Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Oku-Nikko: Chuzenji lake, Ryuzu Waterfalls, and Akechidaira

Lake Chuzenji is a picturesque lake at the foot of Mt Nantai, the sacred volcanic mountain in Nikko. 
The lake itself was caused following the eruption of Mt Nantai, some 20000 years ago. 
Chuzenji lake area is connected to Nikko city by a famous winding road called Irohazaka Winding road. 
The name is derived from its original 48 turns of which some 30 remain currently. The road is especially beautiful during Autumn and is a popular Autumn viewing spot. Traffic is said to come to a halt during peak autumn. The Irohazaka slope for ascent and descent vary, a boon for drivers. In Mid March when we visited, the slope was still covered with snow.

Shortly before reaching Lake Chuzenji, visitors stop at Akechidaira Plateau.
 Akechidaira has a small observation platform which offers a good view of Mt Nantai , the winding Irohazaka road and a panoramic view of the valley below.
 A ropeway ride costing 710 yen for a round trip takes passengers to an observation platform which offers a good view Kegon waterfall and lake Chuzenji.

A giant red Torii marks the entrance to Chuzenji town.
A small onsen town, Chuzenji ko Onsen , is situated on Chuzenji lake’s eastern shore. Several waterfalls like Kegon Falls, Ryuzu Falls and Yudaki Falls are located close to Chuzenji lake.

Futarasan Shrine, stands towards the northern part of the lake. 
This is the second amongst the three Futarasan shrines in Nikko. The main Futarasan shrine is in Central Nikko, the second is near lake Chuzenji, while the third is situated atop Mt Nantai, accessible only to hikers. 
(Entrance fees: Free; Opening Hrs: 8:00-17:00 hrs)

Chuzenji Temple (also called Chuzenji Kannon) is located on the south eastern shore of the lake. 

The uniqueness about this temple is that the Kannon statue is carved out of a tree trunk whose roots are still below the ground. (Entrance fees: 500 yen; Opening hrs: 8:00-17:00 hrs)

Situated 1269 meters above sea level, in the picturesque and pleasant mountains, Chuzenji was once the site of many summer residences of Foreign embassy diplomats. Of these the Italian Embassy Villa which is located on the south eastern shore of the lake is the most popular. It is closed between December and March, which is why we could not visit it. (Entrance fees: 100 yen ; Opening Hrs: 9:00-17:00 hrs; Closed: December-March and on Mondays)
When we visited Chuzenji in mid March, snow covered much of the shores of the lake. Pleasure sightseeing boats operate from April to November, and these too were closed for the season.

Ryuzu waterfalls are another of the various falls in the Chuzenji lake area. 
Ryuzu waterfalls are formed close to the place where Yugawa River enters into the waters of Lake Chuzenji. 
The falls gets its name from its shape which resembles the head of a dragon. The falls are said to be exceptionally beautiful in autumn, which peaks in early October.
( Entrance fees: Free; Limited free car parking available)

Further ahead from Ryuzu, the road leads past the Senjogahara Marshlands to Yumoto Onsen area. The Senjogahara Marshlands were covered with snow when we visited.
A small lake Yunoko and the beautiful Yudaki waterfalls are located close to Yumoto Onsen. We drove upto Yudaki waterfalls, but could not view the falls as the walking trail from the parking lot to the falls was covered with slippery and icy snow.
Tourist map of Chuzenji lake and Yumoto onsen area :
 Autumn is the recommended season to visit Okunikko area. Weekends attract lots of visitors and popular tourist spots can be crowded. Autumn in the region is usually at its peak between early-mid October. 

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