Trip Start Sep 15, 2007
Trip End Nov 14, 2007

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Flag of Japan  ,
Sunday, October 14, 2007

We spent 4 days exploring Nikko and the surrounding area. Nikko is NW of here, directly north of Tokyo, up in the mountains of central Honshu, towards Nagano and the "Japanese Alps."  It's a beautiful town with a rich history beginning in ~750 CE with the Buddhist priest Shodo. It again became famous when Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Shogun who united all of Japan and established the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled for 300 years, chose it as his final resting place in 1617.  Most of the elaborate shrines and temples date from the 1600s.
Although Nikko itself is only 530 meters above sea level, it's surrounded by volcanic peaks, including Nantai-san, a sacred peak that looms over the town, that is 2483 m (8150 ft) high. There's a beautiful river that runs right through the center of the city.
We stayed in "Gasutohofu [that's Gasthof in case you didn't get it ... Japanese requires a vowel after every consonant] Ami" - a great B&B-type place that we highly recommend. It was very tricky to find, but well worth the trouble. We enjoyed our own private little outdoor hot bath, wonderful food, and a very nice couple who owned the place.
Our timing was perfect, as we were able to catch the Tosho-gu Autumn Festival, including horseback archery and a re-enactment of the delivery of Tokugawa Ieyasu's remains to Nikko ... a parade of hundreds of people in period costumes. It was truly an awesome spectacle.
Rather than provide a long discourse, I will load you up with a bunch of pictures with comments (click on a photo to see it full-size with associated commentary). It was rainy most of the time, but other than making picture-taking difficult, it didn't dampen our spirits. It cleared up and the sun came out just in time for the parade on the final day.
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