Archive for the ‘Travel’ Tag

hiroshima   10 comments

Wednesday, August 2:  At 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on Hiroshima.  “The explosion decimated 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of ‘a new and most cruel bomb'” (History.com: Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Ever since I read the book Hiroshima by John Hersey, I’ve wanted to visit Hiroshima. When I lived in Korea from March of 2010-March of 2011, I only had a short break for the Lunar New Year in February; I went to Kyoto because it was the easiest place to get to from Busan, S. Korea. My first choice was Hiroshima, but in the short time I had, it didn’t seem possible.  Now that I’ve been to Japan, I know it would have been possible, but those years were my first years of traveling solo, and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. Kyoto was wonderful, so I had no regrets.

When I planned my one week trip through Japan, I thought I’d have at least 1 1/2 days in Hiroshima because I assumed I’d be able to leave my apartment early on August 1.  However, since my company scheduled my apartment inspection for close to 3 pm, I didn’t arrive in Hiroshima until 8:40 pm, leaving me only one day in the city.

This Wednesday morning, from the brunch room at the top of Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima, I see a clean and beautiful city, sitting placidly in a bowl surrounded by mountains, with several rivers threading through. It’s impossible to imagine the devastation that occurred here nearly 72 years ago.  A beautiful blue-sky day beckons.

After breakfast, I head out directly to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, sitting just catty-corner from my hotel.

view from Sunroute Hiroshima

Before the A-bomb, and after the Meiji Restoration, the event that restored practical imperial rule to Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji, Hiroshima grew to be the largest city of the Chugoku Region and one of Japan’s leading military bases.  During the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) the Imperial Headquarters (primary command center) was established in Hiroshima, with Ujina Port utilized largely for military purposes.  Each time Japan took military action, troops gathered in Hiroshima for dispatch to battle.  Military facilities expanded year after year.

Hiroshima was also a leading education city, boasting the only Higher Normal School outside of Tokyo.  Moreover, manufacturing growth between the world wars developed it into an industrial city.

Why did the USA choose Hiroshima as its first target? According to a plaque at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum: Evaluation of Targets: The Target Committee, comprising military personnel and scientists, evaluated potential targets from a military standpoint.  At the first meeting on April 27, 1945, criteria for target selection were developed, and 17 areas were selected for further study.  At the second meeting on May 11, 1945, after examining such issues as city size and topography that would magnify the effects of the blast, the committee shortened the list to four: Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, and Kokura.  They also agreed that psychological effects against Japan were of great importance.

It seems the city was chosen because it was a military as well as an industrial hub, and because it sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains which maximized damage from the blast.  It was very unlucky for the residents of Hiroshima, but, if there is a silver lining, at least the cultural treasures of Kyoto were not destroyed.

From Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima, I have a clear view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome on the right bank.

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park now occupies what was at one time the city’s busiest downtown commercial and residential district. The park was built on an open field that was created by the explosion. Every year on August 6, a Peace Memorial Ceremony is conducted by the Hiroshima Memorial Service Association, in addition to the Hiroshima Inter-Faith League and other religious groups.  The park is abuzz with activity today as people are setting up for the ceremony which will be held in four days. The ceremony is held to console the victims of the atomic bombs and to pray for lasting world peace.  A moment of silence is held at 8:15, the moment the bomb exploded over Hiroshima.

The Peace Memorial Park’s purpose is to not only memorialize the victims, but also to preserve evidence of nuclear horrors and to advocate world peace.

Sadly, today I find that the West wing of the The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is closed.  Only the newly renovated East Building is open today.

Inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, I walk along a curved wall that displays floor-to-ceiling black & white photos of Hiroshima before the bomb.

Photos of Hiroshima before the Atomic bomb went off

Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall before the blast

The video below shows black & white photos of Hiroshima before the A-bomb as I walk along the curved wall.  I’m sorry it’s a little shaky.

