The Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵) abyss was formed by the eruption of Mount Nantai, creating a gorge not far from central Nikko. You can walk to the gorge from Nikko, crossing the Daiya River near the edge of the town.
The trail then enters a shaded forest, passing a small Shinto shrine.
There’s some small cascades along the path, as it heads towards the “abyss”.
The gorge itself is pretty but hardly spectacular – it’s more of valley than a gorge. What makes Kanmangafuchi Abyss noteworthy is the long line of stone statues of Jizo which line the walking trail. This group of Jizō statues is also called “Bake Jizo” (Ghost Jizo), “Narabi Jizo” (Jizo in a line) or “Hyaku Jizo” (100 Jizo).
A beloved Japanese deity, Jizo is regarded as the Bodhisattva (“a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings”) who cares for travelers and lost souls, and is also the guardian of children. Jizo statues are decorated with red cloth bibs and crocheted caps – red being the colour to defend against evil. There are said to be 70 statues stretching over a hundred metres – but they can’t be accurately counted, as the statues disappear like ghosts and are never in the same spot.
The gorge itself is picturesque: the Daiya River has carved a channel through the lava flow, as it cascades over the rock sculpted by the water.
I return the same way: there isn’t really a way to make this a loop – unless you continue up and over Mt Nakimushi, which would be an 8km walk with a fairly steep ascent!
Getting to Kanmangafuchi Abyss
The closest public transport option is a Tobu bus bound for Chuzenjiko Onsen or Yumoto Onsen, which is a 15min walk to the trail from the Tamozawa bus stop. It’s a 30 minute walk from Toshogu Shrine and a 35min walk from Nikko Station.