Archive for the ‘Shinkyo’ Category

nikkō: rinnoji temple, shinkyo sacred bridge & yutaki falls   16 comments

Saturday, July 29:  After visiting the Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple, I retrace my steps to the temple I bypassed earlier this morning, Rinnoji Temple.  It is apparently Nikkō’s most important temple, founded by Shodo Shonin, the monk who introduced Buddhism to the area in the 8th century.  It’s now 11:00 a.m. and I’ve already visited three of the area’s shrines and temples; I’m happy to be making good time despite the rain.

On the way I pass the Sōrin-tō, a 15 meter-high bronze pillar that serves as a symbol of world peace and purifies the back demon gate of Nikkō Toshogu Shrine.  It contains 1,000 volumes of holy Buddhist sutras. Shogun Tokugawa Iyemitsu requested that Monk Jigen Daishi build the pillar in 1643.  Its design imitates the treasure tower at the temples on Mt. Hei (Heizan, Tendai sect headquarters).

The light today is just not working in my favor. 🙂

The sōrin-tō bronze pillar

I pay the fee and enter the Rinnoji temple’s main building, the Sanbutsudo, which houses fabulous gold lacquered, wooden statues of Amida, Senju-Kannon (“Kannon with a thousand arms”) and Bato-Kannon (“Kannon with a horse head”). The three deities are regarded as Buddhist manifestations of Nikkō’s three mountain deities which are enshrined at Futarasan Shrine, according to japan-guide.com: Rinnoji Temple. These are amazing statues, but sadly, no photography is allowed.

The Sanbutsudo Hall is currently undergoing a major renovation, scheduled to last until March 2019. During this period, the temple hall is covered by a huge scaffolding structure with a picture of the temple on the front.

Rinnoji Temple under renovation

While standing in line, I run into Christine from Luxembourg, who I met last night when I first arrived in Nikkō. It turns out I will run into Christine quite a number of times on this trip, and surprisingly, even later on my trip to the south!  She and I walk around this temple together.  Unlike me, who woke at the crack of dawn and have already been to visit three shrines, including the largest, Toshogu, Christine has just woken up and gotten started, so she is heading to Toshogu after this.  We will have to part ways when we leave Rinnoji.

We are allowed to take one picture, shown below, but we’re not allowed to photograph the Buddha statues.

inside Rinnoji Temple

We walk up a series of stairs to see the ongoing renovation, under cover from the rain.  We are able to take some pictures of the work in progress on the roof.

Around the Rinnoji Temple are small shrines, ema, and Shoyoen, a small Japanese style garden.

After Christine and I split, I revisit the Shinkyo Sacred Bridge, which I saw last night in the dark.  I already wrote about the bridge here: travel and arrival in nikko.

Nikko World Heritage Site

Shinkyo Sacred Bridge

Shinkyo Sacred Bridge

The bridge is part of Futarasan Shrine, which I visited earlier; a small part of the shrine sits here beside the river.

Futarasan Shrine

Near the bridge is a statue of Itagaki Taisuke (1817-1919), a politician of the Meiji period. When the pro-shogunate troops occupied Nikko San’nai and tried to destroy temples and shrines, he saved the temples from destruction.

Statue of Itagaki Taisuke

I stop for a lunch of yuba ramen near the Shinkyo Bridge.  It’s rather tasteless compared to my yuba monk’s meal last night.  I finish lunch about 12:30.

Yuba ramen

Near the restaurant, I hop on a bus that makes its way up a mountain for nearly an hour to Yutaki Falls.  I had no idea the bus ride would take so long, but it makes a multitude of stops along the way.  I don’t get to the falls until about 2:00. My goal is to start at Yutaki Falls and then follow the Senjo-ga-hara Hiking Course.  I had read about this popular hiking course in a blog post. The trail passes the Chuzenji Lake in the Nikko National Park. The course supposedly takes 2 1/2-3 hours and is mostly on flat ground through woods and marshland.

Yutaki Falls is one of the three famous falls in Oku-Nikko. The other two are Kegon Falls and Ryuzu Falls. The 70-meter high, 25-meter wide waterfall sits at the southern end of Lake Yunoko.

Yutaki Falls

After watching the waterfall for a while, I embark on the walking trail.  I pass a fisherman near the waterfall and then head into the forest. It’s still raining steadily.

A fisherman at Yutaki Falls

the path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

I love this kind of forest where the trees are spaced out nicely and there is lush undergrowth. Luckily it’s not muddy because the path has a wooden walkway.

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

I’m the only fool walking through the forest on this rainy day.

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

mossy tree

It’s still raining so steadily that after a while, and after not seeing another human being, I start to regret that I embarked on this hike at this late hour of the day. I begin to worry that the walk might take me longer than 2 1/2-3 hours, and that it might get dark before I make it to the end of the hike at Shakunage-bashi bridge.

About 40 minutes after starting the hike, I see a sign for Kotaki Falls, only 5 meters high and not as famous as Yutaki Falls or Ryuzu Falls. I head to the falls.  There is still not a soul in sight.  I see from my map that there’s a parking lot at Kotaki Falls.  While I’ve been contemplating backtracking to Yutaki, instead I follow the sign to the parking lot.

Kotaki Falls

This forest is so green and lush!  Not to mention wet.

greenery

mossy tree

close up of mossy tree

sign to the parking lot

almost there!

relief in sight 🙂

I actually end up at the same parking lot where I started the hike, so I’ve come full circle.  In a little shop, I find a man grilling shioyaki.  I don’t partake but instead buy myself a drink and go out to wait for the bus in the rain.

