Visit Nikko!

282 photos in one day is not excessive, is it? (That’s with all the really bad ones deleted, of course.) I’ll admit it, I went to Nikko on 18th April really just to take one photo:

Nikko

The famous “Three Wise Monkeys” (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil).

But I knew I would find many more things to snap while I was there. Nikko is one of the most photogenic places I’ve been in Japan, and that was on a day with a sky full of rain clouds (“Nikko” literally means “sunshine”, but it didn’t live up to its name that day).

Actually, I almost cancelled my trip to Nikko (as I’ve mentioned previously).  What with all the earthquakes and aftershocks I was wondering how safe it would actually be to go to Tochigi Prefecture. Well, just in case you’re still wondering, it’s perfectly safe! In fact, Nikko needs you! So, if you have a little time spare in Japan, why not visit Nikko and help to boost tourism there?

I had originally planned to visit Nikko for the Yayoi Matsuri (spring festival) which happens on April 16th and 17th. Unfortunately it was cancelled this year, out of respect. I do understand the reasons for cancelling this festival, but it’s such a shame. I think Nikko lost out on a lot of tourism because of that decision.

When I visited Nikko I was really lucky because my friend, Jenny, was staying there at the time. Jenny was doing some voluntary work at a hostel. This meant she could take some time out to show me around. I have to say, it was really excellent to have someone (with a car!) take me to all the sights and explain stuff. I covered a lot more ground than I normally would, and had a lot of fun!

We quickly popped in to the hostel and I was saddened to hear that they had lost so much trade recently because of people’s fears about visiting Japan, or visiting Tochigi. It seemed like such a wonderful hostel, and I can say without a doubt that I will stay there if I should ever be fortunate enough to visit Nikko again. Nikko Park Lodge is literally just across from Tobu Nikko Station, so it’s really well located (and easy to spot, because it’s bright orange). Also, the staff are friendly and very knowledgable about the local area. Their website is all in English and they even have online booking, so what are you waiting for? I know I would be there in a shot, if I could! 😉

Nikko Park Lodge

Our first stop was Shinkyo Sacred Bridge:

Shinkyo Sacred Bridge

It’s really pretty, and I bet it would look gorgeous on a sunny day or with autumn leaves in the background.

Next up was Rinnoji Temple, which was unfortunately closed for renovation work. I do love to see buildings that are closed for renovation though – they always put up these amazing pictures so you still have something to look at:

Rinnoji Temple - closed for renovations

After that very brief stop, we went to the famous Toshogu Shrine:

Toshogu Shrine

☆★☆

Toshogu Shrine

☆★☆

Toshogu Shrine

☆★☆

Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine is famous for a number of reasons.  One is that Ieyasu Tokugawa is buried there:

Ieyasu's graveyard

☆★☆

Ieyasu's graveyard

Another is the monkey picture I mentioned above. Interestingly, it’s not as big as I expected, and there are actually other monkey pictures there which tell a whole story!

Toshogu Shrine

☆★☆

Toshogu Shrine

And yet another reason for Toshogu’s fame is the sleeping cat:

Famous sleeping cat at Toshogu Shrine

I swear I would have missed this cat completely if Jenny hadn’t pointed it out to me! It’s very small, and it’s tucked away above the entrance of Okusha Inner Shrine. On the other side of the entrance (the back of the cat) there is a sparrow. The fact that these two animals can co-exist is supposed to represent peace.

Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine is very well equipped to handle foreign tourists, but I didn’t think it was too touristy. There weren’t many tacky souvenirs to be bought, but I did spot these monkey and cat omikuji (fortunes) and they did have monkey and cat omamori (good luck charms) too.

Toshogu Shrine

☆★☆

Omikuji

After a lot of wandering and step climbing at Toshogu, we headed down the river to find some of my favourite statues in Japan: Jizo! Jenny said she had seen them recently and thought I might like them. Narabijizo (Bakejizo) are not one of the top sightseeing spots as they’re a little out-of-the-way, but I highly recommend a visit if you have the chance. “Narabijizo” means “Jizo in a line” and “Bakejizo” (remember, that’s ba-ke, not bake like a cake!) means “ghost Jizo”. They get the name “Bakejizo” because apparently if you count the statues on the way up and then count them on the way down again you will find there is a different number.  Ooh – spooky!

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

☆★☆

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

☆★☆

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

☆★☆

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

☆★☆

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

☆★☆

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

☆★☆

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

☆★☆

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

☆★☆

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

Many of the Jizo, which are said to care for the deceased (although I have also heard that they protect travellers), were broken up and even headless. But I was touched to see that people had taken time to care for them, and attempted to repair them by replacing lost heads with other rocks. The statues overlook a river and apparently there was a big flood there many, many years ago which damaged some of the statues. Still, they seem to be surviving well, and some of the red hats and bibs appeared to be quite new.

