Skiing in Japan
Just two hours from Tokyo, skiing in Nikko awaits
Nikko is a popular destination for Australian skiiers with its picture book scenery. Two hours from Tokyo this destination offers history and nature. There are so many divine memories you can take home and here are five to whet your appetite for snow dusted adventure.
Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival
Tucked away in the greenery behind the mountains on the northern banks of Nikko’s Lake Chūzenji, lies the small hot springs town known as Yunishigawa Onsen. The town is said to be the final settling place of a legendary clan of Samurai warriors.
Each winter, from early February to early March, the small town celebrates the Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival, where hundreds of small Kamakura (igloos) fill the streets, making this quiet mountain town come alight with candlelight. There are also activities on offer such as snow rafting and igloo making. At the festival, you can even book a private igloo equipped with a BBQ for an exclusive dinner. As Yunishigawa Onsen is known for its hot springs, the perfect way to end the day here is with a warming soak in one of the town’s many onsens.
Honke Bankyu is a traditional Japanese Ryokan established over 350-years ago in 1666. It is now run by the 25th generation of the family and offers travellers a unique place to enjoy a traditional Japanese ‘minshuku’ (guesthouse) experience. One of the Ryokan’s most notable points is the Kazura Bridge – a vine-rope bridge that connects the main building to a restaurant on the other side of the river. In winter, the place transforms into a mystical landscape with the bridge and nature juxtaposed against icefalls that form at the riverside. After dark the bridge is lit up, creating a glowing path of lights.
Standing at almost 100-metres, this waterfall is known as one of the three most beautiful in Japan and offers dramatic seasonal views all year round. In winter, the waterfall freezes over, creating a unique spectacle of ice. Visitors can see the frozen waterfall up close from the observation deck, or even take an elevator to the bottom to look up at the frozen waterfall from below.
Snow Trekking at the frozen Unryu Keikoku Ravine
Nestled between two rugged mountain peaks of Nikko is Unryu Keikoku, a narrow ravine whose name translates to the ‘Cloud Dragon Valley’. In winter, the gentle falls are transformed into an amazing sight of thousands of hanging daggers of ice with tall and thick ice pillars. The ravine can be accessed after a two hour hike (approximately 9kms) through the snowscape. However you will need to use crampons for part of the trail, so it is best to join a guided tour through the area. The best timing to see the frozen wonderland is from the end of December to early March when the temperatures are well below freezing.
Shinkyo Bridge and Toshogu Shrine
With Nikko’s long history of Buddhist and Shinto worship in Japan, it stands as home to several of Japan’s most culturally significant UNESCO World Heritage sites. These include the ancient Nikko Toshogu Shrine deep in the forest and Futarasan Shrine with its iconic Shinkyo Bridge. With the heavy snow that sets in each winter, these sites are transformed into a historical winter wonderland. The Shinkyo Bridge is particularly memorable – the elegant arc that connects the banks of the Daiya River painted with vermilion and black lacquer contrasts against the white snow.
Nikko Toshogu Shrine which was built in dedication to Japan’s most famous samurai leader, Tokugawa Ieyasu, is considered to be the grandest of the sights in Nikko. There are many ornate structures on the shrine’s grounds, including a towering five-storey pagoda, the shrine is known for its intricate and colourful carvings decorated with gold leaf that decorate its many sacred structures – which stand out vividly against the white snowfall of winter.
NIKKO PASS all area
The Tobu Railway also offers special discount passes only for foreign visitors visiting Nikko from Tokyo, which include a round trip from Asakusa in Tokyo to Nikko, as well as unlimited travel on trains and busses in the Nikko area.
About Tobu Railway/Group
The Tobu Railway Co., Ltd. is one of Japan’s largest commuter railway networks which operates in Tokyo as well as in large portions of the surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Saitama, Gunma, and Tochigi. It opened in 1899 and was the first railway in the Kanto region to adopt the use of quadruple tracks, and to this day is Kanto’s largest private railway. Tobu Railways is part of the Tobu Group, which is engaged in other transportation sectors such as bus and taxis, they also operate Department stores, Hotels, health clubs, golf courses and theme parks, as real-estate. They are the largest investor in the TOKYO SKYTREE – the tallest structure in Japan, which is the centrepiece of the large commercial development. For more information, visit: tobu.co.jp
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