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japanese autumn, red leaf & winter camping

Stayed now for several weeks in Tokyo –  time to get out again! I love the city, but because it’s red leaf (Koyo) time, we headed to Okutama. Most people visit Nikko or Hakone for the red leaf season, but if you are interested in combining your trip with a scenic hike, I would always recommend Okutama!
Of course you can go there by train, roughly 2 hours from Tokyo, but if you come by car, you will have nice scenic roads and more opportunities to escape the crowds.
First day, we visited Okutama lake and drove up to the mountains, for some nice views. Later on we headed back to Kawai and found a more or less remote parking area next to the river, to stay at night! And of course, due to November temperatures, it got realllllyyy cold!
Therefore, I did not have a problem to get up early: 5:30! Fast breakfast and to the cable car close to Mitake station.
Tip: get there early, otherwise the waiting queue gets long and there will be no parking space left. And it is also allowed to bring Mountain Bikes up there, so there has to be a MTB route somewhere. I will try to figure that out

First stop Mt. Mitake and the Musashi Miatke-Jinja. We followed the hiking path further to Mt Odake and because of the great weather and the cold air we caught a gorgeous view of Mt. Fuji! Was really worth the first 1,5-2hour part of the hike. Still 9km to go, to get to Okutama. And even so the Lonely Planet describes this hike as easy-moderate, calculating 4-5hours, I have to say I would judge it at least moderate. Partly steep, stony and narrow and at the end it took as 6 hours including breaks. But worth all the trouble!! Nice views, beautiful changing landscapes and a lot of red autumn leafs.

Only the traffic jam back to Tokyo was annoying….

Nikko: vom Herbst direkt in den Winter

Wieder einmal bin ich von Japan überrascht worden!
Klar, jeder erzählt einem, dass die Landschaft in Nikko toll ist und man jede Menge Tempel besuchen kann.
Aber Nikko kann noch mehr! Es lohnt sich wirklich spät im Jahr hinzugehen, um die Touristen-Massen zu meiden und selbst dann heißt es noch: früh aufstehen!

An den Tempeln und den bekannteren Wanderwegen ist ab 9:00 morgens selbst nach der “Koyo – red leafs” Saison noch jede Menge los! Wenn man aber schon um 8:00 da ist, oder sogar schon früher los wandert, hat man die schönsten Ecken Nikkos für sich.
Ich für meinen Teil habe inzwischen jede Menge Tempel & Tore in Japan gesehen und deshalb haben wir auch nur den Tōshōgū (東照宮) Tempel mit der drei-Affen Schnitzerei besucht. Das war übrigens einer der schönsten Tempel die ich bisher gesehen habe.
Statt an den Tempel Schlange zu stehen waren wir also wandern, sind vom Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) bis hoch in die Berge, wo inzwischen schon Schnee liegt (Mt. Shirane Trail).
Am nächsten Tag konnten wir dann sogar einen Teil der Route mit den Mountain Bikes fahren, über schmale Bretter-Wege und Waldpfade. Das war allerdings nur machbar, da wir um 5:45 aufgestanden sind und den Weg nur mit ein paar vereinzelten Tierfotografen teilen mussten. Ab 6:30 bevölkern die nämlich die kompletten Pfade mit ihren riesen Objektiven. Was sie da fotografieren ist mir bis heute noch nicht ganz klar …

Alles in allem ein perfektes Wochenende, auch wenn die Nächte im Camper Van mehr als nur frische waren! Nikko ist wirklich einen Besuch wert, und am besten nicht nur einen Tagestrip einplanen!

Nikko: Autumn to winter in 2 days!
Once again I was surprised by Japan!
Everyone tells you that the landscape in Nikko is great but it was even better than expected!
Go there late in the year to avoid the tourist crowds and get up early 🙂
The main sightseeing spots, and famous trails getting crowded after 9:00 am, even after the “Koyo – red leafs” season!
For my part, I have seen a lot of shrines and gates in Japan and therefore we only visited Toshogu (东 照 宫) with the carving of the three monkeys. That was actually one of the most beautiful shrines I’ve ever seen.
So instead of queuing up, we were hiking from Lake Chuzenji (中 禅寺 湖) up to the mountains, where there was already snow (Mt Shirane trail).
The next day, we did a portion of the route with our MTBs: narrow wooden paths and forest trails. However, this was only possible because we got up at 5:45 and had to share the trails with only some wildlife photographers . After 6:30 those populate the whole path with their huge camera lenses. What they are looking for? I’m still not sure!
All in all, a perfect weekend! Even if the nights in the camper van were more than just cold! Nikko is really worth a visit, and you should not only plan a one day trip!