Things to Do Around Lake Chuzenji

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  • Lake Chuzenji in Nikko is surrounded by beautiful forest and mountain scenery. Waterfalls, hot springs onsen, and hiking trails are some of the things you can do around Lake Chuzenji to relax in nature.

    view of Lake Chuzenji - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    Nikko is known for its beautiful sceneries and if you love nature and likes visiting places off the beaten path, then we recommend spending some time around Lake Chuzenji and enjoy its natural surrounding and fabulous hot springs.

    Where is Lake Chuzenji

    Lake Chuzenji is to the west of Nikko and you can get there from Nikko Station in 30 minutes by car or 1 hour by bus. Unlike most touristy places in Japan, the area surrounding the lake is brimming with trees and mountains and not littered with hotels and shops.
    view of Lake Chuzenji - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    If you plan on visiting Kegon Falls, the lake is right next to the falls so it’s not an extra trip you have to make. Besides the gorgeous natural sceneries, the lake and surrounding area are all over 4,000 feet above sea level so it’s a great place to get away from Japan’s summer heat.

    Things to do around Lake Chuzenji

    Only the east end of the lake is somewhat developed and it’s the home to Futarasan Chugushi Shrine (中宮祠), several restaurants, and a post office. Our family’s primary purpose to visit the area is to see as much landscape and nature as possible and stay away from the touristy spots. Are you ready to relax in nature? Let’s go!
    Futarasan Chugushi Shrine torii gate - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Futarasan Chugushi Shrine Torii Gate
    As you arrive at Lake Chuzenji from Nikko, one of the first sights you’ll see is the giant torii gate for Futarasan Chugushi Shrine. We’ll start our journey traveling through the torii gates and head west along the north shore of the lake. Our first stop will be Ryuzu Falls, then Senjogahara Marshland, and end the trip at Yuno Lake.

    If it’s around mealtime, we recommend grabbing a bite at the eastern shores of Lake Chuzenji first as there aren’t too many options later on. We had donburi lunch at Kamiyama (かみやま) and it was pretty delicious.

    Wagyu beef donburi at kamiyama restaurant - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Wagyu beef donburi
    unagi donburi at kamiyama restaurant - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Unagi-chazuke

    Shortly after passing the vermilion torii gates, you’ll soon see the dark torri gate for the Futarasan Chugushi Shrine. If you wish to climb Mount Nantai (about 8 hrs hiking round trip), the trailhead entrance starts at the shrine (500 yen fee).

    Futarasan Chugushi Shrine torii gate - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Entrance to climbing Mount Nantai

    Ryuzu Falls 竜頭ノ滝

    The first stop of our visit is Ryuzu Falls, it is about a 10 min drive from the east end of the lake. At the bottom of the falls are a souvenir shop and a restaurant where you can enjoy food or snack while admiring the scenery. To observe the fall, there is a walking path to the right of it and it goes up alongside the waterfall.

    ryuzu falls - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Ryuzu Falls

    There’s no cost to walk on the path next to the falls. The waterfall is unique as the water flows down uneven rock surfaces over 300 meters long, forming many mini-waterfalls.

    children with umbrella next to Ryuzu Falls - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    Senjogahara Marsh 戦場ヶ原

    Head north from Ryuzu falls and we’ll stop by Sanbonmastsu Park near Senjogahara Marsh. Around the marsh, there are plenty of hiking trails to enjoy beautiful views in the area. Senjogahara Marsh is also referred to as wetland or moor and its one of the highlights of Nikko National Park.

    hiking trail map for Senjogahara Marsh area - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Hiking map around Senjogahara Marsh

    Unfortunately, on the day we visited it rained on and off so we didn’t get to hike very far.

    family posing in front of Senjogahara Marsh - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    family with umbrella at Senjogahara Marsh - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    Yudaki Falls 湯滝

    Continue heading north and another spot worth stopping at is the Yudaki Falls. It’s an impressive and powerful waterfall that’s 75 meters tall.

    Yudaki Falls - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Yudaki Falls

    Lake Yuno 湯ノ湖

    The last stop on our nature itinerary is Lake Yuno. On the north shore of the lake is Oku-Nikko Yumoto hot spring resorts town with filled with many hot springs ryokans. Inside the town, you can see hot springs bubbling up from the ground.

    There’s a trail that goes around the lake that takes about 1 hour to walk around. As you walk along the west side of the lake, car and modern-day noises disappear and visitors can enjoy nature as intended. Walking around, you will smell sulfur emitted by the hot spring from the town (it’s not rotten eggs).

    Lake Yuno - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Lake Yuno
    wooden bridge at Lake Yuno - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Wooden bridge at Lake Yuno

    Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko 星野リゾート 界 日光

    After a day of exploring and hiking, we rested our body and mind at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko. We usually don’t stay at super nice ryokans when we travel in Japan due to cost so this was an exception for us. A couple of reasons why we splurged:

    1. We often see Hoshino Resorts images shared on social media and they look like the coolest ryokans to stay at
    2. There aren’t too many ryokan choices around Lake Chuzenji
    3. The view of Lake Chuzenji from the resort

    view of Lake Chuzenji from the hotel room at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    We’ve shared the details of our ryokan stay below but if you are interested in just the high-level summary and our thoughts, here they are:

    1. Service is impeccable, there were only a few guests staying at the hotel and we got full attention from the staff.
    2. Rooms were in great condition, spacious, and super clean. The hot springs onsen was also very good.
    3. The views of the lake were good but not great. From the images you see on the web you would think the hotel is right on the lake but it’s actually not.
    4. Both dinner and breakfast were excellent.
    5. Would we stay there again (if the cost was lower)? The answer is probably not. Everything about the hotel was great but it lacked warmth. Maybe because there weren’t many guests so it felt a bit lonely and too quiet for us. The whole time we stayed there we almost never saw or hear anyone else in the ryokan except during the mealtime at the dining room. If you prefer really quiet ryokan stays where you can enjoy alone time, then we would recommend staying at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko.