A single bomb indiscriminately killed tens of thousands of people, profoundly disrupting and altering the lives of survivors.  Through belongings left by the victims, A-bombed artifacts, testimonies of A-bomb survivors and related materials, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum conveys to the world the horrors and inhumane nature of nuclear weapons and spreads the message of “No more Hiroshimas.”  (From a plaque at the museum)

The time Hiroshima was hit

the A-Bomb Dome after the bomb exploded

After the A-bomb, the central columns of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall Building remained intact, although the bomb exploded almost directly overhead.  In another room, I walk along another curved wall showing photos of the city after the bomb hit. This is so moving, it brings tears to my eyes.

aerial view of Hiroshima

In the center of the curved room is an aerial view of Hiroshima and a simulation of the bomb exploding.

aerial photo of Hiroshima

Below is my video of the aerial simulation of the blast.

The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (approx. 160 meters from the hypocenter) was completed in April of 1915 under the design and supervision of Czech architect Jan Letzel.  Noted for its unique green dome, it was primarily used for arts and educational exhibitions.

The atomic bomb exploded at an altitude of 600 meters, approximately 160 meters southeast of the Industrial Promotion Hall, instantly killing everyone inside the building, which was seriously damaged and completely burned out.

The East Building of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum includes exhibits of belongings left by the atomic bomb victims, and photos and other materials that convey the horror of the atomic bombing. There are also video recordings of atomic bomb survivors’ testimonies and special exhibitions.

According to the introduction to the museum’s English guide: “The East Wing—the newest addition—explains the history of Hiroshima City before the bomb, development and decision to drop the bomb, the lives of Hiroshima citizens during World War II and after the bombing, and ends with information about the nuclear age and efforts for international peace. Included in this section is a model showing the damage done to the city. It has some important letters exchanged between scientists and top leaders of that era talking about atomic development and predicted result of its use” (Wikipedia: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum).

Below are photos of some of the items in the museum with descriptions taken directly from the plaques.

Tricycle – 1,500 meters from the hypocenter: Sinichi Tetsutani (then, 3 years and 11 months) loved to ride this tricycle. That morning, he was riding it in front of his house.  Following a sudden flash, the heat rays burned Sinichi and his tricycle, leading to his death that night.  Thinking that little Sinichi would miss his home and could ride his favorite tricycle, his father Nobuo buried Sinichi’s body in the backyard of their house together with the tricycle.  In the summer of 1985, forty years later, Nobuo dug up Sinichi’s remains and transferred them to the family grave and donated the tricycle to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

Sinichi Tetsutani’s tricycle

Sinichi Tetsutani and his sister (?)

watch

Human shadow etched in stone – 260 m from the hypocenter:  A person sitting on the steps to the bank waiting for it to open was exposed to the flash from the atomic bomb explosion.  Receiving the ray directly, the victim must have died on the spot from massive burns. The surface of the surrounding stone steps was turned whitish by the intense heat ray.  The place where the person was sitting became dark like a shadow.  Several bereaved families have suggested that one of their family members may have created this shadow.

Sadly, this is only a photo of the stone steps of the bank.  This was one of the main things I was interested in seeing when I came to Hiroshima; it must be in the closed West Wing, because it is nowhere to be found here.

Human shadow etched in stone

According to the introduction to the museum’s English guide, “The West Wing, which was part of the old museum, concentrates on the damage of the bomb. Sections include Material Witness, which shows clothing, watches, hair, and other personal effects worn by victims of the bomb; Damage by the Heat Rays, a section that looks at what happened to wood, stone, metal, glass, and flesh from the heat; Damage by the Blast, focusing on the destruction caused by the after shocks of the blast, and Damage by the Radiation which goes into details about the health effects suffered by humans” (Wikipedia: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum).

It seems that the stone steps from the bank must have been in the West Wing during my visit.

burned clothing

The Holocaust at Hiroshima (Ceramic Wall Painting Replica): The renowned painter Ikuo Hirayama was exposed to the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945 while working as a mobilized student at the Army Weaponry Depot.  Seeking refuge after the bombing at his birth place to Setoda-cho, he stopped along the way at Mt. Ogonzan and gazed in astonishment for several hours as all of Hiroshima became engulfed in flames.

The painting expresses images of eternal peace and of Hiroshima, an immortal phoenix reborn from its own ashes.

