Nikko is very famous for its red autumn leaves and abundance of temples.
And it was discussed in my Japanese text book when I studied Japanese that one term last year!
So that meant I had to go. Unfortunately I was a bit early for the red autumn leaves. They really only appear in late October, I think. But never mind, I still found a few.
And temples I definitely found a lot of!
They even have one painted onto a building.
Nikko also has a very famous and photogenic bridge.
And a long row of stone Jizo statues with crocheted red caps and bibs. I read up on why people dress up these stone statues and apparently taking care of them gives Buddhists brownie points for the afterlife. Often local women will hand-make the clothes for the Jizos.
I stayed in a really nice traditional Japanese guesthouse called Turtle Inn with an onsen (hot spring bath). Nice! My room looked like this.
And they gave me this origami thank you note. So sweet!
However, the first night I was the only guest and the second night there was only one other couple. That was it! The whole town was absolutely dead after the tourist buses left in the late afternoon. It was a bit eerie just being there by myself.
I had dinner in a noodle restaurant which the lady in my guesthouse recommended. Again I was the only guest! The restaurant owner was a little old Japanese lady, who spoke English and seemed a mix of very hospitable and completely fascinated by my strangeness. She was really sweet and actually quite funny. She sat me at the same table that apparently the Japanese prince had sat at when he came to Nikko (nice one!) and recommended a dish which I of course ordered (the prince had eaten that same dish). It was cold soba (buckwheat noodles) and yuba (soy milk skin). Yuba is the specialty of Nikko.
When it was ready, she set it in front of me, took a pair of wooden disposable chopsticks out of the box on the table, broke them up for me and showed me how to eat it! I then eagerly started to eat to show how well I was able to eat and how much I appreciated the food and she was still sooooo close to me and looking at me full of anticipation. It was so funny but also so weird. Sitting alone in this restaurant (one of those where you sit on the floor and I don’t know what to do with my legs) and this tiny old lady following my every move while I’m trying to please her by bowing a lot and praising her food. Luckily she let off after a few minutes when I guess she was satisfied that I would manage eating alone.
And I have to say the food was absolutely delicious!
Unfortunately I didn’t have my wits about me and didn’t take a single photo of my experience. Looking back I think that the lady probably would have appreciated a photo of us together maybe. That way I could have shown even greater appreciation for her restaurant! Oh well, too late now.
If you’re ever in Nikko, go to that noodle restaurant (ask the Turtle Inn owner which one) and take some photos.
Anyway, I did take photos of my lunch experience which was very different! A nice cafe type place with tables that I can put my legs under and there were even other customers! (Not many though). The food was equally delicious. It was a baked squid ink curry with cheese and vegetables on top. Really tasty! And very filling. The lunch set menu included a coffee as well.
I had two nights in Nikko but the second night I didn’t go back to that noodle restaurant. I did feel sorry for the old lady and her lack of customers but I wasn’t really in the mood for another dinner feeling like a monkey in a zoo.
After exploring Nikko on the first day, I went to a beautiful mountain lake the next day.