Nikko, now that’s more like it

Got to see some of the real Japan today. Well, I did yesterday as well. I took a 2 hour train ride from Tokyo to Nikko. After much changing in Tokyo between JR and the subway, I got to Asakusa for the Tobu line train to Nikko. Little did I know I needed 2 tickets to complete the journey. Much discussion later with a helpful English speaking assistant I discovered what they hell I was meant to be doing. Anyway, the train trip was good. All I needed was a Phillip Glass sound track, and well, we’ve been there, done that.

Kids pushing a bike down a dirt track.

Crops wedged inbetween small 2 story houses.

Huge civil engineering feats.

Well, the Japanese habit of not having a honk on their nose is really starting to get to me. Especially when when I’m stuck next to a guy with a runny nose for 2 hours.

I’m staying in a Minshuku, which is like a bed and breakfast Japanese style. The owners are very friendly, almost too much. It’s really unnerving having them stand there while I put my shoes on. Did I mention the shoes? I have already posted some stuff back to Sydney, because I packed too much. One of the things I posted was my boots because they were too much of a pain. Well, I’m glad I sent them and not my shoes because in the last 24 hours I have taken them off and put them on again about 20 times. Such is life. The only thing about the futon was that the pillow was really small, so my neck is sore from using it.

Last night I went to this place called Milky House, which has some computers for Internet Access (well, am here now as well, but I’m trying to make sure I get my tense correct,) and had a Spaghetti with a kind of Meaty Sauce. Well, it had mince, tomato, onion and green chilli that I could identify. Then they showed me cheese and Tabasco Sauce as well. They have some odd images of Western food. The breakfast at the Minshuku is the same, Western style with salad, raw tomato, etc. Must remember to take Vegemite down tomorrow morning.

Today I went to the Shrines (Shinto) and Temples (Buddhist) that make Nikko famous. The three wise monkeys, with their hands over their eyes, mouth and ears respectively is here, as are massive buildings, et. al. I can’t explain it, you’ll have to see the photos (and the book, which will probably look much better than my photos, maybe.) It’s all part of a World Heritage Site with massive cryptomeria trees surrounding the buildings.

It’s pretty easy to tell the two types of religious structures apart. Buddhist temples had massive Buddha’s, Shinto Shrines didn’t. Also, in a shrine, you chuck some coins in and bow twice, clap twice and say a prayer. You don’t do that with the other. I was surprised that they were generally in the same area, think of having a large Church of England Cathedral in England, and having a Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (a la Mormons) on the same property with the same people running the tours and all that.

Some of the religious symbols you could buy were good luck charms. Such as good luck for study, health, child birth and driving in traffic.

Anyway, it was pretty cool. And yes, it does look like the photos in the book. Perhaps the scale isn’t that well represented, but the huge grandeur and majesty of it all. And considering most of it is over a 1000 years old, it isn’t looking too bad (although my $20 of entrance fees probably helps with the maintenance costs.)

After much walking around and having a bad night on the futon, I decided I’d go to an Onsen (hot bath.) Yes, I was ready for the full male nudity. Yes, it was hot. No I didn’t stay that long, but there’ll be plenty more to go in as I go along. The only thing I can think is that Japanese men don’t bath that often, maybe just when they go to the Onsen, because they all had a really good scrub before or after the water.

Dinner tonight, hopefully will be something other than Spag Bog, or Ramen. The Lonely Planet has been good, except when it’s out of date. When I got on the bus after the Onsen, I sat next to a Japanese guy who I spoke to for a while. His English was okay, I should have got a quick Japanese lesson from him about some of the things I’m confused about. Anyway, there was backpacker getting off at when I got on. I asked her if she was going to the Onsen. I quickly realised she had less English then Japanese. She said Hot Bath, I pointed the way to go and said walk 15 minutes, under 2 bridges. I think I was right. Anyway, the guy on the bus said the girl also had the same book as me (Lonely Planet.) He hadn’t heard of it before. I guess they don’t have a Japanese market yet.

Tomorrow I go to Matsumoto. I’ve discovered something important about my map of Japan. Note to self: green lines are roads, not train lines. There isn’t a direct route between Nikko and Matsumoto by train. There is no bus service either. Either I hitch-hike, which in Japan isn’t that bad, but I don’t feel like doing it yet or I go back to Tokyo, and then Matsumoto. Because it’ll take so long (6 hours maybe?), I won’t really get to do any more of Tokyo.

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