Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nikko (Really Itaga)

My vacation was awesome! One of the places I went was Itaga, which is quite close to Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture. One of my friends has a hostel he recently opened so I went up for a lovely weekend.

The trains to get to Nikko from Tokyo suck. A lot. At least the one I took was no good. It took the JR Utsunomiya and JR Nikko lines. I guess if you take the Tobu lines it's better but I was able to cheat the trains without any trouble and the whole fare was a staggering 290 yen (as compared to the cheapest fare, 4420). I don't normally recommend cheating the trains but in this case it took me about six hours to do a 2.5 hour (including travel to/from the stations) trip. There were heavy rains due to a typhoon that hi Okinawa and spiraled some rains our way. The trains were crowded, late and generally miserable. It sucked. On the plus side, because of this I didn't feel bad cheating on my train fare. My already light pocketbook (from moving) thanked me.

In any case it was beautiful up there. In my mind it was a lot like Michigan all over again. Lots of pretty scenery and lots of mosquitoes! I got no fewer than 30 bites over the few days I was there. It was worth it though. Check out the view from my bedroom window!

There was a nice little river nearby as well that we went swimming in. The river was quite chilly however, so we also took time to follow a rivulet up the side of the mountain. Mountain climbing in your swimsuit is awesome, haha. My camera isn't waterproof so I didn't take it with me. Sorry.

Most of the time we just lounged and did nothing, which was good for a lazy vacation outside of Tokyo. It rained on the first day but it was mostly just a mist so it didn't prevent us from having a nice lunch at an amazing little shop next door. In retrospect I wish I'd tried the udon but the soba was also awesome (and also handmade). No idea what the broth was but it was tasty. Some mushroom, beef something. No idea. We also had some sort of grilled fish that we liked so much we had seconds. And in all it was very reasonably priced (don't say cheap in Japan; it has negative connotations).

The day after we had our lovely excursion into the wild (swimming and climbing) another typhoon must've rolled in because we had some crazy rains. The runoff from the mountains caused the river to swell so much it almost flooded over the barrier wall that kept it out of the hostel. The clear, cool crisp river became a raging, murky brown torrent that ate all the trees and most things besides. The rain also caused the trains to stop and put my return trip on indefinite hold. Although they did resume a bit later I waited a while to let the congestion clear up some. Once I was on my way it only took three hours to get home. Another example of the JR sucking again.

All told the trip was great but I'd recommend taking the Tobu Nikko line instead if you value your time. Also, if you're looking for a nice hostel during peak times that's got reasonable prices, check out the Zen Hostel. But don't go if you don't like dogs; they have two pugs named Kowboy and Dune.

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