Near the Jizo statues, but not mentioned at all on the map we had, is the Graveyard of Rinnoji Monks. It’s quite hard to find if you don’t know where you’re going, but basically if you get to the Jizo statues, look for these steps:

Narabijizo (Bakejizo)

…and go up. Then you’ll find it!:)

It was very, very old and interesting to look around. Everything was covered in moss and it was so quiet there – I was very glad to be there with a friend, actually! (Even more so when I saw warning signs about wild monkeys!)

Graveyard of Rinnoji Monks

☆★☆

Graveyard of Rinnoji Monks

☆★☆

Graveyard of Rinnoji Monks

☆★☆

Graveyard of Rinnoji Monks

☆★☆

Graveyard of Rinnoji Monks

☆★☆

Graveyard of Rinnoji Monks

I was delighted to find this wonderful Buddha statue there:

Graveyard of Rinnoji Monks

Our next stop was to be Takino Shrine, which is north of Toshogu Shrine. However, on the way there we came across this other interesting little shrine:

Random little shrine

☆★☆

Random little shrine

It’s always wonderful to find what seems to be a “secret” shrine, but it’s even more special when that shrine has a whole bunch of quirky little statues:

Statue

☆★☆

Statue

Can anyone shed any light on what these statues represent? I’d really like to know!

Finally we got to Takino Shrine. Takino Shrine used to be the main place to visit in Nikko before Toshogu Shrine became famous, but now it’s not so popular. Still, it’s worth a visit.

Takino Shrine

☆★☆

Takino Shrine

☆★☆

Takino Shrine

☆★☆

Takino Shrine

The trees are huge:

Tree hugging!

And there are Inari fox statues:

Takino Shrine

Takino Shrine is right by Shiraito Falls, but we couldn’t see it very well. By that point in the day it was getting gloomy and threatening to rain, so we decided to head back into town to warm up before I went back to Tokyo.

In town, we stopped first at a Hello Kitty souvenir shop:

Hello Kitty shop in Nikko

Then at a cafe which served fantastic pizza, as well as cake sets:

Cafe in Nikko

☆★☆

Chestnut cake

I didn’t catch the name of the cafe, but there aren’t many around Tobu Nikko Station. This one is near the Kitty shop and advertises the cake sets and pizza outside. If you don’t fancy this cafe, you could always pop over to Nikko Park Lodge, as the hostel also has a lovely cafe!

My words and photos don’t even come close to describing how wonderful Nikko is. I definitely plan to go back there someday, and I hope after seeing this tiny taster you might also think about visiting there yourself! 🙂

By the way, if you’re thinking you’d quite like to visit Nikko but it seems too far away from Tokyo, you’d be wrong. It’s very doable as a day-trip (although I recommend staying a night at Nikko Park Lodge to make the most of your trip). For more information about how to get there, see these very informative links: Access & Orientation and Tobu Nikko Free Pass. It’s worth noting that if you have a JR Pass you are better off going by JR (there’s no extra cost if you have a JR East Pass, but if you have an ordinary Japan Rail Pass there is some extra cost with some routes – see the above links for more information on this).  If you don’t have a JR Pass of any kind, the Tobu railway is much cheaper! I went by Tobu with the “World Heritage Pass” and found it very easy to use. They had a lot of English information and very friendly staff.

Finally, this is an entry for Show Me Japan this week. Don’t forget to check out the other entries! 🙂

13 thoughts on “Visit Nikko!

  1. That place with all the little statues is called “Kaizando Hall” and those statues are Buddhist guardians that are supposed to help with good pregnancy and delivery. When we went there back in 2009, we met a pilgrim lady who explained to us that the layout of that place is supposed to resemble a uterus. And that the narrow path is like a birth canal.

    The grave nearby there is where monk Shodo (a.k.a. Shodo shonin) was buried. He’s the guy who developed Nikko into a religious complex.

    Like

  2. I know just what you mean…we went out for the day last Sunday to our local markets and I came home with 176 photos, the trouble is it’s always so hard culling them!
    Thank you for your lovely pictures, that graveyard looks so peaceful…

    Like

  3. Just stopping by from Budget Trouble – I’m really enjoying your entry. Your photos are inspiring me to start making plans for day trips. I’m stuck in a routine here, not exploring this country much, and obviously missing out on some great things.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s