Nikko: Buddhism & Bangs!
Trip Start Oct 03, 2011
28Trip End Dec 25, 2011
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Where I stayed
Our accommodation was an easy find, but no sooner had we turned out of the station we were stopped by a friendly local with directions to offer. The lodge is run by English-speaking Zen Buddhist monks; we were greeted however by a Japanese guy who lives in London, but came over to help out the tourist industry after the earthquake. He intended to stay one week, but is still here a month later. Given his bumbling manner and forgetfulness we feel a month might already seem too long a stay in the eyes of the monks! Unperturbed, we settled in for a (very cold, despite the daytime sunshine) cozy evening with Japanese veggie curry, Kindle reading and free internet (hence the blogging and general catch up - CITY BEAT HUDDERSFIELD, get in!)
We were up early for breakfast and headed out to beat the crowds. Despite Nikko being virtually unknown outside of Japan it is a big tourist destination for the Japanese, especially on a Saturday on a bank holiday weekend (more on that later). Armed with a map and some tips from the lodge we headed out. First tip: try the 100m slide around the corner. We can both recommend this as an excellent way to start the day! From here we walked to Nikko's picturesque antique red bridge. Like most people, we dodged the 300Yen fee and took pictures from close by.
Next was the main attraction of the day which seemed to draw tour-buses in by the, er, busload: the Rinno-Ji temple and surrounding shrines. Founded by and resting place of the original Shoguns that ruled Japan around 1200 years ago, we strolled around the ground in the sunshine taking in Japanese ornamental gardens, treasure halls, shrines, gates, halls, temples and a five-storey pagoda. Apart from the mix of splendour and bling, oddities included an elephant carved in a temple wall by an artist who had never seen an elephant and the life story of a monkey which includes the original see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil monkeys. All shrine-d out we looked to replenish our wallets and stomachs at the nearby 7-11.
We headed next to the Gamman-Ga-Fuchi Abyss. A wooded walkway lined with jizo statues (small "ghost" Buddhas) that are rumoured to be uncountable. At a guess there were 80? We consoled ourselves that we couldn't actually be bothered counting them! While there we took a small detour to the quiet and spooky graveyard of the Rinno-Ji monks
A small hike later we were back near our hostel at the Nikko Woodcarving Centre which was pretty cool. Amy was quite taken with the maple-leaf designed objects. Nikko by the way is full of maple-leaves turning an autumnal red in parts. To fit in we have been ordering french toast with maple syrup for breakfast...
After that we were on our way to hunt out Kirifuri Falls. It was 30 minutes up from the Woodcarving we were told, only there are no English signs and the map is hard to read... We arrived at a turning off the road that seemed promising, it turned out to be a nice 15 minute walk through the forest (cool tall trees) to a stream that with a (large) stretch of the imagination could have been considered a waterfall? Amy was unimpressed and resolved to trek further on up the roadside. 25 minutes later or so we were rewarded as we reached the real waterfall, the impostor quickly dismissed. Stunning views duly taken in we set off back before it got too dark to the lodge for some grub.
Bad news! The lodge had sold out of food for dinner. Good news! Monday is a bank holiday and national day off, it's official name is "Healthy Sports Day", and to celebrate there are fireworks at 7pm. Off we head to find loud bangs and food down in Nikko town centre. One of the most stunning firework displays ensues (barring all Whitby/Retford party/Idle fire station displays) as we chow down on omelettes including a fried egg, bacon, fish and veg, plus some kind of squid dumpling, frozen pineapple pieces and chocolate covered banana. A brilliant end to our stay in Nikko leaving just enough time to jump on the PC and type it up. Tomorrow promises our first bullet train experience as we head to Hakone, hoping to spot Mt Fuji from there.
Bye for now, lots of love
Michael and Amy