Posts Tagged Nikko

June 2, 2004 pt2 – Walking and waterfalls

Jakko Falls

Jakko Falls

After visiting some of the man made attractions in Nikko, we decided to visit some of the natural attractions. The Nikko area is famous for waterfalls. There are many famous falls in the area, but we decided on Jakko Falls because it was one of the closest to our current location. It looked pretty close in Flounder’s lonely planet guidebook, but the distance was actually 3.5km from Tosho-gu.

We started walking along the road, noticing that we were starting to walk slightly uphill. With only Lonely planet as our guide, we missed a turn and started to second guess our route. Some road signs were misleading and we ended up making a few small circles before finally finding a sign for Jakko falls showing that we still had 2km to go.

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We were all tired by this point, but decided that we weren’t going to go back until we found waterfalls. We turned off the main road and started walking up a narrow road towards the falls, this time at a much steeper angle. Code Red, Hippie, Green and I were doing reasonably well with all the walking, but big Flounder was continuously falling behind. Every five minutes or so we would stop, have a nice cool drink, and wait for Flounder to catch up to us. When he caught up we would start walking again. This was great for us, but the one person who really needed to take a break was walking continuously.

Our 2km walk included a 300m vertical climb. By the time we got to the falls, we were all sweaty and tired. The falls were impressive, and we all had a nice relaxing rest near the bottom while getting splashed with cool mist. There are likely more impressive waterfalls in the world, or even in the area, but after all the walking we truly appreciated Jakko falls. We earned our view.

After a break we started our 5.2km walk back to the station, which thankfully was downhill the entire way. We walked back towards the main road in great spirits, singing Weezer songs at the top of our lungs and listening to them bounce off the nearby mountains. My apologies to the few houses in the area for our impromptu musical performance. By the time we got back to the station we had walked a total of 11.5km, not counting our walking around at Tosho-gu or our time getting lost while searching for Jakko falls. I think we all slept on the train back towards Tokyo.

Special Bonus Story: On the last leg of our trip home, Flounder started to let us know that he needed a bathroom break, and it wasn’t something that could be dealt with in a standing position. Most train stations in Japan only have the terrifying squat style toilets. I asked him to describe his level of distress on a scale of 1 to 10, and he answered 7. I tried to convince him that he could make it all the way back to Hello House.

A few minutes later the distress level had skipped 8 and was now firmly at 9. Getting back to Hello House and its safe conventional toilet was no longer an option. After getting some basic instructions on how to use the squat toilet and which train to take to Noborito, Flounder rushed off the train somewhere on the Odakyu line to find a washroom.

We got back to Hello House, both laughing at Flounder’s situation and worried that he would get lost somewhere in Tokyo never to be seen again. About 15 minutes later he showed up, smiling and relived. We all excitedly asked him about his brave experience using a squat toilet. His response: “Bullseye”.

(2014 Update 1) Always wear comfortable shoes when sightseeing in Japan. You will always end up walking more than you expected. Having a device with a GPS is also incredibly helpful.

(2014 Update 2) It took me another year before I finally had to use a squat toilet in Japan. I have already written up the post. Trust me – it’s going to be a good one.

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June 2, 2004 pt1 – Nikko

Tosho-gu

The site of today’s adventure was Nikko, a famous tourist area north of Tokyo. Nikko is most famous for being the home of Nikko Tosho-gu, a shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu. It is known as one of the most impressive shrines in all of Japan.

Since our train ride was an expected three hours, we actually got an early start to our day. Our goal was to get to Kita-Senju, where we would board a limited express train with reserved seats. Unfortunately when we got to Kita-Senju, nobody could give accurate information on what to do next. I asked five different people and got five completely different answers. With minutes before the train left, a train station employee rushed us to the platform without tickets, but got us to the wrong train. We eventually gave up and took the regular express train towards Tobu Nikko station.

Going to Nikko was the first time that we actually got out of the greater Tokyo area. It was strange to finally be out of the grip of the massive city. The city itself is surrounded by mountains and trees, and was further from the ocean than I had been in my entire time in Japan. The weather was beautiful, and we happily started walking the 2.3km from the station towards Rinno-ji temple.

Rinno-ji is a complex of 15 Buddhist temples founded in year 766. Highlights include 3 large gold leaf Buddha statues and a large meditation garden. The buildings we saw were the oldest I had seen so far in Japan – nearly 500 years older than the Daibutsu in Kamakura. It really is an awesome experience being in a place that has been around for 1200 years. Canada is a fairly young country, so the “old” buildings are in the range of 300-400 years old, mere children compared to the structures in Rinno-ji.

After our time wandering around Rinno-ji, we headed towards the main attraction – Tosho-gu. We walked for another half kilometer from Rinno-ji to the main gate of Tosho-gu, the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu. I was looking forward to this as Tokugawa Ieyasu was one of my favourite figures from Japanese history. He continued the work of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi in restoring a central government in Japan after over a hundred years of warring kingdoms. Tosho-gu was built in 1617 and dedicated to Ieyasu.

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Unlike many plain shrines in Japan, Tosho-gu is showy and elaborate. Detailed, colourful carvings cover every wall and gate. There are beautiful statues everywhere. Tosho-gu is also home to the famous wise monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil). I could post all of our pictures and they still wouldn’t do the shrine justice. It is quite simply a must visit place in Japan.

We explored the entire shrine, and took a brief rest near the resting place of Ieyasu himself. By this time we were all getting hungry, and left the shrine in search of food. We ate delicious noodles at a small soba and udon stand outside of the shrine. Our day was fantastic already, but we weren’t done yet.

(2014 update) Rinno-ji is closed for restoration until 2020. If you are in Japan and have the time to make a day trip from the Tokyo area, go to Nikko. Seriously.

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