Nikkō's Irohazaka Sightseeing Road
The Irohazaka is a pair of spectacular sightseeing roads connecting the World Heritage-listed town of Nikkō, around 150km north of Tokyo, with serene Lake Chuzenji in the mountainous Oku-Nikkō region. Centuries ago, mountain ascetics would walk this winding route to reach sacred Mt. Nantai or Chuzenji temple from Nikkō.
The modern road is made up of two one-way routes: the first Irohazaka road (built in 1954) runs downhill from Lake Chuzenji to Nikkō, while the second Irohazaka road (built in 1965) climbs uphill. Together these two roads twist around 48 sharp curves. In Japanese zaka is a slope and Iroha refers to a famous Heian period (794–1179) poem which in its composition uses the 48 hiragana characters of the old Japanese alphabet once only. Each of the Irohazaka's bends is marked by a sign displaying one of these hiragana characters.
On the drive up it's possible to pause at the Akechidaira Observatory to fully admire the panoramic views of the Nikkō National Park. The Irohazaka is also famous for being one of Japan's best locations for viewing autumn foliage every October and early November. During this season the 16km road can become very congested.
Take a Chuzenji-onsen/Yumoto-onsen bound bus from Tobu Nikkō Station or JR Nikkō Station and get off at Akechidaira (35 minutes).
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