Spring in Japan : Did anyone mention cherry blossoms?

Snow-covered tree with a foggy backgorund at Kegon Falls, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
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Snow gliding off the handrails at the bridge at the snow-surrounded Chuzenji Lake, close to Nikko, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Snow-surrounded Chuzenji Lake, close to Nikko, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Snow-covered pier at Chuzenji Lake, Japan. The sign with somewhat ironic name "Sunrise Pier" is visible. Photo by Ivan Kralj
Two fishermen standing waist-deep in the snow-surrounded Chuzenji Lake, close to Nikko, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
A fisherman standing knee-deep in the snow-surrounded Chuzenji Lake, close to Nikko, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Two fishermen standing waist-deep in the snow-surrounded Chuzenji Lake, close to Nikko, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Snow-covered swan-shaped pedal boats at the shore of the Chuzenji Lake, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Snow-covered swan-shaped pedal boats at the shore of the Chuzenji Lake, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Snow-covered swan-shaped pedal boats at the shore of the Chuzenji Lake, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Snow-covered swan-shaped pedal boats at the shore of the Chuzenji Lake, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Snow-covered swan-shaped pedal boats at the shore of the Chuzenji Lake, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Snow-covered trees with a foggy backgorund at Kegon Falls, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Snow-covered tree with a foggy backgorund at Kegon Falls, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kegon Falls, Japan, hidden in the mist, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kegon Falls, Japan, hidden in the mist, photo by Ivan Kralj
Magnificent view of the Kegon Falls, Japan, in the snowy surrounding, photo by Ivan Kralj
Magnificent view of the Kegon Falls, Japan, in the snowy surrounding
Kegon Falls' water making its way through the snowy surrounding, birds eye perspective, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kegon Falls' water making its way through the snowy surrounding, birds eye perspective, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kegon Falls' water making its way through the snowy surrounding, birds eye perspective, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kegon Falls' water making its way through the snowy surrounding, birds eye perspective, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kegon Falls' water making its way through the snowy surrounding, birds eye perspective, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kegon Falls' water making its way through the snowy surrounding, birds eye perspective, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Unusual geometric shapes of the mountain rock formations surrounding the Kegon Falls, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj

In Japan, at this time of year, it’s all about hanami! Sakura-obsessed nation measures the spring through viewing the cherry blossoms, making it a sort of a national sport. Well, one where you can lay down on a blanket and enjoy a drink from your picnic basket! Spring has come to Tochigi Prefecture as well; two and a half hours drive away from Tokyo, the town of Nikko offers world heritage sites and temples, but also a possibility to relax and rewind in beautiful nature. The heart of Nikko National Park is Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls formed from its waters. When I planned the spring visit, little have I expected that the curves of the serpentine road Irohazaka, leading from Nikko to the park, will shift us back to the winter season! On April 1st, Japan was playing a joke on me!

Different kind of spring in Japan: magnificent view of the Kegon Falls, Japan, in the snowy surrounding, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kegon Falls create a real winter idyll, even at the beginning of spring in Japan
Kegon Falls – the beauty to die for

If the sight would not have been a beautiful one, and if matcha latte and a chocolate cheesecake in House Toki, the local café overlooking the lake, wouldn’t have been as delicious, I guess I would have had more understanding for the fact that the beginning of 20th century saw this area as a favorite suicide destination. It was Misao Fujimura, a 16-year old student of philosophy, who carved his farewell poem into the tree trunk before jumping down the 97 meters high Kegon Falls. Exemplifying the so-called Werther Effect, close to 200 youngsters attempted to copycat Fujimura’s mortal jump in the following decade only!

USEFUL TIP: The 50 minutes bus ride from Tobu Nikko Station to Chuzenjiko Onsen costs 1150 yen. If you take a 2-day pass at Tobu Nikko Station, you can ride unlimited number of times for 2000 yen only!

 

How immense the universe is!

How eternal history is!

I wanted to measure the immensity with this puny five-foot body.

Misao Fujimura's last verses

Considered one of Japan’s top three most beautiful falls, Kegon Waterfalls are certainly Nikko’s most important water asset (and they are not the only one!)! Nantai Mountain erupted some 15.000 years ago, dammed the river, and formed the Chuzenji Lake instead. Ojiri River spilling over the sheer cliff created the Kegon Falls.

Sacred misogyny

The mountain and the lake are still considered to be sacred. The appreciation of the area’s sacredness was so high that supposedly up until 1872 horses, cows and women were not allowed to enter! Shinto Shrine Gate before the lake is a giant reminder that this is not just a touristic place famous for its hot springs. One can smell the sulfur as soon as one exits the bus at the main station of Chuzenji Onsen, the village that got onsen even into its name! It is the place to find one’s inner peace, to connect the body and the soul at the Sea of Happiness, how Japanese call the lake.

Different kind of spring in Japan: Kegon Falls' water making its way through the snowy surrounding, birds eye perspective, Japan, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kegon Falls water making its way through the magical Winterland of Japan spring

Kegon Falls are a short walk from the bus terminal. Viewing them from the upper area is free of charge, but good luck! Thirteen cascades form such a mist that on April 1st, after the freshly fallen snow, blinding whiteness was all one could see! Luckily, since the 1930s elevators have been serving the facility, and for 550 yen one can descend 100 meters down and enjoy better views from the lower observation decks. Two shops selling local souvenirs are great places to warm up your fingers, as you will need their fully operating function to camera-capture this impressively beautiful place.

Japan spring with winter signature

I am sure the Falls are equally idyllic in any season, but there is some particular magic being offered in front of your eyes struggling with spring fogs and winter whiteness! The scenery looks like a black and white movie where only glimpses of blue water and brown rocks occasionally break otherwise completely desaturated surrounding. No cherry blossoms, no pink picnics, no la vie en rose.  Chuzenji Lake and Kegon Falls are the perfect place to contemplate in silence, far away from the big crowds. Fishermen in the shallow waters of the lake could whisper you a lecture or two on patience, and then the catch might be much larger than you could have possibly initially imagined!

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Ivan Kralj

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Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

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