Archive for the ‘Turtle Inn’ Category

nikkō tamozawa imperial villa memorial park   10 comments

Sunday, July 30:  I am so tired and soggy from the rain in Nikkō that I’m tempted to forgo any more sights and simply return home.  However, I see on my map it’s not much of a detour to see the Nikkō Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park, built in 1899 as a retreat for Emperor Taisho (Prince Yoshihito at the time).  It was also used by three emperors and three princes until 1947.

According to Tamozawa Imperial Villa was built in Nikkō from parts of a residence that originally stood in Tokyo.  At a sprawling 4,500 square meters, the building has 106 rooms. The Villa harmonizes architecture from three eras: Edo (1603-1868), Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926).

hydrangea on the grounds of Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Before being moved to Nikkō, the building was originally the Tokyo residence of a branch of the Tokugawa family and was later temporarily used as the Imperial Palace.  In Nikkō, it was enlarged into a summer residence and retreat for the Imperial Family, but it suffered neglect after World War II.

The Imperial Family is a long line of emperors who ruled Japan, with limited or symbolic authority, for some 1500 years.  It is commonly accepted that they have all descended from the same family. The imperial crest is a 16-petaled chrysanthemum flower ( Emperor).

entrance to Tamozawa Imperial Villa

The villa was opened to the public in 2000, after extensive renovation works.

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa is one of the largest remaining wooden buildings in Japan. The interior of the villa is an odd mix of Japanese and Western styles. Many floors are carpeted, and elaborate chandeliers hang from the ceilings. Yet the villa’s Japanese elements, such as sliding paper doors, painted screens, and tatami flooring are prominent as well, according to Tamozawa Imperial Villa.

gardens on the interior


Although still impressive in size and grandeur, Tamozawa Imperial Villa currently occupies only one-third of its original area. It now functions as a museum and memorial park.

I love the painted screens that show romantic images of Japanese nature, nobility and landscape.  The painted paper sliding and cedar board doors of the Villa were transferred from the Edo-naka-yashiki residence of the Kishu Tokugawa family. At the villa, two pairs of decorated sliding doors were installed in the stair rooms on the northern side of the study area and 9 pairs of cedar board door paintings were placed on the first and second floors.  These wall paintings were works by the personal painters of the Kishu Tokugawa, as well as many other masters.  The subjects of the paintings vary widely.

painted screen

detail of painted screen

painted screen

The manicured Japanese style garden surrounding the villa is all green in late July, but its maple trees boast autumn colors in late October and early November.

garden at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gnarled tree at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

garden at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

garden at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

view of the garden from inside Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

gardens at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

grounds at Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

By 11:15, after exploring the nooks and crannies of Tamozawa Imperial Villa, I make my way back to the Turtle Inn to pick up my bags; I left them there to hold for me after I checked out this morning.

walkway back to the Turtle Inn

little bud

Goodbye Turtle Inn

I say goodbye to the Turtle Inn and its turtle army and I’m on my way back home by 11:30.  It’s a long haul to get back to Fuchinobe, and I admit I get a little lost in Tokyo on my way home.  But I make it safely and finish packing up my two large suitcases to have them picked up tomorrow to store in the airport for a week, until August 7.  I have to get my apartment thoroughly cleaned for the inspection on Tuesday, hand my bicycle over to Graham, and then I’ll be on my way to Hiroshima.

Total steps today: 12,418 (5.26 miles).

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


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

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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