Deep Nikko in Winter

Taking of the beauty and grandeur of nature, no place comes to mind quite like Nikko. The place offers some simply awe-inspiring views and immersion in a natural world that once covered this planet. I don’t just look at the places and events taking place there- I feel them. They make me more alive, too. Though I may have posted some of these earlier, here they are with a little more explanation of how I felt to see them. I really wish more people would learn to appreciate nature. I don’t mean just worrying about the state of the environment for people, which I consider a form of egotism (however enlightened it may be), but a concern for the planet and life on it in and of itself, valuing more than  just the human species, which are in a sense it’s custodians. I believe such thoughts are sometimes called ‘deep ecology’ and get criticised for their lofty, trans-human aims, but if you don’t aim high, your arrows are bound to fall short.

Anyway, I digress, but the point is that I don’t want these just to be pretty pictures, or to think of these places just in terms of their beauty. We should all work together to protect the Earth we live on, and a first step on this path is overcoming the cultural and linguistic barriers that have held us back from co-operating for so long. So let me take you on a little tour of Deep Nikko (‘Oku Nikko’), from the bus ride onwards, in the winter. Oku Nikko is the protected, national park area, whereas the area nearer the station is filled with cultural treasures, as well as some less dramatic natural ones. I plan on making another post about Autumn when I usually go for the gorgeous colours).

The first thing is to get the bus from the station, to or past Chuzenjiko lake. The view from the bus is magnificent and a good reason to go to Nikko in the first place. It is a steep and winding road up and over the mountains. This year, I went once by bus and once with friends by car.

View from the bus

View from the bus

Next you will find yourself at the lake itself. I would generally go straight to Kegon Falls by foot from here, or ride the bus further, as the lake itself isn’t so interesting. But in the middle of winter, the rocks near the shore were covered with amazing icicles. It was freezing cold to photograph, right by the windy lake as it was, but the sights were quite primal  Nature at it’s essence, with no filters in between. As always, it surprises me how beautifully designed everything is, even the icicles, far from being mere frozen water randomly forming, have intricate, fractal-like designs. Randomness is a human idea, not a real, existing natural phenomenon was my mantra, as I witnessed beautiful fractals emerge from the complex combination of forces.

Icicles by Chuzenjiko

Icicles by Chuzenjiko

Next, here is Kegon Falls, where the vertically-falling water makes even more intricate designs. I spent some time here by myself photographing in wonder at it all. It was like a great painting, or cathedral, or both. Of course, it also depends on how you see it. To that extent, nature is like a mirror. The waterfall itself is infamous for suicides, with one famous writer saying he wanted to escape into the infinity of the water-fields. Fortunately, guard rails and the like make this harder to do now.

Kegon Falls

Kegon Falls

Kegon viewing platform

Kegon viewing platform

Down the elevator and closer to the falls (zoomed in, though)

Down the elevator and closer to the falls (zoomed in, though)


The view from the other side of the waterfall is evocative, too and beautiful at dawn.

Nikko in Winter-7748_49_50

Next in the chain of waterfalls is Ryuzu Falls (dragon falls). In the peak of Autumn it is very beautiful, yet also interesting frozen.

Ryuzu Falls

Ryuzu Falls

Ryuzu falls (detail)

Ryuzu falls (detail)

Then comes Yutaki, which flows from a hot river that is one huge onsen, rushing downhill and into the falls. I love the rushing, roaring water here. Here is a video of it, too.

Nikko in Winter-7973_4_5

Further afield, you come to Senjogahara, paths by a marsh that are dotted with beautiful shirakaba (silver birch trees). Against the snow, their black and light grey forms seem perfect.We walked on snow-shoes over the very thick snow and could leave the path to see snowy plains.

Natural Black and White

Natural Black and White

Nikko in Winter-6512

Matsumoto-San, the camera shop owner who arranged our trip.

We also walked by a strem, the colours of reflected trees were beautiful.

Nikko in Winter-6779_80_81 HDR

Zebra patterns

There is also Kotaki, a place with a farm, which is now covered completely by snow.

Kotaki Plain

Kotaki Plain

Trees in Kotaki

Trees in Kotaki

The furthest place we went is Yunoko, the lake that falls in Yutaki. Around it, ice and snow create the impression of plains. Some parts are frozen over- as this part of Nikko is at it’s highest. It was interesting to see a small oasis in the midst of this. At one point I saw three swans fly out over the ice-field, an unforgettable sight as their fast yet from a distance gradual movement showed me just how vast the place is.

Hot parts of Yunoko, steam is rising even now.

Hot parts of Yunoko, steam is rising even now.

Nikko in Winter-6825

In the colder parts, huge ice-fields are formed and the sky is hazier.

Finally, we returned to Chuzenjiko, to witness the sunset over it. A temple beside it was covered in snow.

Chuzenjiko Sunset

Chuzenjiko Sunset

Chuzenjiko Temple

Chuzenjiko Temple

Here are these and more photos in a side-show. The visual riches of Nikko are pretty endless… but as the sun went down, I was pretty happy to head for an onsen and delicious chicken steak by the lake. It’s amazing to realise how close all this is to Tokyo and I’d recommend the trip to anyone.

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  1. wow, stunning and this is so lovely, even its winter, ii found this post warm for the heart. yess, indeed, i will protect our earth on my way of course :)


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