Bus trip up the mountain to Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji. The Tamozawa Imperial Villa. Being cold, being hot.
06.04.2013 9 °C
Nothing like a good sleep is there? I go to bed too late and we wake up early. This morning getting up early was good because it stretched out the day and we did lots without feeling pressured.
Breakfast was "interesting". We were seated at the same table as last night, there was a little bowl waiting of us each. A bowl containing salad. With shredded cabbage as the main component. There were two tiny and tantalising pieces of fruit in another bowl. Pineapple and orange, very sweet or perhaps that's due to the lack of fruit intake lately.... Next course of breakfast was miso style soup. Strangely I loved this for breakfast because I dislike sweet food before lunch. Next course (stomach now expanding), was scrambled egg, toast, hash browns and crumbed fish fillets. Heaven knows how, but I ate most of this, even after the huge dinner last night. I am normally the owner of a small appetite. It served us well to have eaten a lot because we didn't eat lunch and we were cold today.
We took the local bus/coach up the mountain this morning. There was hardly anybody on the bus. It was 8:30 Saturday morning and quite chilly, threatening rain all day long. The ride up the mountain was one of those with many hairpin turns and steep drops with magnificent views. I saw a monkey! The landscape was rather barren after the winter snows and as we ascended we saw chunks of solid ice still present in the ground. At this point Paul and I exchanged slightly worried looks.... Would our layers be enough? Why didn't I take my gloves that I'd packed? In the end it was all right because there was next to no wind and it didn't ever pour with rain. It was 9C so somewhat bracing....
At the first stop there was a cable car that crossed over a chasm so that you can get a good view of the area. It only took 7 minutes but it was too early/not open yet, and not worth the money and too cold, lots of reasons....so we gave it a miss.
We waited for the next bus. There was nobody around except a few motorcyclists and a few crazies who'd brought their dog up for a walk?! It was bleak and cold and nowhere to walk a dog.
Next stop was a little town where the lovely Lake Chuzenji is. It is a very big lake, bordered by mountains and probably popular for holidays and fishing, boating etc. Ordinarily, Paul and I would have gone for a long walk around the lake but the cold was just too much. We walked to see a tall waterfall called Kegon Falls. Very nice indeed, it fell over the backdrop of an enormous chunk of ice and the other icy lumps scattered about. The viewpoints for these falls are numerous so lots of photos were taken. The number of visitors was perfect. We didn't have to battle against crowds or coach loads.
Since the weather was unpleasant, we didn't stay long. I'm sad about that because some very nice nature walks are located here. Anyway by the time we returned to the hotel, it was still only 11am, still time to explore! After a hot drink from the vending machine, some origami attempts and a little rest in the lobby, it was time to head out again. This time to the Nikko Botanical Gardens, but they were closed. Sad. So Plan B was activated, we headed down the road to the Tamozawa Imperial Villa. What a gem! This was the holiday retreat of the Emperor Taisho and was built in 1899. It was used by three emperors and three princes until 1947. It has been extended over the years so we were able to see 3 styles of Japanese architecture in one place. Typically, the building materials are wood, metal, paper and lacquer. It's been restored and is perfect. Such an enormous building though, with 83 of the 106 rooms for support staff and chamberlains etc. it is possible to see how they lived and went about conducting business even though the rooms were empty. I was reminded so strongly of Frank Lloyd Wright's work, it's easy to see what influenced him. I would like a house designed like this. Everywhere is serene and relaxing and a place of simple beauty and clarity.
A stroll in the gardens revealed air raid shelters, stone mini pagodas, a 400 year old weeping cherry tree (not yet in bloom unfortunately), mossy rocks, baby bamboo used as ground over and the honourably titled Japanese Skunk Cabbage (an orchid like monocotyledon growing in water).
By now in need of refreshment, we had green tea and a red bean jelly "thing" in a small cafe on the grounds. The last stop on today's adventure was at a very old graveyard where the stones are so old that the inscriptions are almost gone and moss rules over everything. There were Buddhas and obelisks and upside down mushroom shapes. Those belonging to children had 2 animals holding balloons.
It is nice to be sitting here in a cosy hotel room, getting my blog done early, listening to the rain outside. Tonight we'll have another dinner here at the hotel, then some interesting packing decisions need to be made. In Japan there is a luggage forwarding service. You use it to send your bags ahead if it is difficult to carry them. We were advised to send our bags to Kyoto because the journey from Nikko to Takayama will take about 7 hours and a lot of train changes. We need only take enough for Takayama, but this means we have to forecast weather and anticipate activities...... Not looking forward to that. I guess it can't all be serene perfection.