Two weekends ago I decided to take a trip with my friend Sarah to Nikko. Neither of us had ever been before and since it was fairly affordable, we thought it would be a nice impromptu day trip. We met at Gotanda station around 6:00 AM, and took the Asakusa line to Asakusa. From there we transferred to the Tobu Line for a 2 hour train ride into the countryside. It was beautiful to the gradual progression from crowded city to rustic landscape. To my surprise the train was actually loud at times, filled with people talking about all different things. Maybe it’s just a Tokyo thing to be quiet on trains in the morning.
When we finally got there, the rain had picked up some more. Our first stop was to see the various shrines and temples. We took a bus that stopped by all the popular temples. While on the bus we befriended a very talkative elderly man. He was enthusiastic to help us and answer any questions we had. That’s one thing I really like about living in Japan, people generally tend to look out for foreigners. Unfortunately the man and his group of friends (who were also elderly men) were moving somewhat slow on this cold and rainy day, so eventually we parted ways.
I was surprised to see so many tourists out in the rain. Armies of umbrellas paraded in and out of shrines, tour guides yelling over the loudness of it all. Within the Toshogu Shrine complex, we climbed an almost never ending flight after flight of steep stone steps to the shrine of the Neco Nemuri (Sleeping Cat). By the time we reached the top my legs were really burning! The shrine and beautiful view was well worth the trip though. As we headed back down I periodically saw elderly men and women equipped with canes trying the best they could to make it to the top. Seeing this made me realize how important this shrine must be to some people. I was in full respect for their dedication. This wasn’t just a place for tourists to come, this was a sacred area. After seeing all that we could in the Toshogu Shrine we visited the Old Japanese Garden and Treasure House. Even in the rain the gardens still projected a rare beauty; I can only imagine how beautiful it is when the weather is good. Within the Treasure House were some of the most amazing Buddhist tapestries I have ever seen. I feel like I spent a good half hour taking in the dozen or so that were there. Unfortunately, pictures weren’t allowed. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
We took a bus for 20 minutes out west and up into the mountains to observe the Kegon Falls next. Once in the area we got a bite to eat at a small local restaurant. The waiters there were happy to see us (I think because we were foreign haha). While there, one of the waiters struck up a small conversation with me. Although it lasted all but a minute or so, it was the first conversation I had in a while in which I didn’t feel like I was really thinking too hard about speaking. My speech just flowed. All this Japanese studying is finally kicking in!
The Kegon Falls, well, that’s also something you’ll have to see for yourself. Nikko is just a beautiful place. I think I’m going to head up there one more time before I leave Japan. Well until next time, Peace Everyone.
Thanks again for letting me use the pictures Sarah!