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Gemma's World Teaching Journal My pictures and comments from my teaching experiences abroad.


JAPAN | Tuesday, 10 November 2009 | Views [824]

This was a place that all my students had recommended I visit and I'd been wowed by tales (and photos) of the stunning red and gold autumn leaves there.  So despite not having much cash, we decided to head out to Nikko for a day trip on our first long weekend in Japan.

The journey  there is quite a long one and as we got closer to Nikko we noticed the weather getting worse and worse.  By the time we got there it was raining heavily and was bitterly cold.  "Nevermind" we thought "we can still enjoy the scenery - we're not afraid of a bit of cold and rain..."  So we got the bus up to Chuzenji-ko lake where there were meant to be some beautiful waterfalls and a lake surrounded by those brightly coloured leaves.

The bus ride up there should've been pretty spectacular in itself but the windows steamed up so much that we couldn't see a thing on the way up there, despite glimpsing some rather pretty colours through little peepholes we rubbed in the steam.  It was even colder up by the lake and I had to stop off in a souvenir shop and buy some gloves.  We headed to the waterfall but it was such a misty day that we couldn't actually see the falls from the viewing platform!

We stopped to shovel down some of our packed lunch, but didn't want to stay sitting down for long because of the cold.  We walked to the lake but it was the same story - couldn't see the trees behing the lake because it was so misty!  There were some beautiful trees up close to us by the lake and they gave us an idea of just how stunning it would be if you could see the lake in its full glory.  Sadly it just wasn't to be that day!

We decided to take the bus even further up the mountain to Yumoto-onsen.  We went past a lake on the way with a kind of baordwalk around it which would've made a great place for a day walk in nicer weather.  By this point we had decide that we woulod come back to Nikko another time.  Yumoto-onsen was cold and there were very few people around.  No-one else was perhaps foolish enough to go up there on such a miserable day!

We intended to walk around and find a hot spring and maybe walk through the field where the source of the hot spring was.  The place smelt sulphurous which was a good sign!  We walked to a buddhist temple which had its own onsen (hot spring) and were just debating whether to go in or not when it started to hail.  It kind of made the decision for us.

We went in, arranged to use the onsen and I went to the women's area and Ed headed to the men's.  I stripped down naked, covering myself with the tiny modesty towel the lady had given me and went into the onsen room.  It was really small and there were two other women in the bath.  I washed and then walked bravely to the bath and dipped a toe in.  It was so incredibly hot I almost squealed!

I noticed that the other women spent more time out of the bath than in i so I kind of followed their lead.  I sat with just my legs in for a good few minutes before lowering my whole body into the hot hot water.  I may have gone in a different colour to the other two women but we all came out the same colour - red!!!  I spent a few minutes in and then came out and sat on the edge of the bath and stared contemplatively at the water as I had seen the other women do.  Once the heat started to subside from my legs, I braved another dip, and another and another.  It was nice but in a slightly torturous way.

Eventually the ther women left and one of them told me to add some cold water if I was finding it too much.  I didn't stay in there long after they left, but it was nice to have the place to myself for a while.

Afterwards the temple lady gave me some tea while I waited for Ed, and we went back out into the cold.  I don't think the redness wet down in my legs for quite some time.  We just made it onto the bus back down to Nikko and it was starting to get dark by this point.

Back down in Nikko it was still raining hard.  That night there was a special "light up Nikko" festival where they lit up all the shrines and temples and had guided  tours around them for free.  I really wanted to stay but we had over an hour to kill until it all started and it was cold, dark and rainyb and we couldn't think of what to do for an hour without spending loads of money going to a restaurant.

So sadly, we didn't stay and headed bacck to the station instead and took the long ride back to Tokyo.

I think we'll be heading back to Nikko in the future to go hiking, see the shrines and maybe even go snowboarding, but we'll be checking the weather first!


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