Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nikko, Japan

Downtown Nikko
We wanted to take a day trip outside of Tokyo and Nikko was the perfect place to go. Nikko is a beautiful area, the land of the shoguns. Especially honored here is Tokgugawa Ieyasu, who the famous novel Shogun by James Clavell was based on. The Toshogu Shrine was built in Ieyasu’s honor in the 1700s and his remains are still in the mausoleum in Nikko. The name Nikko means sunlight and it warmed us well on our cold winter trip there.

We didn’t take the Tobu Spacia train from Asakusa, but instead took a JR shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo station with a change in Utsunomiya. It took about the same time as the Tobu but the price worked out well since we both had JR Passes. There’s nothing like riding a Japanese shinkansen train. Smooth and comfortable.

The first sight you see as you get near the shrines is the vermillion Sacred bridge over the Diyagwa River. It was built in 1636 and for over 300 years only the shogun and his nobles were allowed to cross it. Now you can, for ¥500.

Our explorations began with going through the Yomeimon Gate  leading to The Toshogu shrine. it's the burial place of the famous Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and the most extravagant building here. Ieyasu was buried here immediately after his death, but the present complex was built in 1634 on the order of his grandson Iemitsu. The shrine took 2 years to complete with the efforts of 15,000 workers.

After climbing two flights of steps we reached the Sacred Stable, housing a sacred white horse. The most famous symbol here is the carving of the three wise monkeys, who "hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil". Stables often kept and had monkeys since they were thought to protect horses from disease. These sculptural  monkeys are considered the protectors of the sacred horse.

The trip to Nikko was an interesting excursion from Tokyo on the shinkansen… a great day trip and well worth it. Highly recommended. 

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