Sightseeing in Tochigi-ken: bright views (観光)

September 7, 2011

The kanji for sightseeing — 観光, かんこう (kankō) — quite literally means “look” + “light”, appropriate after a visit to Nikkō — 日光 — “sun” + “light”.

After visiting the Nikko Shrine, we continued up the hill in the Uchida family’s Subaru up a windy mountain road along the slopes of Nantai-san, famous for its numerous turns and fantastic views.

We drove around the shores of Lake Chūzenji (altitude of ~1,200 meters) where you can rent swan boats! This lake formed 20,000 years ago when nearby Nantai-san erupted basalt in the path of a river. When Nantai-san was first discovered in the 700s by a Shinto priest it was declared sacred and closed to horses, cows, and women until 1872.

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We sat down for lunch at the Kotoku Corral, a building that would feel more at home in Wyoming or Montana than rural Tochigi-ken.

Wonderful oishi (tasty) life!

We ate beef and pork grilled on hot plates at each table. Amazing. A blog in Japanese has more pictures of the Corral’s exterior.

Outside of the Corral were the first livestock I’d seen in Japan, and I’d taken the train to quite a few prefectures by this point. Somewhere in the distance you can see cows in the field.

The forest and entire climate up here was warm and dry in the summer, akin to Lake Tahoe, but I bet this entire area gets snowed in during winter. The alpine meadows were a gorgeous respite from the sticky swampy feeling of Tokyo. I didn’t want to leave.

The Uchida family posed for photos in the nearby forest.

We continued back down the winding road past Nantai-san.

Jupiter coach!

Some sort of warning.

Radio Berry (their radio spectrum is larger than that in the US).

Continuing up a quiet winding road we came to an overlook with spectacular views of Lake Chūzenji and Nantai-san.

Mitsugu and Kikue posed for portraits.

I loved the higher elevations of Tochigi-ken; the clear air and the dense trees were a joy to behold and unlike anything I’d seen in the southern and central prefectures of Japan.

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