The Holocaust at Hiroshima

Wedding Costumes: Ms. Toshiko Iida (then 25) was exposed to the A-bombing together with her daughter, Makiko (then, 4), her son Kunihiko (then, 3), her father Chiematsu Shinnaka, her mother Fumiko, and her younger sisters Hiroko and Michiko, when she was at her parents’ home in Kako-machi, nearly 1km from Ground Zero.  The house had collapsed, trapping all of them under the fallen structure. However, they managed to get out of there and ran barefooted in desperation.  When Toshiko and her two children were stranded around the Sumiyoshi Bridge, they were rescued by a ship of the Akatsuki Corps right before evening, and the ship carried them to Miyajima Island. Afterward, they moved to their relative’s home in Yamagata County.  Although Toshiko was nursed there, her hair fell out and her body including her lips turned bluish-black as a result of the effect of the radiation.  Her symptoms worsened, from fevers to bloody discharge and necrosis.  She finally died on September 4th, followed by Makiko on the 5th.

These are the costumes worn by Toshiko for her wedding ceremony.  Since they had been relocated from their original storage place together with other items on August 5th, the day before the atomic bombing, they remained safe.

Ms. Toshiko Iida’s wedding costumes

A Young Girl’s Death from Leukemia – Sadako Sasaki: Sadako Sasaki was exposed to the A-bomb at the age of two but escaped without apparent injury.  She grew into a strong and healthy girl.  Nine years later, in the fall of her sixth year in elementary school, she suddenly contracted leukemia and was hospitalized in February the following year. She folded paper cranes continuously hoping they would help her recover, but after an 8-month battle with the disease, she succumbed.  Sadako’s death triggered a movement to build a monument to all the children who perished due to the atomic bomb, and the Children’s Peace Monument was erected in Peace Memorial Park with donations received from all over Japan.  Sadako’s story has since traveled around the world.  Now countless paper cranes are sent to this monument every year.

Sadako Sasaki

The Children’s Peace Monument stands in memory of all children who died as a result of the atomic bombing. The monument was originally inspired by the death of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako’s untimely death compelled her classmates to call for the creation of a monument for all children who died due to the atomic bomb.  Built with contributions from more than 3,200 schools in Japan and donors in nine countries, the Children’s Peace Monument was unveiled on May 5, 1958.

At the top of the 9-meter monument, a bronze statue of a girl lifts a golden crane entrusted with dreams for a peaceful future.  Figures of a boy and a girl are located on the sides of the monument.

The inscription on the stone block under the monument reads, “This is our cry.  This is our prayer.  For building peace in this world.”

Children’s Peace Monument

Below are some of the countless folded paper cranes, symbols of world peace, at the Children’s Peace Monument.

Paper cranes

Paper cranes at the Children’s Peace Monument are sent here by children all over the world.

 

Near the center of the park is a concrete, saddle-shaped monument that covers a cenotaph holding the names of all of the people killed by the bomb. The monument is aligned to frame the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome. The Memorial Cenotaph was one of the first memorial monuments built on the open field on August 6, 1952. The arch shape represents a shelter for the souls of the victims.

Memorial Cenotaph

The Peace Flame is another monument to the victims of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, but it has an additional symbolic purpose. The flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The Peace Flame

The Bell of Peace was dedicated as a symbol of “Hiroshima Aspiration: Let all nuclear arms and wars be gone, and the nations live in true peace!  May it ring to all corners of the earth to meet the ear of every man, for in it throb and palpitate the hearts of its peace-loving donors.  So may you, too, friends, step forward, and toll this bell for peace.”  ~ Dedicated September 20th, 1964 by Hiroshima Higan-no-Kai.

Bell of Peace

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound:  Here are laid the ashes of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bomb.  Being close to the hypocenter, numerous corpses were collected at this spot and cremated.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound

Paper cranes also hang around The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound.

In July 1955, as part of the 10th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb, the present memorial mound was constructed with an underground cinerarium through the leadership of the City of Hiroshima.  The ashes of victims excavated around the city were placed here.

The Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound

At the Cenotaph for Korean Victims: Among the 400,000 people who were killed or exposed to lethal post-explosion radiation, at least 45,000 were Korean, but the number is uncertain, because the population has been neglected as the minority. Additionally, 300,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki returned to Korea after liberation from Japanese colonialism. The monument, beautified with Korean national symbols, is intended to honor Korean victims and survivors of the atomic bomb and Japanese colonialism.  The monument’s inscription reads “The Monument in Memory of the Korean Victims of the A[tomic]-Bomb. In memory of the souls of His Highness Prince Yi Wu and over 20000 other souls”, while the side-inscription reads “Souls of the dead ride to heaven on the backs of turtles.”

