|Schauwecker's Japan Travel Blog|
by Stefan Schauwecker, webmaster of japan-guide.com
This blog is intended to record some of my travel activities in Japan.
2008/10/16 - Nikko
Nikko is among Japan's best known autumn color spots, remaining colorful over a period of almost two months: In the higher altitudes of Oku-Nikko ("Inner Nikko"), the 2000 meter high mountain peaks start coloring as early as late September, while Nikko's town center (600 meters above sea level) sees colors into mid November.
This year, Nikko's trees are a few days ahead of their average schedule, and the peak of the season has already descended to Lake Chuzenji and the top of the Irohazaka mountain road.
Nikko's autumn beauty comes at a price: crowds. Even on weekdays, travelers can easily lose an hour in traffic jams along the Irohazaka mountain road. Weekends are even worse. With that in mind, we accessed and left Oku-Nikko directly through the backdoor from Numata, Gunma Prefecture, thereby avoiding the Irohazaka traffic jams completely. Note, however, that no public transportation is available along this route.
We parked our car in Yumoto Onsen, took buses down to Lake Sainoko, west of Lake Chuzenji, and hiked from there via the Ryuzu Falls and the Senjogahara Plateau back up to Yumoto Onsen, covering roughly 14 kilometers on foot.
The natural beauty of Nikko National Park around Lake Sainoko and the Senjogahara Plateau is breathtaking even without the autumn leaves, but the seasonal coloring made it even better, although quite a few trees have already turned brownish or lost their foliage completely. We seemed to have missed the peak by a few days.
The trees around Ryuzu Falls, one of Japan's most photographed koyo spots, were also past their peak, but the sight was impressive, nevertheless.
From the Ryuzu Falls, we followed the hiking trail through the Senjogahara Marshlands, one of my favorite hiking courses. While many trees in the marshlands were already barren, larch trees and grasslands turned the scenery beautifully golden.
Surprisingly, the palette of autumn colors widened once again as we gained altitude towards Yumoto Onsen, where we had parked our car. Orange and red maple trees lined the 50 meter high and 25 meter wide Yudaki Waterfall as we were approaching the end of the trail.