I remembered today that I left you guys on a bit of a cliffhanger; I hadn’t told you about Nikko yet.
It was an early morning. That much I still remember. I think we were at the train by like 8 AM, so we left our train station at like 7. I had never been to Nikko, so it was an adventure for all of use. Of course before every adventure there is a journey. The journey to Nikko is a little over 2 hours by train through the whole northern half of the Tokyo metropolitan area and into the mountains. Of those two and a half hours, it’s mostly metropolitan and 15 minutes of mountains. Leaving town isn’t exactly a short trip. Mom, Justin, and I enjoyed warm drinks over a cool morning’s scenery. Stormy passed out for all but 10 minutes of the trip.
Something I’d like to mention here; vending machines sell hot drinks. This is the best idea ever and we need it in the US. No better way to warm up your hands than a bottle of hot cocoa out a vending machine.
Once off the train, we got onto a bus. The bus ride was much shorter, which was good since we didn’t have seats and it was a bit crowded. About 5 minutes passed and there we were at the entrance to all the temples, a famous bridge, and a beautiful river. You couldn’t go on the bridge, but I’m not sure I would trust it anyway. They say it’s something like 700 years old.
Next up were the big temples and shrines. One was under reconstruction, so the outside was a bit disappointing. In fact, from the outside it looked exactly like the runaway mine train at six flags. A giant sheet metal building encompassed the whole Temple as it was being restored. The inside was still quite grand. Mom said that she had seen a few things similar in Thailand, but I must say it was one of the largest temples I had been to. We had the mildly awkward Buddhist prayer, a Buddha whose head everyone rubbed, and a whole host of other Buddha’s for all manner of prayers. Mom noted here (and again in one or two other places) the similarities between these temples and the Jewish temple where Jesus overturned the tables. At the end of the tour the Buddhist priest made special mention of the goods that you could buy at the end of the tour. They even had good-luck cell phone charms. At a shrine they conveniently had all the items you could buy well positioned next to the alter/offering box. I think I’ve made mention of it before, but the temples and shrines (the large, tourist-visited ones anyway) tend to be very commercialized. They are surrounded by shops and selling the goods to give you luck, love, or whatever else you may desire. Later that day we also got to see what happens to all those offerings that people buy at exorbitant prices; they are burned in bonfires. At least they were warm.
The big temples are intricately decorated and carved inside and out. On the outside the wood siding is carved into all sorts of pictures and painted in beautiful matte colors. I think Justin like the lamps that are all around. They are those big stone things that come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve never actually seen one lit, but I’m sure it would be quite pretty at night. The inside often has quite a bit of gold leaf. It’s used in a lot of stuff here. One of the shrines we went to even had wall paintings which are large water color type paintings on traditional paper sliding doors. Oh, and the doors. We all loved the doors. They have these gigantic doors often made of solid wood with heavy iron and rivets all throughout. Justin and I decided we need some on our house. The part of architecture I remember Stormy commenting on most was the stairs. She hated them. I think she did like the woodwork and paintings though.
And after all that we headed off to do what I do best. Wander, get lost, and find the quiet things that no one ever knows (“The quiet things that no one ever knows” – Brand New). A few abandoned streets, a few wrong turns and wallah. There we were at a small temple a little north of town with some statues nestled in under a small rock embankment. Nikko is very old, so these were probably at least one or two hundred years old, if not more. Like I said, the bridge is supposed to be 700 years old. They were just all by their lonesome behind a small shrine with not a single guest. Why should all the major gods get all the glory? In another blog I said something to the effect of “Small shrines owe their beauty more to their atmosphere than to architecture or art,” and I think that held true in this case as well. We had seen many far more stunning statues and pieces of art during the day; the setting is what made these six little guys unique. No crowds to be heard, just the wind and the leaves, with the forest overhead, a graveyard behind, and six small statues standing proud in their home under the rocks. I think after that everyone caught a little bit of the exploration bug and off we went down the road and through the woods to who knows where. First we went up a hill, found a little shrine, went back down the hill, up another hill, found a bunch of little shrines, back down the hill, back up the hill, and down a path that just so happened to dump us in front of the last big shrine that we hadn’t seen. About what normally happens to me. I suppose I’ll share a few of the details. Atop the second hill there were about three shrines I think. There was a two foot long arched bridge which just seemed comical. Inside a small, fenced off garden there were three gigantic cedar trees planted in a perfect row probably one hundred years ago or more. At the back of one of the shrines there was a fish that I think was an offering. It was (I think) a Tai, which is considered very important to Japanese for some reason. I liked the lock on the gate right behind the fish. It was this big, old lock that was rusted all over with a plate over the key hole bearing the name of the lock company. Next was a five foot high pile of rocks that was some sort of shrine that a couple was paying homage at. Lastly the trail ended at a small dam like thing that was creating a runoff ditch from the mountain. From there we retraced all our stairs, much to Stormy’s dismay.
The day ended with a little bit of shopping. You may have already seen the real thing, but I’ll tell you anyway. We bought a whole bunch of reprint pieces of Japanese art and a few originals. I have no idea what I’m going to do when I get home. My room is going to have to be cleaned and sorted for things I don’t want. I am going to have WAY too much stuff.
The last few days of the trip we saw a few temples in Tokyo and other touristy stuff, but mostly we just spent it together. It was a really fun week, but it did make me miss home a little. Good thing I’ll be home soon. Right now I’m missing Mom paying for meals out.
On the subject of now, I am done with most of my finals and started packing/preparing for my trip to Nepal. I’m trying to keep the weight down, so I had to cut out most of the chocolate I was bringing L. I love my lenses and I have to bring them, but they weigh so much. They should make light weight lenses. Well, despite those minor setbacks, I think I’m pretty much packed and ready to go in a week. When I get there I have a few things to do:
1. Switch to the clothes I’m going to wear during the trip and have them store my jeans, passport, etc.
2. Buy a pair of trekking pants. Apparently they are cheap there. They are light, dry fast, and still warm.
3. Ask them if my backpack is too heavy. If not, I still have room to put my tripod, lens, and maybe one or two other things in my big backpack so my porter can carry them not me. Poor guy. I would say he’s getting paid well for this, but they aren’t. Google said that they get paid like $5-10 a day. I’ll probably tip like $8 a day, but still.
Until next time. I guess I should write something before I go to Nepal. I will try. During the trip I’m going to have to keep notes or maybe just write daily on my tablet so I don’t forget anything. I haven’t decided yet on how detailed I’ll be in my little report. I say little, but that’s the whole debate. Should I make it little (that’s a relative word and by it I mean 3-4000 words) or long (by this I mean the length that I normally write, so practically a small book for 2.5 weeks)
PS. Hope you figured out the title 😉