One of the reasons for booking an out of the way hostel was the idea of spending more time lounging than moving. In fact, I’ll confess; I had no idea Nikko had so much to offer, and had assumed I’d be seeing a lot of the surroundings of Zen Hostel, and with a river, small beach, outside area (to be turned into a bar, given time and money) and indoor common room, that would have been lovely.
But it turned out that my ¥4400 ‘All Nikko pass’ gives you free bus travel for the good reason that buses are very useful in taking you up the mountain to explore, and fantastically expensive (a two day pass will cost you ¥3000, just under £20, and save money on just a couple of trips a day). There is just so much to see, with the world heritage site only a small part of it really, though that is probably the place you’d go if on a day trip. It is obviously a tourist destination in that prices are a bit higher – think ¥950 for a meal that might be ¥800 in Tokyo – but much of it is pretty quiet, once you’re up in the hills.
Today I’d thought I’d go for a long run then lounge, but Scout had no one else booking in, so was going to drop the others and then tour around, and therefore not be able to drop me at the station for the half five, or any other, train. He decided, in fact, to take us up the mountain for some bear spotting away to the west of Ryuzu falls, where I had started the day before, dropping Sandy at the WHS first, then taking a slightly confused but rolling with it Julia, Aussie dan and me up to the falls to start walking.
Little aside for any runners. I am sat, at 10 in the evening, by the river eating, drinking some weird grape ‘sangaria’ and reading. The path behind me is sand over concrete, or something similar. Lots of runners have come past. None at any great speed but all scuffing a little – looking at them, I see they have scuffed because they have *all* been shuffly forefoot strikers. Adharanand Finn is making his next project (after ‘Running With the Kenyans’) Japanese running, I’m curious to see what he finds.
We started on the same route I’d taken yesterday, the red one on the map below, then headed west, into bear country. Dan got right into it once we were off a road section and Julia had split to walk to the springs for her fill of rotting egg smell, dropping to the ground, soundlessly checking for bear, peering at the marks on the ground and divining that the bear had been heading down the hill. Scout’s map didn’t have one trail on it, and we took it in preference to the road, ending up on a roller coaster ride (slowest ever), up and down and round. I was starting to run out of time, in that the estimated times put on the map suggested I would now make it to the bus stop at four. I suspected I’d beat the suggested time, but not if I hung around and did another section with the trackers, so said goodbye and hustled, my route now taking me along the north edge of chuzenji lake before heading back to Ryuzu falls. I was there just after three, in fact, time to bump into the second large school group of the day, who had a lovely time with the more confident yelling out “hello!” and then laughing when they got a reply. Fabulous. Bus down, dinner in Nikko square and then the train back to Tokyo, arriving at 8. Nikko, and the pass to make best use of my time there, fell into my lap, lovely bit of serendipity. Tokyo was still warm where Nikko was cool – I was out of clothes so in a long sleeves Bam top all day, but only hot when the sun came out and glad of it at 4.00. Tokyo at 8 is still mid 20s.
Reading: Two for the Dough, Janet Evanovich.