Saturday, 9 March 2013

World Heritage Area - Toshogu, Nikko

The World Heritage Area Toshugu is the main reason the hordes of tourist come to Nikko. We've only been here one night and hadn't seen many tourist but we certainly found them today. Toshugu is a complex of temples and shrines. Big temples and shrines nestled in hilly woodland. From the parking area it is up hill to the first of the temples. Each temple compound is made up of a number of shrines as well as the main temple. There are lots of steps. Lots. Next time I think we'll leave the stroller in the car.

We came down this path, the back way into Toshogu
For some reason this reminds of the movie UP.

5 story pagoda
The temples are hidden in the cedar forest. I can't tell a pine tree from a Douglas fir so I had to look that up. You can't see the temples for the trees until you right on top of them. Some of the trees are huge and dwarf multi storey pagodas. It must be an ancient forest.
Big scary dude. There's one either side of the gate.
Lions Georgia.
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
Thank goodness Michelle does a bit of research before we turn up at these places. We can buy a ticket to each of the temples or one combination ticket to all of the temples - Toshogu, Futarasan and Rinno-ji . The combination is significantly cheaper - only Y1000.  Single entry ranges from Y500 to Y1000.
Toshogu, or Tōshō-gū, is a national shrine in Japan and is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu whose ashes are contained in an urn on the site. He was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Toshogu was intially built in 1617, after Tokugawa's death in 1616.
Some of the ornate carvings. This one stretches, apparently, 200 metres.
Ice block. About a metre square.
Some dirty icy snow in the courtyard.
The shrines and other buildings are decorated ornately with carvings of dragons, elephants, peacocks and monkeys. The carving of three wise monkeys is quite famous but I photographed it because I like monkeys. Duh. One of the ways we kept Georgia amused was by pointing out the carvings of animals and dragons. She loves dragons thanks to Shrek. There's a huge lifelike statue of a cat in one of the shrines but it costs extra to go in so we didn't bother. We have to have some limits. We don't want to overload Georgia with too much.
Traditional style kegs of sake
More of the ornate carvings.
It was a beautiful sunny day. A little on the cool side but not uncomfortable. It was still cool enough that there was still a lot of icy snow piled up in shady areas. There was a rainwater collection tank next to one of the shrines it had a tank sized block of ice, about 3cm thick, floating on top. This tells me that in the depths of winter Nikko must be bloody cold.
Dragons Georgia.
Look Daddy, mummy, Drwagons!
Traditional style Japanese photo.

The ceiling of one of the shrines we did go into is covered with hundreds of dragons. When you enter a Shinto or Buddhist shrine you have to take off your shoes. We followed the other tourists and pilgrims inside for a gawk. Inside there was a hall (Yakushi-dō Hall) where dozens, maybe 150, tourists were on their knees crouched down praying and following the lead of the priest running the show. After a few claps the "service" was over and we're ushered out past the souvenir counter to one side of the hall so the next group of pilgrims could come in. There's always a souvenir stand. I can't recall going to a religious site anywhere in the world where a priest, monk or nun weren't flogging trinkets or blessings.
The whole flamin' family (inc. code name Nemo)
One of the golden warriors at Youmeimon gate.
The monks (or are they called priests in Shinto?) make sake and beer here too. What is it about religious orders making booze? Thank goodness they do though. That is one religious vocation I can get behind.
Tourist and pilgrim hordes.
Just taking a breather

Near to the Toshogu area, a few hundred metres away, are the Futarasan Shrine and the Rinno-ji Temple. We didn't go into any of the temples or shrines on either site but we wandered around and goggled at the amazing buildings. We also grabbed a feed from a vendor selling chicken kaarage and noodles. Cheap too. The chicken kaarage was only about 3 bucks and the noodles with a fried egg on top were about the same. We sat on the steps to Futarasan to eat.
Whenever we stop to take photos of Georgia we attract a crowd. Usually a few people will take out their phones or cameras and take a few snaps.
I'm usually left behind fighting with the stroller.

The top temple at Rinno-ji, as in the furtherest up the hill, was a step too far. We got to the stairs that disappeared up into the forest and thought, we're not carrying the pram up there. A group of older Japanese guys had just come down and were standing around having a smoke and they laughingly suggested we shouldn't bother with the pram. They showed us a few photos on their mobiles. We weren't missing much. Just more of the same. Beautifully located though.
We've seen this a few times in Japan. In this case the doggy is disabled.
Georgia looking at the doggy in the stoller
Dirty snow.
 Big cedars. Big.
You need a a full day to give justice to these beautiful shrines and temples. All the steps can be tiring, so be prepared for a little climbing. Nikko's World Heritage area is definitely worth the diversion if you're into this kind of thing. I still have no idea where all the tourists go at night though. Maybe they eat at their hotels? Nikko is about 2 and half hours drive north of Tokyo. Even though the Shinkansen (bullet train) is faster than driving you have to change to a local JR line so the journey still takes about 2 hours, depending on your connection.
In the depths of winter this place would be even more spectacular.
Elephant carvings.
Hugging mummy.
Just too cute.
Nearly every time we go to temple or historic site there will be young women or girls, tourists, dressed traditionally in Kimonos.
Big scary dude.
Shinto priest in front of the pagoda.
Lanterns on the way to Futarasan
Futarasan Shrine
Very fine vendor of fried products and noodles
Enjoying the noodles
The same young women we ran into at Toshogu
Buddhist washing fountain at Rinno-ji

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