Japan – Nikko

The plan was to return to Michiko’s on Tuesday afternoon. As she had to work all day Wednesday, we were going to take a day trip to My Fuji. When we got up Wednesday, it was very hazy and we knew that we probably wouldn’t see Mt Fuji at all. We looked in the guide book for other day trip suggestions and decided to go to Nikko, 80 miles north of Tokyo. It took us much longer to get there than we thought it would because our Japan Rail pass was not the most direct train there. We left Yokohama City around 10:00 and arrived in Nikko around 1:00. An interesting note is the train station there was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Nikko was exactly what I had expected Kyoto to be. It was a quaint town nestled among woods and hills. It is located on the southeast corner of Nikko National Park. It looked like a great hiking area. As with all of Japan, the history for this area is rich. In the 8th century, a Buddhist priest established a retreat. It was the training center for monks. It is also the mausoleum site for Tokugawa Ieyasu, the warlord who took control of Japan and established the shogunate that ruled for more tahn 250 years

His grandson, Tokugawa Iemitsu created a shrine to his grandfather that took 15,000 artisans almost 2 years to complete. It is quite a tribute to the warlord

The Tosho-gu Shrine incorporated approximately 2.5 million sheets of gold leaf. It is a far cry from the simplistic elegant of the classical Japanese design. Rather, it is very rococo and reflects the style of the Chinese Ming dynasty. For those of you who really know me, you will know that I love this shrine!!!

There was color everywhere….the only building that was not decked out was the Shinyosha (sacred stable). The stable did have a monkey carving of interest. We have all heard the saying “hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil”. This is from the three principles of Tendai Buddhism….who knew?

There are several buildings at this shrine. I just wanted to note that the five story pagoda that was to the left of the entrance was of interest. It was built in 1650 and reconstructed in 1818. It doesn’t have a foundation, but it has a long suspended pole that swings like a pendulum. This allows it to move in the event of an earthquake. Pretty ingenious, no?

Beyond the Tosho-gu Shrine, was the Taiyuin-byo Shrine. It is the resting place of the grandson, Iemitsu. The buildings are very similar to those of the Tosho-gu shrine but it is on a much smaller scale. Plus,being tucked in the forest makes it more intimate. In the main hall there were 140 dragons painted on the ceiling. They are believed to be carrying prayers to the heavens. Those dragons with pearls are ascending with the prayers. Those without the pearls, are returning to gather more prayers. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed!

The Shin-kyo, is the much photographed sacred bridge. It was constructed on the spot where Shodo Shonin, a famous Japanese saint who founded the temple at Nikko, was carried across the river on two giant serpents. This bridge was only for the members of the imperial court and generals. Today, it is closed and only opened temporarily. To me, this is a picture that you would see on a Japanese travel brochure.

We were heading back to the train station when we walked past the Hippari Tako restaurant. It was a unique place. Only 3 table in the small room. They served a variety of rice and noodle dishes. I had a plate of rice and noodles, David had dumplings and rice. Miki-san is the owner and who knows how long she has been in business but it has been awhile. There are business cards from locations around the world tacked on the wall by other foreign travelers who have discovered this little establishment.

We arrived back at Michiko’s at 9:00. She and her whole family were amazed that we did Nikko as a day trip. They thought it was such a distance to travel for one day. We didn’t understand but they were just in awe of us. We walked 12 miles, 25,095 steps.

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