Cenotaph for Korean Victims

In December 1996, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, soon commonly called the Genbaku (“A-Bomb”) Dome, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as a reminder to the entire world of the horrors of the atomic bomb and a symbol of world peace.

The structure was scheduled to be demolished with the rest of the ruins, but most of the building was intact, including the the exposed metal dome framework at its apex, delaying the demolition plans. The Dome became a subject of controversy, with some locals wanting it torn down, while others wanted to preserve it as a memorial of the bombing and a symbol of peace.  Ultimately, when the reconstruction of Hiroshima began, the skeletal remains of the building were preserved (Wikipedia: Hiroshima Peace Memorial).

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

As I cross a bridge over the Motoyasu River from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, I can see the Atomic Bomb Dome on my left.

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

The Red Bird Monument is a literary monument dedicated to Mickichi Suzuki, a distinguished novelist of the Meiji and Taisho Period, who was born in Hiroshima City. In 1918, he launched the children’s literature The Red Bird, which gave birth to the first songs and fairy tales for Japanese children.  The monument, built in 1964, serves as a symbol of Hiroshima’s recovery from the atomic bomb’s devastation and the hope for world peace.

Red Bird Monument

another monument

The Atomic Bomb Dome

Fountain near The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome

A-bomb Survivor Groups: Despite the unspeakably grim living conditions in Hiroshima after the bombing, residents rose from the ashes to rebuild their lives and toiled to bring their city back.  Help came as well from elsewhere in Japan and from overseas. The road to recovery was strewn with obstacles, but the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law enacted in 1949 facilitated the gradual redevelopment of urban infrastructure.  Today, Hiroshima’s population has grown to more than one million.

Even as the city came back to life, many residents contended with severe physical and psychological problems caused by the bomb.  In 1957, the A-bomb Survivors Medical Care Law allowed the Japanese government to assist the A-bomb survivors.  This assistance has improved over the years.

Looking downriver at the A-Bomb Dome on the right

U.S. Investigation of A-bomb Illnesses: In November 1946, U.S. President Harry Truman ordered the creation of an organization to investigate the aftereffects of the atomic bomb.  In March 1947, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was established in Hiroshima.  The Nagasaki ABCC was established the following year.  A-bomb survivors had high expectations, hoping that the ABCC would treat their illnesses, but the ABCC performed only examinations and research.

view down the Motoyasu River to the A-Bomb Dome

Reading about the current situation regarding nuclear weapons is quite depressing.

Situations around the World regarding Nuclear Weapons: The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which includes a ban on all types of nuclear tests involving a nuclear explosion, has still not received the necessary ratification by America, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Iran, and North Korea, and therefore cannot be put into effect.  In January and September of 2016, North Korea performed underground nuclear tests.

At present, international conferences are held once every two years to promote the implementation of the Treaty; however, there are no prospects for ratification by the necessary countries.

In October of 2016, the United Nations General Assembly First Committee adopted a resolution to begin negotiations towards enacting a nuclear weapons convention. The resolution, approved by 123 nations, discusses the catastrophic humanitarian effects brought about by the use of nuclear weapons and the danger caused by their existence. Negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention began in March of 2017.

However, this resolution is opposed not only by countries possessing nuclear weapons such as America and Russia, but also by countries such as Japan and Australia, and there are various issues remaining.

*************************

My time in Hiroshima is short, but its impact is powerful.  We’re lucky that we’ve survived 72 years so far without another nuclear attack, but I fear for our world as long as powerful and crazy men continue to control nuclear arsenals the world over.  I can only hope that the world never sees another devastating attack like the ones at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the afternoon, I get on a boat near Peace Memorial Park, which takes me to the island of Miyajima.

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 Japan-guide.com: 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 (Japan-guide.com: 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 Japan-guide.com: Tamozawa Imperial Villa.

gardens on the interior

terrace

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).

nikkō: kanman-ga-fuchi, bake jizo & jokoji temple   12 comments

Sunday, July 30: This morning I’m down in the breakfast room at the Turtle Inn by 8:00, gobbling down some bread and a huge plate of fruit.  Random strangers are seated sporadically throughout the dining area.

