Apr 1 – 3 Nikko Station Hotel Classic
I booked my hotel rooms through Booking.com most of the time since I liked that I can book without making any downpayment and have the flexibility to cancel whenever my plan changes. I chose Nikko Station Hotel since they are close to the train station, within walking distance from both the JR as well as Tobu Train stations. So whichever train you decide to travel to Nikko with, it is very convenient. The place looks exactly as the pictures posted.
I’ve booked the Western Twin room and got a good size 25sqm room though the smallest size for this room type is 18sqm. The rooms looks pretty new and seems to be have been recently renovated.
There is outdoor natural onsen in the hotel which Alan tried but I didn’t since I haven’t got the guts to do it yet. Alan’s been hooked to onsen bath ever since.
Try and book the package with the breakfast included, I didn’t and couldn’t find a place to eat breakfast around town the following day, the buffet breakfast has a good spread and is pretty decent. In general, the staff are also friendly though they speak limited English, it is not really that difficult to communicate with. The price is not cheap considering its a small hotel but because it was the weekend and its springtime peak season, it was still acceptable because of its fantastic location. Price I paid S$250 a night per room without breakfast.
I came to Nikko on my first ever trip to Japan back in early ’90s but due to inexperience in planning, I missed the last bus to travel further into Nikko National Park. I have wanted to travel back here ever since that day so I made sure this time I was all prepared.
I’ve booked my train/bus passes online with Tobu railway before my flight to Japan and collected the actual tickets and passes at Asakusa station in Tokyo. I chose Tobu because of the Discount passes they offered which covered both train and buses in Nikko and Kinugawa plus one roundtrip from Asakusa/TokyoSkytree to Tobu Nikko. It is more economical than JR Shinkansen(unless of course you already have the JR pass which I don’t)
Since I have late risers in my family, I had taken a later train from Tokyo to Nikko(around 11am), its a 2hrs train ride, and requires a transfer at Shimo-imachi station. (Note: Only Kegon goes direct without the need for transfers, check out timetable here.) It was still very COLD in Nikko, so happy that the hotel is only a short walk away. Japanese hotels are quite strict with their check-in time, which is around 3pm, but we are happy just to deposit the luggage and go for our lunch.
Picture above is the Tobu-Nikko station, it is much bigger than the JR Nikko station(which is right across from our hotel). The Nikko bus-stops are right outside and there are many eateries here serving lunch (yes lunch only) we found out to our horror that they are closed for dinner on the first day. But thankfully we found a supermarket nearby(details below) and I brought our travel cooker to cook instant noodles. But frankly, I want to throw away the portable cooker now since its cooking way too slowly LoL.
After lunch, we check-in, rest a bit before heading out to explore, only we didn’t really do much. We took the Nikko bus and visited as above Shinkyo bridge (just enjoyed it from afar) they charge you if you want to take a walk on it. ^^; And a nearby small shrine which seems deserted but has a lovely cafe on it. We didn’t explore much on first day since it was cold and everyone just wants to go back to the hotel to rest and warm up. Second pic is view of mountains from the hotel room.
With our passes and bus schedules, we head out into Nikko National Park today. There are a few bus routes to choose from, my aim is for Kegon Falls so we took the bus heading towards Lake Chuzenji and Yunomoto Onsen. TIP: If you stay at the Nikko Station Hotel like me, take the bus from the 1st bus stop which is right outside JR station opposite the hotel, you should be able to get seats on the bus which you want to since it is a journey of at least 40-50 minutes depending on where you want to stop first. If you are using passes, you have to show them to the driver when you board and when you disembark.Like buses here in SG, you have to press the bell for the stop you want to alight, and you alight in the front not the back.
The bus was full by the second bus-stop which is the one outside Tobu-Nikko station. It was also very noisy ~.~ Nikko is a popular tourist area so its kind of within expectations. Before we reach our first stop, the bus had to go through the Irohazaka Winding Road~it is as said winding road, take a look at the pic below(pic credit: JapanGuide) The bus kept turning and turning for like what seems to be forever. Be prepared for those with motion sickness like me and my son, we survived thankfully without throwing up. We are so awed in finding a middle-aged man running up this winding mountain road from our bus. *CLAPS*
Our first stop is Akechidaira Ropeway station which is near the peak of this mountain. Because the bus is so crowded(most of them are stopping at the next stop), we had to slowly make our way to the front to alight. No worries that the bus will move on before you alight for once you pressed the alighting bell, the driver will wait for all alighting passengers to alight before allowing other passengers to board. So yeah we were right at the back since we board first, and a whole bus load of people have to wait for the 4 of us to alight before moving on.
