend.


4:22 PM  

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