Dining room at the Turtle Inn

I’m also surrounded by an invasion of turtles, which must be either the inspiration for the hotel’s name, or the manifestation of it.

Turtle at the Turtle Inn

stacks of turtles

By 9:00, I’m walking along the Daiya River toward Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss and the famous Narabi-Jizo (Bake-Jizo).  I’m following one of two historical walks from the Nikkō Historical Walking Map.  I did the Takino’o Path yesterday and today, I’m walking the Kanman Path.  The weather can’t seem decide if it’s going to rain or not; the sky is sporadically spitting, and then it’s not.  Either way, it’s dark and dreary, as my entire time in Nikkō has been.

Daiya River

I come to the Stone Park where there are some interesting stone formations and previews of the Jizo statues to come.

Stone Park entrance

moss-covered stone

The gate along the Kanman Path

Soon, I have my first glimpse of Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss.  This scenic area of the Daiya river was formed by the lava from an eruption of Mt. Nantai.  It is said that Priest Kokai named this abyss ‘Kanman’ because the murmuring of the stream sounds like a recitation of the last word of a sutra, “Kanman.”

first glimpse of Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

stone lantern

It isn’t long before I come to the Narabi-Jizo (Bake-Jizo), a line of stone statues of Jizo, dressed in red bibs and caps.  Jizo is a bodhisattva (bosatsu in Japanese) who is the protector of children, expectant mothers and travelers. He is also the protector of deceased children, including miscarried, aborted or stillborn infants.  According to one folk tale, the dead children go to a kind of purgatory where they must pile stones into towers to make merit and be released. But demons scatter the stones, and the towers can never be completed. Jizo hides children in his robes to protect them from these demons and save them, according to ThoughtCo.: Jizo Bosatsu and his Role.

Here, there were once 100 stone statues of Jizo, including two big ones, called ‘Oya Jizo’ (Parent Jizo), before the flood in 1902. Today, there are 74 statues standing in a line.  The statues were carved by the disciples of Archbishop Tenkai (1536-1643).

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

At Narabi-Jizo, caps, bibs and sometimes toys are left by grieving parents who have lost a child.

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

The Reihi-kaku Divine Tower is a small building on a rock.  The original tower was built in 1654 by the priest Kokai as an oratory.  Priests lit a holy fire in this tower and prayed for world peace. However, the flood of 1902 washed this tower away, and the current building was rebuilt in 1971.

Reihi-kaku Divine Tower

Reihi-kaku Divine Tower

Narabi-Jizo

Narabi-Jizo

Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

Here is a YouTube video of a walk among the Jizo statues:

I turn around and retrace my steps, heading to Jokoji Temple, which became a family temple (Bodaiji) after moving to this area in 1640. This temple enshrined Amida Nyorai (General Savior of Mankind).

gate to Jokoji Temple

Jokoji Temple

water pavilion at Jokoji Temple

Jokoji Temple

At Jokoji Temple, there are many stone figures, but I don’t know the significance of them.

figures at Jokoji Temple

Jokoji Temple

figures at Jokoji Temple

figure at Jokoji Temple

figure at Jokoji Temple

Kanman-Oya-Jizo-On-Kubi, the head of a parent Jizo, was washed away in the flood of 1902.  After the flood, local people discovered the head in a riverbed and enshrined it at Jokoji Temple.  Its facial features seem to have been washed away.

Kanman-Oya-Jizo-On-Kubi

Sugegasa Higiri Jizo is enshrined in this small wooden building. Jizo is wearing a Japanese hat (kasa) of sedge (suge). It is very rare for Jizo to have such a hat on his head. It is believed if you pray to this Jizo for something you want to be realized on a certain day, your wish will be granted. Many people come here to pray for their wishes.

Sugegasa Higiri Jizo

The cemetery at Jokoji Temple is atmospheric and seems to evaporate into the surrounding forest.

cemetery at Jokoji Temple

At Jokoji Temple, three Jizo sit in a simple wooden building.  The one in the center was built in 1550 and is said to be the oldest stone Buddha in Nikko. This Jizo is called Michibiki Jizo.  “Michibiki” means “to lead” or “to guide.” People believed that this Jizo would lead a dead person to Buddha’s world.  The other two Jizo were called “Mimi-dare Jizo;” it is believed these two Jizo can cure ear disease.

