The first time I visited Nikko, about 2.5 hours north of Tokyo in the Tochigi Prefecture, timing didn’t allow me to find and explore this Pinterest-fabled location. My first trip took me to Nikko in the winter and I saw the snow lightly fall amidst the Toshogu Shrine and the snow-capped mountains from afar. My second trip to Nikko was in the beginning of June and offered a different view of those striking mountains and more time to peruse the cozy town.
Luckily with some help from GoogleMaps we were able to find our way to the Kanmangafuchi Abyss- which was on my “Want-to-See” list the first time around but jumped up to the Number One priority after I missed it.
Nikko is a beautiful town with a main road, Rt 119, lined with restaurants and tourist shops that leads to and tees with the historic park containing the elaborate Toshogu Shrine. On the left side of this T is the iconic Shinkyo Bridge. This bridge is picturesque day or night and any season. You can actually pay to access on the bridge but you have to enter and exit the same way, as only members of the royal family are allowed to cross the bridge from one side to the other. You’ll turn left at the bridge and walk along the river for a bit in order to get towards the Abyss. Eventually you get off the main road and turn on to some well-trodden gravel paths still along the river. We passed a stone bench and table on the riverbank, which from what we could gather, belonged to one of buildings on the other side of the path and you could order a light breakfast and sit outside on the riverside to eat and enjoy! I’ll have to figure out how to take advantage of that on my next visit there!
Shortly after we crossed the river, we found the start of the row of timeworn Buddhas all lined up nice and neat opposite the riverbank. Most are adorned in the homemade knit red hats and bibs that are believed to help protect the spirits. These Buddhas line the entire path along the Abyss and it is rumored that if you count the Buddhas as you walk there and back, the number changes! (We counted and our numbers checked out, but it made for a fun activity!)
The row of Buddhas is captivating but once you realize the bright, teal, cascading river on your right – the Buddhas become a secondary point of interest. There are a few little clearings where you can make your way down to the river and enjoy by relaxing on the boulders alongside the rapids. The water is clear and crisp, the rocks are curved by the ages old flow of water. It is so peaceful and calm and beautiful.
I could have sat here for hours and hours- I wished we had brought food for a picnic or a book to lay there in the sun all day. I was happy it was our first stop of the day because we passed one other set of tourists while we were there and another couple as we were leaving. It felt like we had the whole forest to ourselves.
Residing in a “suburb” of Tokyo and frequenting Tokyo on my days off, Nikko was a lovely respite, but actually having time along this amazing “Abyss” surrounded by trees and little waterfalls and real earth and blue sky was so reenergizing in a way I didn’t quite realize I needed. Just a little bit of nature can liven up the soul!
Kanmangafuchi Abyss is actually on Google Maps so you can easily direct yourself from wherever you may be – although if you are driving, you’ll have to park somewhere near the heart of town as it’s purely walking paths- no room for cars or parking! The paths are also clearly marked with nice big (English) signs along the route.
I cannot recommend this sweet little spot enough. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!