A few years ago I was in Japan for a conference, and tagged on some extra days to explore a bit more of the country together with my sister. We mostly stayed in and around Tokyo, but we took a two-day trip to Nikko, further inland. Nikko is a small town with a beautiful heritage site, with lots of temples, and a famous wood carving of the original “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys.
Close to Nikko, just a 20-minute bus ride away, is a waterfall that all the guidebooks recommended, so we had to check it out. The waterfall is further uphill, at Lake Chuzenji – a lake formed after a volcanic eruption blocked off the river thousands of years ago.
Before we got on the bus, we became a bit worried by the fog we had seen creeping onto the mountain. Hoping that it would clear eventually, and with no further days left in Nikko, we decided to risk it and journeyed to Lake Chuzenji.
The further we travelled up the mountain, the thicker the fog got.
Once we got out of the bus at the top, we walked toward the waterfall, barely seeing more than about twenty or thirty feet in front of us.
In the distance, we saw what looked like a… bear?
Coming closer, the bear stayed motionless next to a sign. It was a wooden statue.
The sign was for the Nikko Natural Science Museum, but we were aiming for the falls, so we didn’t stop at the museum.
Last week, more than two years after visiting the Lake Chuzenji area, I was looking at my photos again, and decided to look into this Natural Science Museum that the bear was trying to entice us to visit.
It’s a small museum dedicated to local nature and wildlife. Their blog has lots of photos, and you can see that they hosted a kids’ snowshoeing event last week. The winter scenery at Nikko National Park is gorgeous – much better than my foggy view was.
Their facebook page shows that earlier this month the museum staff were at an outreach event at Tokyo Skytree, teaching city kids about nature. They also had an insect exhibition last summer, with what looks like an adorable bouncy castle. Oh sure, THEN it was sunny! But now I can finally see what the area looks like.
And the waterfall? We never saw it. We came close enough that we heard it very loudly, but the vision was so bad that all we saw was this:
After photographing some signs that were hilarious in foggy context, we wandered around the area for another hour or so, taking lots of foggy photos of the lake. We should have gone to the Natural Science Museum!
(No, but really, some of the photos turned out amazing, thanks to the fog.)