Shioyaki

About halfway down the mountain, at one of the bus stops, Christine hops on the bus.  It cracks me up that we keep running into each other.  She has been to another waterfall and is on her way back down into the town. I tell her I’m stopping to have my yuba monk’s meal again, but she still doesn’t want to eat out.  No matter.  I stop again and have a beer and my delicious yuba monk’s meal.

Dinnertime!

It’s been a long rainy day, and I’ve been on the go since 7:30 a.m. Though it hasn’t been a cold rain, I still look forward to getting into the hot onsen and having an early night.  I still have more to squeeze in tomorrow before I head back home to Fuchinobe. Sadly, rain is forecast tomorrow too, but of course, I’m always hopeful the sun will win out.

Steps today: 18,648 (7.9 miles).

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travel & arrival in nikko   9 comments

Friday, July 28:  This weekend is my last before I’m officially released from my teaching contract on Tuesday and I begin my last one-week holiday in Japan.  Although classes ended on Monday, we wrapped things up on Tuesday, and we had our final meeting with the administrators on Thursday, we still were required to be available to come in within an hour if we were called about any problems with the student grades.  I figured by Friday around noon if I hadn’t heard from anyone, I’d take off for Nikko, north of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture.

It’s quite a convoluted trip to get to Nikko from my home in Sagamihara, but after several metro changes within Tokyo, I’m finally on the Limited Express Nikko-Kinugawa Kinu line which has reserved seats and takes me directly to Nikko.  Through the train window, I get glimpses of rural Japan, which I haven’t seen since I’ve been living close to Tokyo for four months and haven’t taken any trips outside the metropolitan area.

view of farmland out the train window

views from the train

farmland north of Tokyo

train window views

farmland on the way to Nikko

more farmland

I’m surprised to have the train almost to myself for the whole hour and a half trip.  I even take a selfie; these never turn out well for me.  This is maybe the best I’ve ever taken and it’s still bad.

It’s close to 5:00 when I finally arrive to dark skies and sputtering rain. I hop on a bus to my hotel, the Turtle Inn, as directed by Tourist Information.  On the bus I meet Christine from Luxembourg. She’s traveling alone as her husband couldn’t take time off work.  She’s planning to go some of the places I’ll go next week when I move out of my apartment: Hiroshima, Miyajima and Nara.

It turns out she gets off the bus at the same stop as I do, as she’s planning to walk to the Narabi-Jizo (Bake-Jizo), a line of stone statues of the Buddhist Guardian deity Jizo; she has to walk by my hotel to get there.  On our way, I see a restaurant someone told me about that serves a monk’s diet.  I know my hotel doesn’t serve dinner, so I decide to stop for dinner and a beer.  I invite her to join me, but she’s on a mission.

restaurant in Nikko

The restaurant is cozy and the monk’s meal is delicious!  It features yuba prepared in a variety of ways.  Yuba, a food made from soybeans, is also known as tofu skin, bean curd skin or bean curd robes.  During the boiling of soy milk, in an open shallow pan, a film or skin forms on the liquid surface. The films are collected and dried into yellowish sheets known as tofu skin. It may sound a little strange, but it’s really delicious!

The menu below outlines what is in the monk’s diet: Nimono (boiled food): rolled yuba, village potato, carrot and shiitake mushroom.  Yuba with sweet miso topping and koyadofu.  Yuba and vegetable with dressing. Tempura. Yuba-flavored Konyaku / fresh (sashimi).  Miso soup with yuba. Yuba cooked in soy sauce and rice. And finally, for dessert, seasonal fruit — apples and kiwi. Of course, I enjoy a beer too!

“Yuba” festa – monk’s diet

“Yuba” festa – monk’s diet

After leaving the restaurant, I walk down toward the misty River Daiya, following the directions along the river to my hotel.

fog rising off the River Daiya

Nikko

By around 6:20, I am walking along the road toward the Turtle Inn, arriving there 10 minutes later.

The road to the Turtle Inn

Turtle Inn

bicycle at the Turtle Inn

After settling in at the Turtle Inn, I decide to take a walk to the Shinkyo, the vermilion lacquered Sacred Bridge built over the River Daiya.  The innkeeper suggested that I should see it at night all lit up. It’s designated as an important cultural property and was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1999.

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

According to legend, in 766 AD the Buddhist monk Shodo came to Nikko to teach Buddhism.  The rapid current of the River Daiya stopped his progress.  In those days, it was customary for priests to light a holy fire and ask for divine help.  A god appeared on the other side of the river and threw two snakes that entwined themselves into a bridge for monk Shodo. He was then able to cross the river and build the Shihonryuji Temple, where he could teach and practice Buddhism.

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

The current Shinkyo was constructed in 1636, but a bridge of some kind had marked the same spot for longer, although its exact origins are unclear, according to  Japan-guide.com.

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

Nikko World Heritage Site

Although, my camera is a bit shaky here, I like how the photo turns out.

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

It isn’t long before rain comes down in a deluge.  Luckily I have my umbrella.  I splash back to the hotel, where I immediately change and head for the individual onsen.  There are a couple of small onsens shared by all people at the hotel, but they are used individually. It feels good to have a hot bath before I settle in to my futon for the night.

Sadly, the forecast in Nikko for the whole weekend calls for rain, but as always, I’m hopeful that the sun will prevail. 🙂

Steps today: 12,187 (5.16 miles).

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