Thursday, March 22, 2007

An "ice" day up in the mountains and a quick visit to the 'Nomiya

Yesterday morning, after picking up our cool 7-seater hatchback from Toyota Leasing in Imaichi, we headed up the winding mountain roads from Nikko leading up to Lake Chuzenji. As usual, the drive was quite scenic, as can be seen here with a view of a car climbing up Irohazaka.

On the way up, we were lucky enough to encounter a group of marauding monkeys which were doing their thing along the side of the road. Some of them came quite close to the car, no doubt checking if we had any food within arm's reach. This was the first time I'd ever seen monkeys in Nikko, despite quite a few (10?) trips up here in the last two years.

Unfortunately, our first stop of the day was a bust, with the location closed for the season. We had planned on taking a stroll through the grounds of the Italian Embassy Memorial Park to get a view of the lake but found the road covered in ice and signs saying the area was closed. Too bad... we settled for the view from a nearby parking lot instead.

I had never been up here in the Winter, since for most of the season the roads are quite treacherous. Quite nice to see the mountains capped with snow surrounding the lake.
Since our first activity was not doable, we moved on down the list and dropped by Kegon Falls, which was also quite frozen up.

With plans to have lunch at a lakeside lodge, we were again disappointed to find it closed. Seems not many people make the trek up here in the winter, as the restaurant was boarded up and a sign said it would only reopen in April. Instead, we made our way down to the lake shore for a bit before checking out the Chuzenji Lakeside Kanaya Hotel whose lunch was unfortunately quite pricey.

Sooooooo we continued on up the road, convinced that we would find something to eat in the Onsen resort town of Yumoto where we also wanted to take in a nice foot onsen after so many long days of walking. Again, the drive was in vain with the restaurant and ashiyu both boarded up. Luckily, we had spotted a place which was open on the way and we stopped in there for a quick lunch of hot soba before making our final stop at Ryuzu Falls. The small shrine at the start of the trail had this iced up water surrounded with kanji.

The falls themselves were as roaring as usual, with the added feature of... ice.... of course.

So despite our planned things not working out, we had a great trip up into the mountains, with my father and brothers experiencing such amazing mountain views for the first time ever. Tacked on with our multiple (we ended up seeing them twice more) monkey sightings and a fabulous dinner at Yama no Restaurant with my in laws and I think this was one of the best days of the trip so far. The relaxing atmosphere in Nikko was a really great way to follow up the hectic trip out West.

Today, we drove back into the city and did a bit of touring downtown to show everyone the bustling metropolis that is Utsunomiya. Stopping by the school, I couldn't help but have the group pose in front of the mega poster outside of the school. Unfortunately, my ISO was set quite high from some shots of the night before and my shots from today didn't turn out... too grainy.. Too bad, but nothing new to show off really, I HAVE been living here for almost two years after all.

It certainly is nice to be home, even if it is for only 1 night. I managed to get a good picture of the silver carving which my wife thoughtfully picked out for me. I've written many times on this blog about the "elusive" Mount Fuji and it's hide and seek game with me since I got to Japan. After finally getting a good view from the Shinkansen last week, I now have a hand-made carving of the 3776 meter behemoth to bring with me to Canada.

In other news, I've also had an iPod bestowed upon me by my parents in law, which was quite surprising. I love it so far, though I've had it working less than an hour.

Tomorrow, it's off to Tokyo for the final few days of the Lafleurs (and Lemieux) tour of Japan. More to come.


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