A Day Trip to Nikko
Nikko was such a cool place I wish I could go back! If you travel north to the very end of the Nikko line, you will reach this delightfully quaint town. I went with my very good friend Mac, and it took us about two and a half hours (plus accidentally getting on the wrong train) to get to there. Nikko is a World heritage site and home to the Toshogu Shrine. I am actually learning about this shrine in my art history class so I was pumped to get to visit! It was built for Tokugawa Ieyasu, and he is enshrined there. He then became deified as the shinto god of the shrine, and he was known as "the Great Illuminator". The Yomeimon (Sun-bright gates) was actually the most expensive structure of the time period (Edo period). They felt like flaunting their wealth with this giant and elaborate gate, which was unfortunately covered up when we went. :( However, all of the buildings at this shrine were intricately decorated. Tucked into the forest and surrounded by lush mountains, it was probably the most breathtaking shrine I have visited yet (architecturally too, because my favorite shrine is still the Fushimi Inari in Kyoto). There are lots of animal motifs in the buildings as well. The three monkeys-hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil- are carved into one structure, there is a sleeping cat on another (not sure why though), elephants, and a room with a giant dragon painted on the ceiling. This place had it all.
So this adventure began early on a Saturday, to where I took a train to meet Mac in Ueno. We then took another train to....I forgot the name of the station, and once there I got a delicious teriyaki hotdog wrapped in a tortilla. These things will be the future of hotdogs. I'll make sure of it. It was another two hours to Nikko after we got on and off the wrong train. Luckily we didn't miss the one we actually needed. It was cool watching the landscape change from urban buildings to rice fields and trees. I am always fascinated when I can actively watch the bustling city of Tokyo melt into a natural paradise.
As soon as we made it to the rural town it began to rain. Ok, downpour is more accurate. Mac and I were desperately searching for a place to eat, and we settled on a small restaurant that offered Nikko's specialty-Yuba. Yuba is the thin layer that accumulates from boiling soymilk. Sounds weird, like how would you eat that? But it was interesting, aside from slightly resembling a soggy plastic bag. Go try it, it actually tastes good. And it's nutritious! The entire meal was delicious and comprised entirely of several small plates.
After our lunch we set off towards Toshogu Shrine, but the rain was relentless. I took pictures anyways, because dangit I needed them so I could write this blog! I actually really like the way they turned out, so I was not mad about the rain. In fact, there was a point in which it was raining so hard, I just laughed and laughed because what else can you do in a situation like that? I actually brought my smaller umbrella with me so I could put it in my backpack, but that also meant my backpack and purse were basically soaked. But lets be real, I was pretty much just wet in general. Mac kept joking about getting trench foot because he wasn't wearing waterproof shoes, and the hairspray he sprayed on them due to strong encouragement of his host mother did nothing to help. Maybe laughing in the face of the onslaught from the heavens actually proved to be good luck because the rain let up once we made it to the shrine.
After the shrine we visited a temple next door, but it was under construction. It was an interesting experience but it felt more like a museum. Because it was contained inside a metal building, it didn't have the charm of the naturalistic elements that play in to the architecture of a temple or shrine. When they are finished reconstructing or whatever it is they are doing, I'm sure it will look amazing; but if you should go to Nikko and see this building that is supposed to be a temple, I can't say I would recommend paying to see it. However, Mac and I walked up several flights of stairs to view the scenery from up high (we climbed a lot of stairs that day). I think my favorite part of being in Nikko was seeing the thick steam created from the rain billow out of the forested mountains. It was so mysterious and alluring. Thank you rain!
Other things that happened on our trip:
- I got a death glare from a European girl (I don't know why)
- We saw a man walking his ferret
- We got gelato and talked with the woman working there. She was vey nice.
- I celebrated the 4th of July by consuming my second hot dog of the day, which happened to be from a French bakery...