Nikko is a small mountain town north of Tokyo, and home to a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town has grown around the nearby shrines, which are the real draw to the area. The earliest shrine was established in the 700's by monk Shōdō Shōnin, making it one of the oldest Buddhist shrines in Japan. Five of the associated structures are categorized as National Treasures of Japan.

I traveled up to Nikko by myself, to explore the area and get away from the city for couple of days. It was a really peaceful trip, and I'm glad that I took the time by myself before heading up to Niseko to join the rest of the group.

This is almost the entirety of Nikko. As you can tell, it's much smaller than Tokyo! The surrounding mountains and region were absolutely gorgeous.
Here's a closer shot from within the town itself. There were lots of little toursity shops, cafes, restaurants and more. It was the perfect size town to spend a couple of days exploring.
Here's another great shot of the town of Nikko.
I found a lovely little cafe to spend an hour, doing some reading and relaxing.
Nikko had this scenic red bridge ("guzei") going from the shrine grounds into the town.
I stayed at a traditional ryoken, which was on the grounds of the temples. While this building in particular wasn't the ryoken I stayed at, the photo turned out cool and gives the right impression!
The room that I stayed in was a traditional Japanese experience. Tatami mat flooring, and I slept on a futon laid on the ground. It wasn't the most comfortable sleep, but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless. Here's my view in the morning!
The ryoken had an onsen (common bath and hot springs) as well. Normally bringing my phone in to snag a picture would be in very poor taste. However, it was the shoulder season in Nikko and there were hardly any other tourists visiting. I had the onsen to myself!
Part of the traditional ryoken experience included Japenese garb to wear around the grounds.
The first day in Nikko, I took a trip further into the mountains to visit Lake Chūzenji. Unfortunately, the snow was falling heavily! Visibility was really poor, and all of the hiking trails were closed for the season.
Despite the snow, I still was able to see some interesting things and take some cool photos.
The pure white of the fresh fallen snow made for some really dramatic viewing.
While near the lake I grabbed lunch at a soba restaurant, which the region is known for. The owner of the shop was a funny old lady. Even though there was a language barrier, it was clear that she loved her little puppy a lot. He's the one on the far left of this photo. She had pictures of them all over the store, and this one with his group of puppy pals.
I spent the next day in Nikko exploring the temple grounds. There's not much that's significant about this photo, just a cool shot!
Another cool photo, I like the way that the sun highlights all the interesting texture combinations of stone, moss and snow.
One of the sites within the area also featured Shoyoen, a traditional Japensese garden. The garden was build around a pool containing carp. While I'm sure it's even more beautiful in the summer, I still found it a beautiful and serene place to walk around.
The entrance to the Toshogu shrine area had this cool five-story pagoda. All of the shrines in Nikko are dispersed throughout the woods, and it was quite peaceful walking about.
I couldn't visit Nikko without snagging a photo of this trio. I actually didn't know this prior to my visit, but this is the carving from which the three wise monkeys originated!
Of course, I took a ton of photos of all the shrines. And there were a lot of interesting and historically relevant ones to share. However, I didn't want to expand this particular adventure into a ton of photos. So I selected this one from the lot, as I felt it best captured the overall vibe of both the shrines in Nikko as well as the area. It's tough to wittle an entire day of history down to a single photo, but if you're interested in the area there's tons of in-depth explorations covered by other travel blogs!
The ryoken at which I stayed also served traditional Japanese meals for dinner and lunch. They were really unique, and here you can see me ready to enjoy. You can also see that the jet lag, constant travel and sleeping on thin mats has started to wear on me!
Here's an aerial shot of the meal. It was quite delicious, even if some of the items did clash with my Western taste for food. The breakfast the next morning was similar, and that was a bit harder to call delicious. While well-prepared, something about fish in the morning was hard for me to accept and enjoy.
Here's the yummy soba that I had while visiting the lake.
And a particularly interesting latte that I enjoyed in Nikko.
As with my post on Tokyo, I'll conclude with a weird food item. I spotted these at a grocery store, but regretably didn't decide to buy them. Strawberry flavored chips...