My Travel Map

My Travel Map

01 August 2013

Nikko, Japan

If you find yourself in Tokyo with an extra day to spend, and you're just itching to get away from the urban wonderland, I can definitely recommend a day trip to Nikko.  It's a long train ride from Tokyo at ~2.33 hrs, but it is indeed worth it.  Nikko is most famous for its shrine, Tosho-gu, but it is also a small mountain town with plenty else to offer.

On the train from Tokyo, the views just get better and better as you approach and then enter the mountains.

The JR Nikko Station... this building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright!

Every Japanese person I talked to just lit up when I mentioned my plans to visit Nikko... in November.  Right away, the mentioned the foliage.  As I mentioned in my first Tokyo post, the Japanese are great about celebrating the seasons.  In the fall, they appreciate the brilliant colors that the leaves turn before falling.  And they do get some vibrant foliage in and around Nikko.

These trees were just glowing...they contrasted brilliantly with the dark green of the pines and the bright blues and whites of the sky and clouds.

There is some other random art around town too... just little touches like this mosaic on the corner of a normal building that add so much character to a place.

And then there were these guys.. the Ice Bucks!  Nikko apparently is home to an ice hockey team... which is awesome (in my entirely unbiased, Canadian opinion).  These posters were all over town, including on most of the restaurants AND outside several private homes!  These guys were obviously popular locally.  I wish I had known; I'd love to see a game.

Back to random touches of character... this mask and sign just entranced me.

The Shin-kyo bridge... erected in the 1630's!

There is just something about turbulent water that hypnotizes me.  I can stare at a cascade or rapids for hours... just watching all the eddies and foam and seemingly random yet overall orderly motion.  Out of respect for chaos, I must include this picture.

And out of respect for beautiful settings for classic architecture, I must also include this picture.

Outside of the shrine area and the train station, Nikko is a very quiet town.  There were plenty of tourists moving about though, most of whom were Japanese and there to visit the shrine (which I did not visit by the way... too many tourists.  I was entirely put off by the traffic jam to get into the parking lot!).

This is a picture of a section of "wall paper" in the restaurant that I stumbled into and ended up having dinner at.  This place was on the main street from the train station on the way to the shrine, and it was run by this little old lady who spoke no English.  She was amazingly friendly, which is probably the main inspiration for all of the notes that random travelers have left her.  I had a bowl of soba noodles and some yakitori chicken with rice and sake.  It was delicious, and it was great reading and examining all of the notes and works of art left for her by people from all over the world.

Seeing the name in the guide book, I just had to check this place out: the Ganman-ga-fuchi abyss.  Really, it is just a pleasant creek flowing out of the mountains with some lovely rocks... nothing like any kind of abyss I could imagine.  It is a very, very pleasant walk from the town up into the mountains though... a great way to get into a more natural setting (though Nikko already does a nice job with that on its own). 

A pleasant surprise in "the abyss" were these statues of Jizo, the Buddhist saint of travelers and children.  I kind of want to get a statue of Jizo for myself, as I am definitely a traveler and hope to stay a child at heart throughout my life.  I especially loved the crocheted hats and bibs, which were obviously replaced regularly by the locals.  Those nice touches gave a sense of life and warmth and youth and care to the ancient stone statues... quite fitting considering the nature of the saint.

There are 50 of the statues lining a section of the trail... pretty cool.  It made me feel like I was in an ancient and special place.

The moss blankets over their legs made me think of nature nurturing and embracing them and keeping them warm too.  It is a beautiful place.  Anyway, this is a short and (hopefully) sweet post... for my short and very sweet day spent in Nikko.  I wanted to get out of Tokyo and see some more rural or traditional part of Japan, and I was very satisfied with Nikko.  

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for this short but very informative essay of Nikko! Very helpful. :)