Lake Chuzenji or Chuzenjiko is a big lake in the mountains of Nikko. Around the lake are summer houses mostly of European embassies, cafes, and restaurants. On fine days, fishing enthusiasts enjoy catching trouts with a beautiful view of the mountains. On cold days, influx of people come to town to enjoy a hot soak in the onsens.
Spending a Day at Lake Chuzenji
With summer nearly ending, me and my husband together with some friends went for a day trip to Chuzenji. It was about 3-hour drive from our place via the expressway. Driving there reminded me of my travels to the north part of the Philippines - rice fields along the highways; tree canopies; and the fun winding roads.
From the expressway, we needed to drive along the infamous Irohazaka Winding Road to get to Chuzenji. The road got its name from the Japanese syllabary formerly referred to as "iroha." This syllabary has 48 characters which is the same number of turns a motorist needs to take in that road.
After our adventurous and dizzying drive, we made a brief stop at Akechidaira Plateau. It is a small parking lot with a panoramic view of Irohazaka and the mountain range. There is also a ropeway lift going to an observatory platform of Kegon Falls.
Walking around Lake Chuzenji
From the plateau, it was about 5 minutes drive going to the town center of Chuzenji. We parked our car near the tourist information center and decided to do our sightseeing on foot. The moment we stepped out of the car, dragonflies welcomed us. It was the first time I saw so many dragonflies flying freely since I came to Japan!
We first went to Kegon no Taki (Kegon Waterfall), the most popular falls in Nikko. We went to the upper observatory to have a good view of the waterfall from above. Visitors can also have a closer look from the lower observatory platform. This can be reached through a paid elevator ride. And because we have a number of places in our itinerary, we were sufficed to see it from above.
After Kegon, we headed to Lake Chuzenji for our short walk to the summer villas. Perhaps it was because of Obon that there are not much visitors in town. Or maybe because it was a Sunday when we were there. Despite that, we had a great time walking around and exploring the British and Italian Summer Villas.
Enjoying a Hot Soak at Yumoto-Onsen
Before we head back to Tokyo, we explored a little outside Chuzenji until we reached Yumoto-Onsen. It was very relaxing to see tall trees, mountain ranges, and the scenic lake. We also made a short stop at Ryuzu Falls on our way to Yumoto-Onsen. Ryuzu Falls or Dragon Head Falls is one of the popular spots for Koyo or autumn colors viewing. Although it is not autumn yet, the place is majestic. It is very fascinating to see how distinct the dragon head rock which was carved by the water over the years.
It was already past 4:00 pm when we reached Yumoto-Onsen. We first visited the tourist center. Inside was like a mini museum because of the array display of butterfly species and stuffed animals that live in the area. The staff recommended us possible hotels where we can walk-in for onsen. Yumoto-Onsen is a hot spring village near Lake Yunoko. There are a number of hotels and ryokans for locals and foreign tourists who wish to enjoy Nikko"s milky-white sulphur-infused water. As we walked around finding a good onsen hotel, we can smell the strong sulphur odor in the air. It smelled like rotten egg but in a good way 😉
A few minutes soaking in a hot spring soothe our tired feet after a day of exploring. And an excellent relaxation before we head back to busy Tokyo.