Above pic shows the Akechidaira ropeway station from the cable car we took. Alan says the cable car is ancient ^^; but it delivers us safely. With the passes you are entitled to some discounts which I totally forgot and did not benefit from. Second pic is of Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji taken from the top of the cable car station look out platform. The view is amazing and this is probably the only way you can get a shot of both sights together in one frame so I highly recommend a stop here before heading straight to Lake Chuzenji.
We waited at the souvenir shop until the time is near for the next bus to arrive. The next bus we took was not as crowded and just as the way we got up, it is the same winding road down. FYI the buses travels very fast even around the turns, so hold on tight. Our next stop is Lake Chuzenji, this is where most tourists will stop to see the main sights – Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji. Even with the sun up, it is still very chilly here or rather freezing? From the stop, it is a short walk to both sights in the opposite directions. But we were hungry so we had a lunch stop at one of the restaurants near the bus station. There is a whole row of restaurants for the picking. We settled into a restaurant run by an elderly couple since she beckoned us in. It has a heater inside yay! It’s good to seat near the heater in this situation. Be prepared to wait for the food, did I mention elderly couple? The elderly man served while the elderly woman cooked but it was delicious and worth the wait!
After filling our stomachs we walked to Kegon Falls first, close up pic below, I am thankful to finally fulfill my wish(laughs) and glad that there is water flowing even in this freezing conditions. And I have to mention the middle-aged man we saw running uphill from our bus made it here!Wow I am so impressed.
Then we head over to Lake Chuzenji which isn’t as pretty since the lake is not filled up as you can see. Because of the cold, no one wants to explore any further, hence we made our way back on the bus but don’t worry, the return journey does not goes through the winding Irohazaka road anymore. Thank goodness.
There are more to Nikko than just Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji, check out Nikko-Travel.jp
Sorry I still do not have any food photos to share but I do want to share that breakfast and dinner choices may be limited in Nikko unless you eat early like 5pm for dinner. So it is a good consideration to have it included in your hotel accommodation if possible. If you are not lazy like us, you can always take the bus(good idea if you buy the pass) and travel a bit, I think we passed by restaurants and family marts on our bus route to Lake Chuzenji. For our second night dinner, we found a Izakaya restaurant but couldn’t have our dinner there because Christie was underage.(age limit:20years old). Fortunately, we found another also pub-like restaurant which is opened for us to eat.
Yummy Nikko Age Yuba Manju
These are a delight to have in such cold weather, made piping hot, its sweet and salty at the same time but tastes so good, the store is in the row of shophouses facing the Nikko bus stops. There is usually a queue but its pretty fast moving. Since I was too eager to eat it, I never took a pic, the pictures are from TripAdvisor, all credits to them.
Lion D’or Supermarket
Surprise!surprise! We were surprise to find such a huge supermarket in Nikko while wondering around. It came to our rescue when we couldn’t find any dinner places on our first night in Nikko. It’s just about 10mins walk from our hotel.
Shabonnikkoten Coin Laundry
Google map Japan has been the most useful app I used for this trip! It led me to find this coin laundry near my hotel(5mins walk) because I so desperately need to do my laundry since I only packed enough clothes for 5 days. It didn’t have the laundry detergent included but thankfully the supermarket has it, so we were able to do our laundry.
TIP: Since I didn’t want to lug my luggage back and forth, I tried Japan baggage delivery service for the first time. I repacked our bags into 2 small cabin bags for our 2 night stay at Nikko and sent 2 big luggage direct from our accommodation at Citidines Shinjuku to our next stay which is at Hakone. The staff at Citidines filled the form for me and it cost about S$30 for 2 big luggage . I would say the service was reliable and the luggage arrived safely and on time. Just make sure you also informed the hotel you are forwarding to that you are sending your luggage over, preferably a day before your arrival. Alternatively you can deposit them at coin lockers in train stations which is cheaper but you will still have to lug your luggage to the nearest train station first bearing in mind there may be stairs you have to climb.