Day two of the group tour took us away from the urban landscape that we call Tokyo and we headed by private bus into the mountain area called Nikko.
Which we got to after about an hour and a half. Once again the weather was pretty grey overall with some drizzle later on in the day. But this is to be expected when you are in the mountain areas of Japan.
Once we got there we met with our guide for the day Ota-San, whose name I recognise from my info pack for my add on stuff. He and his wife who sadly wasn’t with him today will be taking me to see one of the few Samurai swordsmith left in the world on Sunday the 3rd of May. That’s probably going to be the highlight of my holiday.
Ota san was a brilliant guide throughout the day, very insightful about nikko and the shrine temple we went to. Pretty hilarious as well which I think is always a great trait for a guide or tour leader to have. So we started off at the famous Shinkyo bridge that is a landmark of Nikko.
The history of it as told to us by Ota-san was interesting. Namely that it took eight years for for to be built when it was back in the early seventeenth century by a priest called Shodo Shonin).
How shoguns and the emperor would cross it in he centre, while their servants and normal people would cross it in the side or behind the two above if need be. There was a board on the bridge to protect it from people crossing directly on the surface of it.
Due to the age of it.
Once we were done with the bridge Ota-San took us up to our main destination of the day. Visiting the world heritage site of the shrine/temple for the Tokugawa shogun Tokugawa leyasu. This part I must say was one of the best parts I have done so far on my trip.
As Ota-San gave out some interesting facts on japan in places, one of them I must admit I didn’t even know. That in the old feudal type system farmers made up at least 80% of the people in the caste type system that was in place. With the samurai and emperor etc at too, below were artisan and craftsman.
Below them were traders, merchants etc, as Ota-San was a banker for some of his life. He would have been very low on the hierarchy and not treated so well by some samurai.
We visited the currently being rebuilt temple that is just below the Tokugawa shrine. Of which holds much Shinto beliefs and information. With figures like the monk Tenkai whom was an adviser to leyasu during his later years. Some urban legend of the monk is that it was the warlord mitsuhide akechi that was Tenkai. That after the taiko Hideyoshi Toyatomi defeated him at Yamazaki after he betrayed Nobunaga at Honnoji temple.
He shaved his head and became a monk. Since it’s never been made clear if akechi was killed or not. I doubt this legend is true, but then many things in the senpoku period were a mystery, hence why I like it so much.
These are some parts of the temple complex in Nikko, you can see how the materials used to build the place are of high quality and to befit the status of the first Tokugawa shogun and one of the most important people in Japanese history.
We eventually made our way up to the main temple bit. This part sadly is a no photo bit. But the white and gold colour of it all really stands out and is really quite a wonder to look at and pray.
Ota-San whom I had a nice chat with during the day then invited me to demonstrate the proper way of bowing at the temple to test our knowledge of which ways to pray at either a Shinto or Buddhist place of worship.
For Shinto shrines it is Usually two blows, two claps of hands and another bow. For Buddhist temples it is usually one bow that you do. Some nice tips for you when you are at either a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple.
Shinto shrines are usually red toroji gates, Buddhist shrines or temples are usually more bigger and are more grandiose and have figures around it, compared to Shinto miminalistic style.
All of this can confuse even the Japanese at times since Shinto and Buddhism can get quite complex when it wants to be. Even I find it mind screwy at times, but fascinating all the same even though I’m hardly a religious person myself.
Once we were finished with our afternoon at nikko shrine and taking in the full beauty of the forest around us in the drizzling weather.
We made our way to the ryokan inn. That we were staying at for that night.
All our stuff was there already in our assigned rooms. The place is called inn.
Tonight was a traditional kasahi meal that comes in seven sets. With food like shrimp and prawn. Sushi food, lots of soy sauce to dip food in, some radish here and there, nice beef at some point. Loads of fish and rice. And a load of other Japanese food to fill you right up. The best part, it’s Fab.
But before that I treated myself to a very nice spring hot bath or onsen as it is called in Japan.
That really helped to relax myself after a long day and just nice to relax in general.
Now for those who are a little more apprehensive in doing it or scared of getting it wrong and doing a faux pas. InsideJapan blog has done a page just for this purpose.
My advice definitely do it if you are in Japan once in your lifetime.
Also got to wear a yukata today, always nice to wear one of those as well. Just remember to put the right side over the left. Simply cause of funeral and death rituals the Japanese do.
Finally to finish the fab night at the ryokan in nikko. Spent it on the floor beds they have. A bit hard it was this time around and had to toss a few times, but got enough rest for the next day.
That covers everything tha happened on my day to Nikko.
Next blog will cover my way to karuzawa with some fab photos of nikko national park coming up.
Thanks as always for reading my blog.
Oil simpson 88.