The return to Nikko after 35 years was a bitter-sweet experience. I could see that the man was disappointed. It used to be HIS station. He was its mascot. He played here while his grandfather worked. And his grandfather was the Nikko Stationmaster.
The pond in front of the Stationmaster’s Office is no more. In its place there’s an ugly dump, hidden from view from the main street by a police box. The station itself looks like a renovated version of its older self. And its self is pretty old indeed. The whole line is pretty old. It was inaugurated in 1890 and the service has been running more or less continuously until now.
But the signs are brand-spanking new and the dragon on the ceiling in front of the entrance is a recent addition.
Most people coming to Nikko from Tokyo use the Tobu line. I can’t blame them. It’s more convenient and much cheaper than the awkward JR connection via Utsunomiya.
So unless you have a JR pass, or happen to live nearby, or got stuck overnight in Utsunomiya, or even worse – in Kanuma (ugh, I shudder at the thought), I really can’t see any reason why any foreign visitor would bother with the JR Nikko line.
This is a local line for local people.
But it seems that plenty of gaijins do indeed take it. And in the evening, the Utsunomiya bound train looks and feels more like a New York subway than a train in Japan. If you can hear less than five foreign languages being spoken at any given time, you know it was a slow tourist day.
Personally, I prefer to drive to Nikko on route 119 (aka Nikko Road). When sakura is in full bloom, this is a most magnificent drive.
Shot while driving, so please excuse the blurriness. It's not easy to handle both the steering wheel AND a Sony Alpha at the same time. Luckily for all of us, the traffic was unusually light that day.