Japan Series Pt.2: Leaving Nikkō with mixed feelings / by Christian Scholl

Hey guys,

welcome back to my second part of the Japan Series. Right after visiting Tokyo for a couple of days, I headed 140 km north to visit Nikkō, a city right in the mountains of the Tochigi prefecture.

I arrived in the early evening, which made it possible to catch some last sunlight by going out for a first walk. Since I already knew that Nikkō is a pretty touristy place, I just planned to stay here for a single night.

The city itself contains several historical buildings and monuments, including temples and mausoleums, all wrapped up in a national park.

Navigation in this area is pretty straightforward and most spots are reachable by walking. The first spot on my route was the famous Shinkyo bridge. It's ranked as one of Japan's finest and most famous bridges and deservedly so. Its location surrounded by forest and a wild river was very pleasing to the eye and I have to say that the overall atmosphere in Nikkō had a magical, yet almost mystical vibe to it. At least that is what I thought when walking around that evening...

Right next to the bridge you'll find several information signs leading you up the hill. I took some stairs and after around 20 minutes, I found myself in quite a big area full of temples and historical stuff. And the best thing was, there were almost no people at all. This was due to the fact that some buildings of the area are only open during a specific time of the day. Furthermore, some parts of the area are only accessible by paying an entrance fee. Actually most of the famous and nice stuff in Nikkō costs you some money and while this is not a bad thing at all, I learned that these touristy spots often are a big rip-off. Nevertheless, I was able to get a first impression and as the sun was about to set, I could also get some moody shots before leaving back to the guesthouse.

The next morning I got up super early in order to avoid eventual tourist masses, but let me tell you that already a lot of people were right at the spot when I arrived. I decided to take some more shots of the free area and when I saw the huge line of people piling up at the entrance, I decided to skip the fee-based part of the temples.

I'm just not a fan of these masses and more interested in little hidden gems. Almost every time when I visited crowded places like this one, it paid off to walk a little offside the main area, searching for something different. And this time was no slouch either. 

Walking away from the soulless, touristy hotspot for like 10 minutes brought me to this insane temple spot, which you can see above. Let me tell you that this this one totally made my day and actually I got my favourite shots from Nikkō by shooting at this place. There was not even a single person around and it was just insane how the interaction of light and shadow created such a deep mood. 

After shooting at this place, I kind of had enough from Nikkō and felt like I should rather leave early and use the time left at my next destination instead of fighting my way through the mass of people. Don't get me wrong, Asia is heavily crowded pretty much everywhere you go and I'm super fine with that. It's more a specific type of tourist which annoys me but I'll leave the description to that open for now. I still have plenty of unedited shots from this destination, so you might have a look at my portfolio once in a while.

For now it's about time to wrap things up:

I guess by the end of this post you can answer yourself why I left Nikkō with mixed feelings. I'd say it's definitely worth visiting to get an idea of Japan's traditional side. The environment is the total opposite of Tokyo, yet it's still close and easy to reach from there. You can get some decent shots at several spots around the area, but you should be aware of the fact that you might have to fight for your space with hundreds of others. In the end I was glad to see this amazing architecture, but I was also happy to leave earlier than planned. 

Thanks a lot for following along and make sure to stay tuned for part 3 on my Japan Series.