Michibiki Jizo

Michibiki Jizo in the center, and the two Mimi-dare Jizo

reclining moss-covered figure at Jokoji Temple

After leaving Jokoji Temple at 10:15 a.m., I make my way to Nikkō Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park.  After that, I’ll have to be on my way home for my last two days in my Fuchinobe apartment before leaving on my one week holiday. 🙂

 

 

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).

nikkō: futarasan shrine & rinnoji taiyuin mausoleum and temple   8 comments

Saturday, July 29: After leaving Toshogu Shrine, I trudge through the rain down a long path edged with stone lanterns. I’m heading to Futarasan Shrine, founded in 782 by Shodo Shonin, the Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikkō.  The current building dates from 1619, making it the oldest shrine in Nikkō.

walkway to Futarasan Shrine

Futarasan (“two rough mountains”) Shrine is where the surrounding mountain deities are worshiped, and though not as fabulous in appearance as Toshogu, this atmospheric temple, set in the midst of towering Cryptomeria (Japanese cedar), is Nikkō’s spiritual heart.  The revered deities are related to Nikkō’s three most sacred mountains: Mount Nantai, Mount Nyoho and Mount Taro.  The Shinkyo Bridge is also part of this shrine.

torii to Futarasan Shrine

The worship of mountains is an ancient Shinto practice that was integrated into Buddhism when it entered the area in the eighth century. The mountains, considered both as frightening guardian spirits and providers of life due to their flowing rivers, have been worshiped in the islands since Neolithic times (Japan experience: Futarasan Shrine).

I’m afraid I don’t know the significance of the various figures of Futarasan Shrine, but some of them seem quite fierce.

lion at Futarasan Shrine

Haiden at Futarasan Shrine

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

Below is the Daikoku-den, with an interesting figure standing outside and beautifully decorated ceilings inside. While I’m inside, I suddenly can’t take pictures because my camera card is full.  When I put a new one into my camera, I can’t get it to work and I take it in and out and turn my camera off and on, to no avail.  After sulking about a bit, I decide to remove the battery and then put it back in.  Voila, that solves the problem.  It’s so annoying and frustrating to have problems with a camera while traveling.

Daikoku-den

figure at Daikoku-den

ceiling inside Daikoku-den

Many of the cedar trees have been chopped down and the trunks are preserved at this shrine.

cedar trunk

There are smaller shrine areas within Futarasan Shrine where people solemnly worship.  One area has a pond. Another has a boulder pile topped with small white pebbles.  Yet another has a pile of wooden hearts.  I don’t know the meaning of any of these little sacred spots.

Futarasan Shrine

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

I leave Futarasan and continue walking down another long path to Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple.  The mausoleum was built for Third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu, the grandson of Ieyasu. Taiyuin is the posthumous name of Iemitsu.  Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum was built in the same architectural technique and style as Toshogu Shrine, but on a smaller and more modest scale.  I enjoy this shrine more than Toshogu mainly because there are so few people here. 🙂

entrance to Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple

stone lanterns at Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple

water pavilion at Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple

After leaving the water pavilion, I climb steps to the lavishly decorated Nitenmon Gate, guarded by two heavenly kings.

Nitenmon Gate

A drum tower stands to the left of the gate, and a belfry to the right.

Taiyuin

The Nitenmon Gate is gorgeous with its vivid colors and fanciful wood carvings.

details of Nitenmon Gate

details of Nitenmon Gate

details of Nitenmon Gate

Nitenmon Gate

The Karamon Gate stands in front of the praying hall (Haiden).  A pair of cranes and a white dragon embellish its transom. Karamon means Chinese and the gate is gilded with pure gold. Pigeons are carved on the decorative fence.

Karamon Gate

Karamon Gate’s decorative fence

Inside the Karamon is the Haiden, or Worship Hall, the main structure of Taiyuin. It is designated as a National Treasure.  The Honden, the Inner Shrine, is connected under the same roof to the Haiden, in the shape of an H.  Prayers to Iemitsu are offered here.

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Next to the halls at an innermost area is Tokugawa Iemitsu’s mausoleum.  The design is influenced by Chinese Ming Dynasty architecture called Ryugu Zukuri.

Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum

details of Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

It’s time for me to make my way out of this shrine to my next destination, so I retrace my steps through the various gates.

Nitenmon Gate

Nitenmon Gate

I love studying the detailed carvings on the elaborate Nitenmon Gate.

 

I make my way past the belfry and the drum tower.

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Next, I retrace my steps back down the hill past Futarasan Shrine and then past Toshogu Shrine to Rinnoji Temple, which appears to be going through a major renovation.

 

nikkō: a rainy morning at toshogu shrine   7 comments

Saturday, July 29:  I leave my hotel by 7:30 a.m. in hopes of getting ahead of the crowds to Toshogu Shrine in Nikkō. The forecast is for 100% rain all day, and already the showers have started. I have my umbrella, so I’m as prepared as I can be in this muggy weather that’s too hot for a raincoat.

I walk past the misty Daiya River on my way up to the shrine.

The Daiya River

Nikkō is known for its brightly lacquered ancient shrines, aged moss clinging to stone walls, soldierly stone lanterns, vermilion gates, whimsical wood carvings and towering cedars. It is known for its ostentatious display of the glories of the Edo period (1600-1868) and the wealth and power of the Tokugawa shogunate.  Spread out over a terrain of forested and hilly terrain, it is an amazing spectacle.

It’s too bad I have to wade through a deluge on the day I’m here to see it.

a mossy stone wall

The lavishly decorated Toshogu Shrine complex consists of more than a dozen buildings set in a lush forest. Unlike the simple shrine architecture traditionally found in Japan, here elaborate wood carvings and vast quantities of gold leaf were used to decorate the buildings.  The shrine contains both Shinto and Buddhist elements, like most shrines did through the Meiji Period (1868-1912), when Shinto was deliberately separated from Buddhism. At Toshogu, the two religions were so intermingled that the separation was not carried out completely, according to Japan-guide.com: Toshogu Shrine.  The shrine was listed as a World Heritage site in December 1999.

So I don’t have to keep repeating myself, all parts of this shrine are designated as Important Cultural Properties unless otherwise stated.  I will mention the ones that are National Treasures.  All information is from the Toshogu Shrine website.

It seems I have beat the crowds when I first arrive. I pass through the Ishidorii, the stone torii gate leading into the shrine.  Ishidorii Gate was dedicated in 1618 by the feudal lord of present day Fukuoka Prefecture. The stone for the gate was transported by ship from Kyushu to Koyama and then manually hauled over land to Nikkō.

Up ahead I see the Omotemon, the Front Gate.  It is also called Nio Gate because of the two guardian deity statues positioned on the left and right.

first torii at Toshogu Shrine

Just inside the torii gate is the Gojunoto, or the Five-Story Pagoda.  It was dedicated in 1648 by Sakai Tadakatsu, the feudal lord of present day Fukui Prefecture. It was destroyed by fire in 1815 and rebuilt in 1818 by Sakai Tadayuki, a feudal lord of the same lineage.

Though I try my best, it seems impossible to get a decent picture of it.

I love the ancient moss-covered stone lanterns found throughout Toshogu Shrine.

Torii at Toshogu Shrine

lanterns at Toshogu

Just inside the Omotemon are the Sanjinko, or three sacred storehouses: Kamijinko (Upper Sacred Storehouse), Nakajinko (Middle Sacred Storehouse), and Shimojinko (Lower Sacred Storehouse). Harnesses and costumes used in the Procession of 1,000 Samurai, a part of the Sacred Processions held in spring and fall, are kept in the storehouses.

Below is the Shimojinko, or Lower Sacred Storehouse.

Shimojinko (Lower Sacred Storehouse)

Nakajinko (Middle Sacred Storehouse) (L) & Shimojinko (Lower Sacred Storehouse) (R)

Shimojinko (Lower Sacred Storehouse)

Shinkyusha Stable is a stable for the shrine’s sacred horses. There is a frieze of eight panels of carved monkeys running around the building, depicting the lives of ordinary people. Monkeys have been regarded as guardians of horses since ancient times.

Shinkyusha (Sacred Stable) & Sanzaru (Three Wise Monkeys)

The “Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil” carving of three monkeys is particularly famous.

Sanzaru (Three Wise Monkeys)

The Three Wise Monkeys are up to all sorts of shenanigans. The ema at Toshogu display a variety of animals.