    The Lobby

    the front entrance at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    As soon as we parked our vehicle, the hotel staff greeted us at the entrance and handled our luggage. At most Japanese ryokans, the staff greets you at the entrance and takes care of your luggage and belongings. After checking in the luggage will be brought to your room by the staff (no tips will be accepted so don’t offer).

    entrance area at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Hotel entry with geta (Japanese slippers) for guests to walk outside

    sitting area in the lobby hallway at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    The interior of the hotel was elegantly decorated with Japanese elements.

    lounge area at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Lounge area

    In the sitting room, you can see Mount Nantai to the right and the lake in front of the hotel.

    view from the lounge area at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    View of Mount Nantai

    The Room

    The rooms are fairly large for a Japanese ryokan, with two twin-sized beds in the main bedroom and 2 additional sitting rooms.

    guest room with two beds at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    sitting area with sofa inside hotel room at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Sitting area with sofa

    The empty sitting room was converted to a sleeping room with futons for the kids at night. If you are not comfortable using the public bath, there is a large wooden bath inside the room to soak in.

    two children looking at Lake Chuzenji from room window at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    Dinner at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko

    Both dinner and breakfast were served in the dining room on the first floor of the hotel. To get to the dining room, hotel guests would walk through a glass corridor with stone path.

    walkway to dining room at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Walkway to dining room

    The dinner was spectacular, not only was the food super delicious the dinnerware they used were first class. Even the kids’ meal was really well prepared. Typical ryokan kids meal usually only include hambagu, ebi fry, and omurice. At Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko the kids meal included ikura, fish soup, etc.

    children's meal at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Kid’s dinner
    dinner menu at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Dinner menu with Japanese and English translation
    dashi jelly with yuba tofu skin at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Dashi jelly with yuba tofu served in Nikko-bori woodware
    conger eel with egg tofu and eggplant soup at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Conger eel with egg tofu soup
    dinnerware with three wise monkeys at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    3 wise monkey and sleeping cat dinnerware
    conger eel sushi, sardine, shrimp, pumpkin tofu, roasted duck appetizer at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Conger eel sushi, fried shrimp, pumpkin tofu, and roasted duck
    kanpachi sashimi at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Kanpachi sashimi (3 different types of sashimi were served)
    corn mochi cake with foie gras and greeen peas paste at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Corn mochi cake with foie gras
    wagyu beef steamed in oya stone at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Wagyu beef steamed in oya stone
    wagyu beef steamed in oya stone at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Wagyu beef after steaming (dip in the sauce to eat)
    yuba mousse with black honey jelly and freezed drive tofu at wagyu beef steamed in oya stone at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com
    Yuba mousse with black honey jelly

    It was a memorable meal and especially happy one as I found out that my wallet was found and turned into Nikko’s police while eating.

    Nikko Geta Dance at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko

    After dinner, there was a geta performance on the stage near the dining room. After the staff explained the history of Nikko Geta (over 400 years) and how they are made, they perform a dance wearing these special shoes.

    two dancers performing Nikko Geta dance at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    Towards the end of the show, guests are invited on stage to wear the Nikko geta and dance together to the music.

    two dancers performing Nikko Geta dance at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    Breakfast at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko

    Breakfast was very delicious and featured Nikko’s specialty Yuba. Pork and vegetables were cooked inside the soy milk broth as the main course besides the Japanese breakfast side dishes.

    Yuba breakfast at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    breakfast at Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko - Things to do around Lake Chuzenji | www.justonecookbook.com

    Nikko Woodcraft 日光彫

    In the gift shop area of the hotel, there are several Nikko woodcraft souvenirs for sale (some of them are really pricey). Nikko’s area is known for woodwork made from a unique tool called “hikkaki” (ヒッカキ). The history of woodcraft in the Nikko area likely originated from the 400,000 craftsmen who were recruited from all over Japan to work on Toshogu back in the 1600’s. Nikko woodcraft typically features plants as the main art. You can experience carving your own Nikko woodcraft at the Nikko craft center.

    Another wood feature you see in Hoshino Resorts KAI Nikko is kumiko (組子) made by specialized craftsmen. What is kumiko? It’s refined latticework interlocked in intricate patterns. This type of craft is difficult to achieve and kumiko wood patterns could be seen on windows and decorations throughout the hotel. Find out more information here.

    Thank you for reading Lake Chuzenji travel guide and if you love nature and hiking, we hope you’ll find some time to visit the area. Just keep in mind winters are really cold so the best time to visit is from May through October. Besides what we’ve shared above you can also visit the former British and Italian Embassy Villa and Chuzenji Lake Observation Deck around the lake so there are plenty to do. We’ll see you next inside the caves of Oya History Museum.

    Nikko Travel Guide

    1. Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura 日光江戸村
    2. Kinugawa Onsen 鬼怒川温泉
    3. Tobu World Square 東武ワールドスクウェア
    4. Nikko Tosho-gu 日光東照宮
    5. Places to visit in Nikko 日光
    6. Kegon Falls 華厳の滝
    7. Lake Chuzenji 中禅寺湖
    8. Oya History Museum 大谷資料館

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