Category Archives: Temple

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.

First tour day

Sorry for late posting, Nikko yesterday was so good and the ryokan place I stayed at left me little time to write. I aim to get a post up every other day from this point on not to rush myself.

Just wanted to give a short message at the start to apologise for using the term jap in earlier posts 😥. 

I was informed today of its insensitive nature. It relates to it being used negativity during ww2 by allied States. 

I had never realised it was an offensive term til someone on Facebook informed me today. Since this term gets used a lot on the Internet and I had always thought it was a harmless word. I have been corrected on that now.

From this point I will make all effort to avoid using the term. I hope I haven’t offended anyone using the term and it was not my intention to offend. I have also corrected the use of the word in earlier blog posts.

Now onto my post for my first group tour day. 

Weather was cloudy today and some spitting drizzle weather later on. But it wasn’t too cold or wet. Just grey overall 😕.

We started at 9:am in Asakusa where we are based at. Since I was here in 2010 the area has changed quite a bit. As from the picture from my room can show you. Not just the Tokyo skytree. 

A few new buildings have come up as well since I last came here and the place does look renovated now.

We then went down to where the river is near the Asashi brewery. It’s the building with the golden looking sperm. 

   

Once there we got there. The sumida river ride that takes you down to the Hama-rikyu gardens that is across from where the rainbow bridge is. 

Now I had done these experiences before in my first tour of Japan. But doing them again and seeing the beautiful gardens especially is a nice touch. Plus it allowed me to tell the other members of the group of the gardens and other little tips I know.

   

          

Got some late Sakura bloomers 😃.

Which is always nice.

We then went to the teahouse for some green tea. They served it with the wagashi sweets that I had a lesson on In the last blog post. This allowed me to mention to a few of the group members of what I learnt yesterday.

But Steve our glorious leader gave good insight to it as well that I had learnt as well.

Once we had finished seeing the gardens we made our way by taxi to the nearest train station in order to head to the Ueno market to check it out and have lunch.

I had a meal at a local place with tempura (fried) prawn with some rice. It was gorgeous forgit how much I love tempura food in Japan.

Then once lunch was done, Steve had to leave us to sort out jr rail passes, so we had the services of a guide named Chida I believe, meaning the word of wisdom in Japanese.

Who took us on a bus tour around Tokyo city. So we through akihabara, pass the imperial palace (only got to see the outer moat and trees 😩). As we made out way to the Meji Shrine. Another place that I have visited before.

Where Chida told the group all about how Japan uses Shintoism and Buddhism in there lives and how Japanese weddings can go down. There’s an old saying in japan of how your born a Shinto, wed as a Christian and die a Buddhist I believe is how the saying goes.

So we made our way up to the shrine and we got the lucky opportunity to witness a full Shinto wedding ceremony happening.

 

This is the photo I got of it at the shrine.

The Meji shrine is you can guess the shrine dedicated to the first Meji emperor that came to power in the late nineteenth century (around 1868) when the whole samurai feudal system was abolished and the emperor was put into power.

I didn’t take any pictures of it on Sunday due to having been there before and the inside again having a no camera policy.

The guide went on about how it stands out as a Shinto/Buddhist shrine. How you can tell a Shinto prayer place from a Buddhist one. Along with showing how to pray for a Shinto shrine. You throw a coin, bow twice, clap your hands together twice and then bow again.!

For a Buddhist temple it is if I can remember just bow once. Way to tell a Shinto shrine from a Buddhist temple is looking at the tori gates, usually big red looking objects you see near shrines. They can help tell you if the shrine or temple is Shinto, Buddhist or if your at nikko both.

Afterwards our guide gave us some interesting facts about Japan that I knew already. But for the less experienced visitors were very interesting facts. Namely that Japan’s land is made up of 70% of hills and mountains (though I remember reading an article saying it was 83% but the specifics of it all is subject to analysis).

How around one in five Japanese are over 60 and if the current trend continues it will be 1 in 3 Within the next 30 years. I hope Japan can find a way to deal with this issue. Since it has been causing them trouble for a few years now. Since a state can only handle so much in costs relating to it. Britain has this as a future issue as well. I imagine I will be working til I die simply cause more people will live to an old age and less young people are around to pay for a pension and to keep the system going.

Japan in the future may have to expand their very limited immigration system that they rely on to bring in people from the Philippines, China, Korea and Brazil in order to have some young people to care for the elderly and fund costs etc. but immigration as I know from Britain’s long debate around it has shown no easy solution is in sight.

Ok that’s enough on that.

Once Meji shrine was done we went back to the hotel and parted ways with the guide and the group for the evening. Own dinner that night and I just grabbed something from the local dining area. Just some noodles and fried food and went back to my room to write up my blog for the pervious day.

Okay that’s it is time. Sorry it has been as detailed, pictured and interesting as my last one but today was a much more quiet day and less interesting for me overall to write up on all that much.

Next blog post will be my visit to Nikko and staying in a Ryokan. That will be most fun😃.

Oli simpson 88.