I pass through another torii gate, heading toward the elaborate Yomeimon Gate.

Yomeimon Gate as seen through the torii

The Omizuya is used to purify body and mind.  Here, worshippers wash their hands and rinse out their mouths before worshiping the enshrined deity. The basin was dedicated in 1618 by Nabeshima Katsushige, feudal lord of Kyushu-Saga.

Omizuya (Water Purification Building)

Omizuya (Water Purification Building) -detail

Upper Sacred Storehouse and Drum Tower on higher level

Sanjinko (Three Sacred Storehouses)

Upper Sacred Storehouse

Upper Sacred Storehouse

Upper Sacred Storehouse

Bell Tower at Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine: Drum Tower in back

The Kairo (Corridor) is designated a National Treasure. The exterior wall of the building extending to the left and right of Yomeimon Gate is decorated with intricate flower and bird carvings that are considered among the best in Japan. All the carvings are single-panel openwork painted in vivid colors.

Kairo (Corridor)

relief carvings on the Kairo (Corridor)

Kairo (Corridor)

Bell at Toshogu Shrine

candelabra

The beautiful Yomeimon Gate, designated a National Treasure, is said to have been given the name “Main Gate of the Imperial Court.” It is also called “Gate of the Setting Sun” because one could gaze upon it all day. It is covered with over 500 carvings depicting traditional anecdotes, children playing, sages and wise men.

Yomeimon Gate

Yomeimon Gate

Yomeimon Gate

details: Yomeimon Gate

Guardian at Yomeimon Gate

guardian at Yomeimon Gate

detail Yomeimon Gate

details on Yomeimon Gate

details on Yomeimon Gate

Yomeimon Gate

Drum Tower & Honjido Hall

At nearly every shrine in Japan are colorful sake barrels.  These are kept under cover, and I take an opportunity to get out of the rain to study them more closely.

I don’t know the significance of Kaguraden Hall, but it has colorful intricate carvings like the rest of the halls at Toshogu.

The rain has been falling steadily, but at this point in my journey, buckets of water start falling from the sky!

Kaguraden Hall ??

Kaguraden Hall ??

Kaguraden Hall ??

The Karamon Gate, designated a National Treasure, is painted with a white powder chalk and features intricate carvings of Kyoyu and Soho (legendary Chinese sages), the emperor and his audience, and other scenes.

Behind the Karamon Gate is the Main Shrine, the most important area at Toshogu Shrine, which is being renovated. Sadly, I’m unable to take pictures of it. Designated a National Treasure, it consists of the Honden (Main Hall), Ishinoma (Stone Chamber), and Haiden (Worship Hall).

As you can see, my camera lens keeps getting wet and I have a few smudges on my photos.

Karamon Gate

Karamon Gate

The Shinyosha houses the three portable shrines used in the Sacred Processions conducted in spring and fall (May 18 and October 17).

Shinyosha (Portable Shrine House)

Sakashitamon Gate marks the start of a long flight of stairs that leads uphill through the woods to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616), the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, which effectively ruled Japan from 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Sakashitamon Gate

Ieyasu was known to be careful and bold, yet calculating, switching sides when it benefited him. He was not very well liked nor personally popular, but he was feared and he was respected for his leadership and his cunning. He was also at times merciless and cruel, and though he was at first tolerant of Christianity, that changed after 1613 when Christian executions sharply rose.

The Kitoden (Prayer Hall) holds weddings, rituals for new-born babies, and other ceremonies.

Kitoden (Prayer Hall)

guardian at Kitoden (Prayer Hall)

Kitoden (Prayer Hall)

huge cedar tree

By the time I’m getting ready to leave Toshogu, the crowds have descended, as can be seen in this picture.  I’m glad I got here early.  I didn’t expect to encounter many people on such a rainy day, but of course I should know better by now.  Nothing keeps the Japanese inside on a weekend day!

a colorful group photo

moss-covered lanterns

cedar tree

It is a shame that I happen to visit this most elaborate of Japan’s shrines on such a miserable day.  But as it is likely I will not visit this place again in my lifetime, there is no choice but to soldier on.  And that’s exactly what I do as I leave Toshogu Shrine and walk down a long pathway toward Futarasan Shrine.

 

 

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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