3rd November 2019
By Georgia Payne
Determined to fit in another hike before it began snowing on the mountains, we headed to Chuzenjiko 中禅寺湖 (Lake Chuzenji), a lake near Nikko, nestled amongst the mountains, with a spectacular show of autumn leaves.
Nikko itself is easy to reach via Skinkansen (bullet train), but Lake Chuzenji is a little more difficult to reach as you have to take a bus from Nikko to the lake. We decided to rent a car instead, as it would be quicker and cheaper than taking public transport. Little did we realise that it would be so popular and it would take us a very long time to reach our destination. However, on our drive up the winding mountain, with hundreds of other people, we had a lot of time to admire our beautiful surroundings.
We arrived at the top with about 2 hours to spare before dark so we set off around the lake, pausing to admire the view of Mt. Nantai peeking between the trees. The hike was very easy as it was merely a flat track around the edge of the lake; a welcomed reprieve from steep mountain hikes.
As the lake lies at a very high altitude of 1269m above sea level it is a very pleasant temperature and much cooler than Tokyo. So much so, that the British, Italian and French embassies built summer recreation villas along the banks of the lake. The British and Italians villas have since been closed and are now open to the public in the form of a tea house and an art gallery.
The lake is a popular spot for city people to escape to and houses a village of omiyage shops (presents to give your co-workers after being away), cafes, restaurants and accomodation. Visitors can kayak and pedal boat around the lake, or take a lake cruise on the ferry.
We walked around the southern side of the lake for approximately 45 mins before turning back and finding a place for a warm dinner and hot choccie before getting back on the road to Tokyo. The spectacle of autumn leaves on the walk was incredible, with every autumn colour illustrated around the lake. With the very heavy traffic we made it back to Tokyo with 15mins to spare before the rent-a-car place closed. A very long day, but a lovely escape from the city for a while.