Given the best of both worlds, nature and natural history, it’s no wonder that Nikko’s name is derived from the kanji characters for sunlight. Packed with spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites set against a backdrop that showcases the very best of the seasons (in autumn it’s like stepping into a billboard promoting travel to Japan), Nikko is a shining gem.
The red-lacquered Shinkyo Bridge spanning the Daiya River is a sight linked to the legend of Nikko’s founder, Buddhist priest Shodo Shonin. The tale recounts how the traveling priest managed to cross the fast-flowing river on the backs of two giant serpents on his way to Mount Nantai. Shrouded in myth, this sacred footbridge has been reconstructed multiple times but continues to retain its original architectural design from the 17th century. You’ll spot it on every postcard, guidebook and kitsch keyring. This is #classic Japan.
Crossing Shinkyo Bridge, there’s a small yet dynamic gorge with intriguing rock pools formed approximately 7,000 years ago. After an ancient eruption near Mt. Nantai, the Kanmangafuchi Abyss is lined with nearly 70 stone Jizo statues, the guardian of children and travelers, and stretches 100 meters along a gorgeous riverside trail. Alternatively known as Bake Jizo, or “phantom statues”, the number of figures appears to change for each person who counts them along the path.
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