Up the mountains to Yumoto and Yunodaira Marsh and stories about bears

Rinnō-ji was in a way so over powering that we decided to spend the afternoon in the mountains.

From Nikko we drove up towards Lake Chuzenji ad then on to Yumoto.
Half way between Nikko and Lake Chuzenji there is a cable car that takes you up to mountain for a wonderful view of the lake and the Kegon waterfall.

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Kegon and Lake Chuzenji, unfortunately by the time we arrived clouds and a slight fog had descended.

Kegon waterfall with its 97M drop is one of Japan’s 3 tallest waterfalls, it’s surrounded by about 12 smaller waterfalls that flow of the mountain or down cracks in the rock behind it.

After this little side trip, no monkeys to be spotted this time, we went up towards Yumoto.
Yumoto is a Onsen town (see word on the street for the word Onsen), it’s right on the edge of Lake Yunoko (lit. “hot water lake”) and in fact, at one edge of the lake you can see hot water bubbling up.

The first thing that hits you when you leave the car is the smell of sulphur or rotten eggs. If hell truly smells like this, I shall work on being a very good girl! After an hour or so of it I had a throbbing headache.
We popped into the tourist office and LO and BEHOLD! There are bears in this area! They had a few (badly stuffed bears, a couple of skins and a nice big warning poster
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As usual total latin to me, but seems that they advise to carry a bell (so bears hear you coming?) and a whistle ( so if a bear is particularly obnoxious you can try to scare it?). Well as we’re not planning any wild trips up the mountains and into the woods we don’t need either.
Famous last words.

Now I knew about moon bears, or the Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus) but did not realise that they also appear in Japan, and well on the island we’re on Honshu. This species is considered vulnerable and some scientist think it’s the ancestor of other extant bears. This species of bear is really aggressive and is known to attack without provocation, so bells and whistles make sense.
WIKI has some great info about them. Quite thrilled to be in bear country, and would be amazing if we’d see one, while safely driving our car, so no worries the Smurg ends up as some hors d’oeuvre for a Tsukinowaguma.

So off for a little wander around town. First we’re off to Onsenji, a small Buddhist temple to honor the Onsen Gods.
Apparently it also has a small public Onsen, but at the time we weren’t aware of that.
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The smell of eggs/sulphur is quite bad here and the pretty flowers and green grass are in sharp contract to the foul smell.
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The wooden structure on this picture is a semi-floating walkway over the Yunodaira Marsh. This is where most of the town’s water bubbles out of the ground.

Nikko
Top left, clockwise: school children holding a basket of eggs they boiled by lowering it into one of the water holes, the marsh with walkways and little buildings over the springs, peeking into one of the buildings, marsh on approach, tubes carrying the water to the Onsen hotels.

When we arrived here there were many school children dipping coins in teabags into the water to see how the sulphur changed the color from silver to black.

Smelling like something the cat brought home, we wandered down to Lake Yunoko. At the edge of the lake, closest to the marsh, you can see, and smell, hot water bubbling out of the ground.
It seems that all sulphur is good for plants too as the reeds and horsetails grew profusely there.

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Lake Yunoko

Back into the car, and off to Yudaki waterfall
CIMG0453Absolutely gorgeous, and very very loud. Smurg thought it was amazing and tried a couple of times to jump into the water (her love of water and swimming are notorious)

The area around it is thick shrubs, trees and a whole lot of nothing
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The Smurg and daddy walked down a couple of stairs, looked at a fisherman, and while I turn my back to take a picture they go “poof”.
Wait a few minutes, wait a couple more, call out, call again, check around car, cafe, other side of loop path and guess what? No Smurg, no daddy, no reply.
So what do you do? You recall bear poster, recall no bells and whistles and ….PANIC!

When they finally appeared out of nowhere, while I had no voice and pictures of the 2 people I love chased and eaten by a black bear, I could have hugged Smurg and killed him.

We drove back down to Nikko, had some dinner and jumped into the Onsen at our hotel.

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