Nikko & Kanuma : Small town charm

A short jaunt north of Tokyo on the Shinkansen from the Ueno JR station was the perfect pitstop to wander main streets of two small charming towns.

Nikko: antiques and wabi sabi

When you depart the Nikko train station to head to the Toshogu shrine you can choose the public transit bus or to walk a slowly sloping main street with a decent sidewalk. Sometimes there are so many people waiting for the bus, that the walk is worth it. I also prefer the art of accidental adventure to go slower in a place like this so you can observe the businesses and other features of the place.

I personally love the philosophy of wabi sabi which acknowledges the beauty in things that are falling apart, worn, old, etc. When you leave the glitzy shiny megalopolis of Tokyo, you get to see a bit more of the real Japan that is moving slower in time with less reconstruction. Additionally, the northern region of the country had less damage from the war so you have a local perspective of place.

And of course, window shopping in an antique district that you happen to wander past is always thrilling. What can one purchase to take home that doesn't take a lot of space or weigh much. I have a fondness for the handcraft products including the kokeshi dolls.

Designs such as these are found in many areas of Japan from contemporary on walls to navigational integrated into the ground/sidewalk. Each one gives an identity of place for the locals of the area.


Food break after using lots of calories from our walk. Still have a short train ride to Kanuma and a walk to our Airbnb for the night. There are numerous cafe options in this town, but make sure you arrive at the right time for the kitchen to be open. Kristie opted for Japanese curry and I ordered the stir fry. Most people take pictures of their fresh food. I also like to sometimes take pictures of the meal when it's finished as an ode to the wabi sabi.


This choice of this town for a pitstop was based off of an availability of accommodations near to Nikko and the train line. I recently came across this blog post about Kanuma which was published after this experience in Japan and I really wish I had made more time to find out more about this town. It's definitely on the list to return now.

Once we retrieved our bags from the lockers in the Nikko train station, we went back towards Kanuma for our overnight stay. We opted to walk instead of taking the taxi that had asked us once we departed the building. It was a longer walk than expected with backpacks, computer bags, and winter clothing at about 2.7km or 1.67 miles.

However, the reason I prefer to walk in these situations to to get a lay of the land. This is the essence of the art of accidental adventure and helps one discover the local place. You can photograph unique things that you come across and constantly give your brain that creative juice it's yearning for as well as keeping an eye out for landmarks or businesses such as a restaurant for your next meal.

When we started to cross the river, we came across this amazing public art installation. The texture of the letters was very appealing to us as graphic designers.

We came across some more amazing patterns and colors on this portion of our travels. These are some of the images posted on the original tumblr blog back in 2015. The toilet paper pattern was the bathroom wallpaper.

We finally made it to our accommodation. This cute space was just what we needed for the night. We ventured back to a traditional Japanese restaurant that specialized in fresh Udon noodles from this region. Scrumptious!

In the morning, our host provided a breakfast snack in her bnb kitchen. Food is important on trips like this and local customs or traditions can be discovered in the process.

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