Nikko National Park,
Nikko National Park is one of Japan’s most beautiful nature locales. Located 125 km from Tokyo, a trip to Nikko is an ideal one or two day excursion. Shrines, temples, and bridges scattered across the area harmonize with the beautiful scenery, which include plateaus, waterfalls, lakes, forests, and rivers.
One of Nikko’s most striking features is Toshogu, which is Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrines. One can also find the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which has been dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once here, visitors will see statues of the three wise monkeys, the Hall of the Medicine Buddha, and the ornate Yomei-mon Gate.
The area has long been a holiday destination for foreign dignitaries stationed in Tokyo. Great Britain, France, Belgium and Italy at one time had or continue to own residences on Nikko’s famous Lake Chuzenji. The British Embassy Villa and its grounds is currently a museum and park open to the public. The café on its second-floor veranda is a great place to enjoy traditional scones and afternoon tea while taking in the picturesque landscape of the lake.
Be sure to see the Cedar Avenue of Nikko, which is world-renowned. Its cedar trees were planted during the early Edo period on the sides of three different roads. With a total length of 37-kilometers, it is recognized as being the world’s longest tree lined road with approximately 12,000 existing cedars. The Cedar Avenue of Nikko is the only example in Japan that is designated by the national government as both a “special historic site” and “special natural monument”.
Lake Chuzenji can be enjoyed throughout the four seasons with its ever-changing face, full of fresh green in the spring and multicolored tints in the autumn. Chuzenji is a natural dammed lake created around 20,000 years ago following an eruption by Mount Nantai. At an altitude of 1,269m the lake is the highestlake in Japan, its beauty earning it a place on the list of the 100Landscapes of Japan. The scenery from a pleasure boat on the lake has to be seen to be believed. It has also long been a location with an international flavor where overseas diplomats visit to escape the summer heat of the cities, and its shores are dotted with the villas of foreign embassies.
The area surrounding Nikko is the sight of numerous waterfalls of which the Kegon Falls are counted as one of the three finest in Japan. The way the lake water gushes over a 97m-high precipice and its roaring sound are dynamic. The waterfall can be viewed from the observatory platform, accessible by elevator, providing a stirring sight that is highly recommended. Sometimes in winter the fall freezes, allowing views of its pristine white pillars.
No visit to Japan is complete without a visit to a sake brewery and Nikko is the home of the Watanabe Sahei Shoten (“shop”), a historic sake brewery. Established in the year 1842, Watanabe-Sahei Shoten is a sake merchant and brewery that produces its sake using the famed crystal-clear water of Nikko in the midst of the extreme winter cold that blows down from the Nikko mountains. In the belief that real sake is produced just from water and rice with no added alcohol, around 90% of their sake is produced in this manner. Brewery tours can be arranged by reservation throughout the year, providing lessons on sake and a talk about choosing which type to drink.
Katayama Shuzo is a brewery with a passion for producing the finest sake, refusing to compromise in the selection ofingredients, the rice and malt used, preparation, straining andall the brewing processes. Good sake requires the best water, of which there is plenty in Nikko. The brewery uses under- ground water that trickles from the Nikko mountains into theDaiya River, providing an aromatic and harmonious taste. Whynot try out this delicious taste for yourself with a brewery tour (Reservations required).
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