Category Archives: Culture

Journey to Karuzawa

Tuesday was pretty much a day of us travelling to karuzawa and hitting a few places along the way. 

Namely the Nikko national park that was on the route we were taking to karuzawa. 

We got to see some real natural beauty of the Japanese Alps and countryside. 

   
        
These photos were taken from a spot near lake chouzuji I believe, sorry can’t remember the exact name of it. But as you can see just having such a view of the land around us was a sight to behold.  

The weather started off nicer today, though it was a bit windy and it soon clouded over as we went down to where the waterfall and town is in the photo above. 

Fog completely covered the lake that we couldn’t see a damm thing around us. It was like the beginning of horror film, nice start to the day, then you get to town and the group separates. some do dumb things and go into the foggy lake and from arises an undead, creepy to some kind of mythical creature to start the play.

Eventually gets to one survivor who gets lucky and somehow kills the killer. Hey Hollywood just gave you an idea for a cliché film. I expect some payment for this 😋.

Anyways back to waterfall. 

We went down a 100 meters to get a closer view of the waterfall that is there. 

   
  

     

Just some of the shots I got of the fall. Sorry for my fingers blurring the sides, wasn’t easy getting the shots from the angles I wanted and it didn’t show up when I was aiming the picture. 

While we were at the waterfall we came across this particular creature. 

 For you people who like me grew up in he 90’s I’m sure you remember those talking furby dolls, well nostalgia crep up today. As we came across talking cat, good lord did the group get some laughs out of it. We spent at least 15 minutes talking to it saying hello. I just meowed at it since I thought it was only fair to talk in its own language 😄.  

Once we were done with the waterfall and the cat. We then had to go back to Nikko due to the route we wanted to take to Karuzawa being covered in snow 😫. Shame as the route is according to Steve ine if the nicest and most scenic routes in Japan. 

But no matter these things happen and you just have to roll with it. 

So we went back to Nikko, got lunch from the local Family Mart there (Family Mart is just one of many chains of convenience stores in Japan). 

 They are on most corners in Japan main towns and cities, but noticed some in the countryside as well. Useful for getting a sandwich and drink if you need one. 
It took us around 2 hours to get to Karuzawa by this route. But the weather cleared up quite nicely along the way. Allowing for me to get a few nice shots of the Japanese Alps. 

   
  

     

Sorry for the somewhat dark pictures, but the sun was quite low by the time these were taken. 

So got to our hotel in Karuzawa. We stayed at the cypress hotel, a western hotel that was nice. The room I got was like a small apartment with a fridge, cooker, sink etc. plus a nice bit of space as well. 

Tonight’s dinner was a seven course French food. Which included salad at the start, French baguette, nice posse (French fish), chicken at some point, really nice raspberry cake with chocolate to go with it. 

Well that’s it for the travel day to Karuzawa. Sorry it wasn’t very interesting, but we didn’t see much today and nothing that has much cultural or spiritual reverence like Nikko did. 

Next blog will be my day round Karuzawa, with some fab pictures and info to come your way. 

Olisimpson88  

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Nikko

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.

   

    
Just some of the photos I took of the bridge. 

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. 

   
  
A picture of my room and the surrounding area from my window. 

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. 

Here is the link http://insidejapanblog.com/2015/02/17/japanese-etiquette-101-how-to-onsen/

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.