Nikko, Alps, Fuji and Sushi
24.07.2010 - 10.08.2010 24 °C
I apologise for the delay in writing this blog, I did actually write it on the 12 hour flight back to London from Tokyo just under a month ago!
After stomping the streets in many cities, Mike and I headed to the countryside for a spot of R&R. Heading up into the Japanese Alps to a small town called Nikko. The town is fames for its shrines and temples which are scattered among its hilly woodlands. Unfortunately the moment we decided to visit Nikko, the weather turned-persistently raining every day we were there.
The temples were absolutely stunning. After viewing so many in each country I had visited, there is a danger of suffering ‘temple fatigue’, but these were striking, it was clear to see the Chinese architectural influence. We decided to follow a path up into the mountains, where we stumbled upon yet further moss covered shrines and gardens tucked away untouched under cliff faces.
To the west of Nikko lies striking views of lakes, 97m high waterfalls and dormant cone shaped volcanoes. When we arrived at the waterfall, all we could see was a thick wall of mist. We could hear the bellowing sound of the water fall, yet could not see it; we could see the path leading up the side of the volcano yet not it. Rather than wondering around miserable, we decided to give on the sulphuric bubbling onsons a go! Having read up on my onsen etiquette, I felt ready and mentally prepared for the plunge. It took a moment to get used to the boiling temperatures, stench of eggs and mineral deposits of the water; but looking out onto the lake from open air onsen made the experience instantly relaxing. Revived and refreshed, Mike and I headed back to the invisible waterfall, luckily the mist had cleared and we were finally able to see it.
The highlight of Japan and the rural scenery definitely came a few nights later when me and mike climes the iconic Mt Fuji. After spotting the volcano from an observation tower in Tokyo, the weather conditions looked promising. We started the hike at 10.20pm from the 5th station, part way up the mountain. Climbing frantically in pitch black with the aim of reaching the summit for sunrise. We were so lucky with the weather; the night was completely clear, I spotted two shooting stars, the Milky Way and the lights of Tokyo in the distance. The path is only open one month of the year, and the ranged from clear and paved to bare rock face, at times we were scrambling up the steep mountain side or over other hikers in the rush to reach the summit as the sun started to break. Japan is a country were at 4am in the morning, in the freezing cold, halfway up the mountainside, you will still be surrounded by thousands of people, politely shuffling past in a rush.
The sunrise was beautiful, with low level cloud sat like cotton wool, the views were remarkable. The moment was made strangely magical as Buddhist monks who made the climb up alongside us started to play music and chant. It was absolutely freezing on top, so it was a life saver to see a tiny cafe at the summit serving steaming bowls of ramin (noodle soup) and hot chocolate. We needed the energy in order to survive the demanding zigzag decent down- which felt sooooo much harder than the ascent, perhaps due to the sleep deprivation and the 6 hour climb we had just completed.
The trip was topped off nicely with a visit to the Tokyo Dome baseball stadium accompanied by thousands of fanatical Japanese baseball fans to watch a match between the Tokyo Giants and Hiroshima Carps. And a final night eating, I think the best meal of my life: sushi, eel and sake in downtown Ginza (Tokyo’s equivalent of London’s West End).
Japan has been a fascinating country in which to travel, their cities are stimulating and thrilling, enabling me to view consumerist modernity in full force. A striking image when compared with the traditional culture and mentality that still exists here. I am already planning my next trip back- skiing in Hokkaido and then to northern Honshu for spring. I would also like to experience the night life a little more, something that was not accessible on my backpacker budget...hummm next time.
Its strange looking back at what I used to see and experience in the space of 24 hours, I have come back to England with a bump of reality with my days now consumed with applications and CV’s! Well a career can be a mighty fine adventure too, I’m simply in the planning stage of the trip.