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Lake Chūzenji-ko area 中禅寺湖

Lake Chūzenji & Kegon Falls in autumn (© faula - Fotolia.com)
Lake Chūzenji & Kegon Falls in autumn

Lake Chūzenji is located in the Nikkō National Park, which sits on the prefectures of Tochigi, Gunma and Fukushima. The area is particularly scenic and popular during the kōyō (autumn leaves) season.

The lake is 161m deep and was created by an eruption of Mount Nantai (2482m), a sacred volcano which god is enshrined in Futarasan-jinja (see below). The Chūzenji Onsen is one of the most popular hotspring resorts with Tokyo residents, aside from Hakone and the Izu Peninsula.

You can walk around the lake, take boat tours or hike from the Ryūzu no taki (龍頭滝 , "Dragon Head Falls") at the north-western end of the lake to Yumoto Onsen (湯元温泉), which takes approximately 3 hours.

Watch out for the monkeys as they love to snatch anything they can from unwary tourists, like handbags, cameras or wallets. They can also be aggressive, so keep your distance and do not try to feed them or attract their attention.

Lake Chūzenji & Mount Nantai in autumn (© norikazu - Fotolia.com)
Lake Chūzenji & Mount Nantai in autumn
Chūzenji Temple and Lake Chūzenji in autumn (© SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com)
Chūzenji Temple and Lake Chūzenji in autumn

Kegon Waterfall 華厳滝

The 97m tall Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝 Kegon no taki) has been a traditional place for lovers with no prospect of marriage to commit suicide.

The waterfall is right behind the Akechidaira bus stop, one stop before Chuzenji Onsen coming from Nikkō.

An elevator (¥520 return) goes down a platform to observe the falls from its bottom.

If you prefer a panoramic view of Kegon-no-taki, there is a cablecar leading up to the Chanoki-daira plateau. It can also be accessed on foot.

Futara-san Shrine 二荒山神社

This shrine is part of the Tōshō-gu complex in Nikkō.

It was established in 782 by the Buddhist priest Shōdō Shōnin (735-817) and is dedicated to Nikkō's three sacred mounts : Nantai-san, Nyoho-san, and Tarō-san.

There are three Futara-jinja shrines. One is near Nikkō's Tōshōgu, another one shrine sits on the shore of Lake Chūzenji and the innermost shrine is at the top of Mount Nantai-san.

Kegon Waterfall, Chuzenji
Lake Chuzenji-ko
Futarasan-jinja Shrine, Chuzenji

How to get there

You can reach Chūzenji by bus from Nikkō (50 min, ¥1100). Buses leave from the Tōbu Nikkō station, or from the bus stop near the Nikkō Museum, on the main road just outside the Tōshōgu. Yumoto Onsen is another 30 min by bus from Chūzenji Onsen (¥840).

There are about 3 buses per hour. They are bound for Chūzenji Onsen or Yumoto Onsen and pass through the very scenic Irohazaka road.

If you are coming from Tokyo and planning to stay more than one day, you should consider buying the Nikkō Mini Free Pass (valid for 2 days, ¥4,940) or Nikkō-Kinugawa Free Pass (valid for 4 days, ¥5,740), which entitles you to travel from Tokyo to Nikkō (on the Nikkō Tōbu line), on all buses between Nikkō, Chuzenji, Ryuzu Falls, Yumoto Onsen, Kunigawa, Kirifuri Plateau and Lake Ikari-ko, and gives you discounts on some attraction such as the cablecar in Chūzenji and Nikkō Museum.

The pass can be purchased at any Tōbu station in Tokyo, Kanagawa or Saitama prefectures. For most tourists, the most convenient place is at Tōbu Asakusa station.

Map of attractions around Nikkō and Chūzenji

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