Nikko (Sunlight) is a popular tourist destination, and it’s a National Park. There is one campsite located at Shobugahama (Iris Beach) on the Chuzenji (Mid Zen Temple?) Lake. It’s quiet, beautiful, you can enjoy canoe and fishing. The camping fee is reasonable (1,080 per person per night plus additional fees for a large tent or a tarp,) and there’s a huge covered dining area. You can deposit garbage for free, and restrooms are clean and well-maintained. A few drawbacks, though: you will have to park your car in the parking area and transport the camping gear on a two-wheel cart for several hundred meters. Capacity of the parking lot is limited (less than 100). There is no supermarket or food store in the neighborhood. The solution for this is to come on less busy days, and bring plenty of food.
I talked to a canoeist on the beach and learned a lot about canoe and kayak: the weight of his kayak(18kg), its make (metal frame and fabric), how to set it up, its speed(8km/hour), extra puddles to carry (he carries two), what to do when it gets upside down, and so forth. He said many people (often a husband and a wife) first buy a canoe for two people (to sit in tandem) but soon the duo split and buy a single canoe. I see. Freedom is more appealing than teamwork!
We camped 2 nights 3 days, and climbed a mountain SHAZAN on the second day. I had done all other big mountain summits in Nikko already (NANTAISAN, SHIRANESAN, TAROSAN, NYOHOSAN, etc.) but I had not been to the south side of the lake. It would be nice to walk on the trail along the lake, and see NANTAISAN across from the lake.
The second day, we parked our car in Utagahama parking (free of charge), and began walking at 7:10. We passed by the old British villa and old Italian villa, and followed the trail to Mujinakubo, where the trail starts to climb up to HANGETSU-TOGE (half moon pass). It was a tedious walk in the forest, and apparently the path was not much used any more. The initial plan was to climb HANGETSUSAN first, come back to the half moon pass, and go on to the opposite side to SHAZAN, but we decided to totally skip HANGETSUSAN and just climb SHAZAN.
The ridge line was covered with wet bamboo leaves, making my hiking boots wet. Mid summer might not be the right time to come here. In the spring Azalea blooms, or early summer you can see Rhododendron, in October leaves turn gorgeous red and yellow, the air is crisp and clear in cold winter. Anyway, we kept walking and arrived at the summit of SHAZAN at 11:40. Had our lunch, took some photos, walked around, and talked to the people we met on the peak.
We began to descend at 12:20 and came to Asegata Pass where we turned left and took a short downhill route and soon arrived at the beach. There was nobody there, but we saw some animal’s footprints on the sand, and it seemed like deer’s. We crossed shallow creeks 3 times before we came back to human habitat around 15:00.
Next morning, we put down a tent and drove to Yunoko (Hot Water Lake) area. Parked the car along the road (the roadside parking is free), and walked the winding trail going down. We could see Yudaki (Hot Waterfall, although the water is not hot) from above and from the side. At the basin of the waterfall I looked up, and my view was filled with the waterfall. Wow!
I hope you will discover the hidden part of Nikko, less developed, less crowded, reasonable cost, where the nature is kept almost intact.