I have been wanting to go to Nikko ever since the first time I heard about it, waaaaay back when I first came to Japan. Unfortunately, Kenji had been several times before, so was never interested in going yet again, and it is no fun going by yourself! The last time he finally agreed to go, he got sick the day before. So I was excited to finally get my chance to see the city!
… and two days before, Kenji gets sick again.
This time, he feels better, and we actually make it to Nikko! Yay! The weather was not terribly nice, being cloudy and threatening rain. Also, I was driving, thinking Kenji knew how to get there, while Kenji thought I had looked up directions, so we had a nice little detour… into Fukushima. But we turned right around and came back, and finally made it!
Nikko (Wikipedia Link) is an important temple city up in the mountains of Tochigi. It is much, much higher than where we live in Gunma, so we were worried there might still be snow up there. Luckily it was melted, and the temperature was actually pretty nice. We even got to see the tail-end of the cherry blossoms one more time!
First up was Shinkyo Bridge linking the temples and shrines to the town. This bridge is closed off to public access unless you pay for it, but it isn’t like you can take a nice picture of it actually standing on it anyway, so we didn’t bother with that. The bridge is actually connected to Futarasan Shrine, which we saw a bit later.
After crossing and walking up some stone steps, we came to a section of the wall that was deemed dangerous because the earthquake had dislodged a few of the rock. This was the only sign that a giant earthquake had happened, apart from a few little tremors every few hours. Otherwise, Nikko is perfectly fine!
The first temple of the day is called Rinnouji Temple. It is Nikko’s most important temple, and unfortunately for us, now under construction. This did, however, give us the unique opportunity to see a few of the ways these temples are built with no nails or anything. It is simply amazing!
The building is covered, but you can see what it looked like (and will look like again!) when they finish.
On the inside.
Trying to fit a few pieces together. Some of them were puzzles that came apart then locked together in a particular way, along with some info about it.
Behind the building I got my typical shuuin, then we walked over to Toushougu Shrine, the resting place of the famous Tokugawa Ieyasu.
On our walk over, we found a small post office area with some odd English…
Philatelic apparently means stamp collecting. Huh.
Toushougu is an ornate shrine with a lot of different sights to see. Leading up to the main buildings you have the usual torii gates, and a really big pagoda, but going into the shrine, the best and most intricate woodwork was saved. Two very famous carvings, the sleeping cat that heads the staircase up to Ieyasu’s tomb, and the famous “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” monkeys on an outbuilding, are especially nice, but there were many other beautiful carvings as well.
Torii and pagoda
Rooftops in the shrine
A cool looking elephant
The famous monkey carving
Birds of a feather
The sleeping cat guarding the stairs to Ieyasu’s tomb
LOTS of stairs
The tomb and the crane statue in front
Kitty omikuji… I got one and got the best luck, yay!
Kenji didn’t bother coming up the stairs with me, so down I went with my new good luck, and we headed on for Futarasan Shrine.
Futarasan was the second shrine of the day, and is the one the bridge above is linked to.
Stone lanterns along the way
Leading into the shrine
The main building
Past the main shrine were more buildings, which with the rain had this misty mysteriousness that was pretty nice. Had there been less people, it would have been so peaceful!
After Futarasan, we headed into the main streets of Nikko for lunch before heading higher into the mountains to Oku-Nikko. Oku-Nikko is where the nature is, big waterfalls, a huge lake, and is especially beautiful in fall. We headed to the waterfall, but didn’t spend long there. Instead, we decided to check out all the little shops here and there, buy some omiyage for people back home, and ended up getting a nameplate hand-carved in a really awesome wood shop!
The waterfall… probably more spectacular with either fall colors or nice summer green, but still big nonetheless!
Carving the plate
After that we headed home. I finally got to go to Nikko, yay! Now to convince Kenji to go again to see the fall colors…