Its been a while since we had a Places to visit in Japan post. Today we visit a Shinto Shrine called Nikko Toshogu [日光東照宮].
Built in 1617, Nikko Toshogu is dedicated to the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate - Ieyasu Tokugawa. Today its one of the most popular tourist attractions for Japanese and foreigners alike to go to take in the sights of a truly historic and traditional Japan - its also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To get to Nikko Toshogu - use the following methods - copy pasted from the official site.
1. By Train
Asakusa to Tobu Nikko (Kegon Limited Express) Time required: Approx. 1 hour 50 min.
Asakusa to Tobu Nikko via Shimoimaichi (Kinu Limited Express + Local) Time required: Approx. 1 hour 50 min.
Asakusa to Tobu Nikko (Tobu Railway Rapid) Time required: Approx. 2 hours 5 min.
Shinjuku to Tobu Nikko (JR Nikko Limited Express) Time required: Approx. 2 hours
2. By Car
From the Tohoku Expressway Utsunomiya IC, take the Nikko Utsunomiya Road and exit at Nikko Interchange.
Proceed 2 km from Nikko Interchange.
In this post I'm going to cover more than just Toshogu - going to take a look at our weekend in Nikko starting from the traditional ryokan lodgings that we stayed at called Heikenosho [平家の庄].
I think it cost about 10,000 yen per person which included dinner, breakfast and access to their onsite hot spring onsen.
A Ryokan is basically a traditional Japanese hotel.
Placed outside many Japanese establishments are the racoons that you see on either side of the path. These are called "Tanuki" [たぬき] and are said to not only bring in good luck but to also protect the business.
The entrance inside - also includes a Maneki Neko cat for even more good fortune.
Inside the lodgings - filled with traditional Japanese ornaments.
Our room for the night - very traditional and typical layout for a ryokan room.
While its not used today - many moons ago a kettle would be hung from the hook above that metal tray which would be filled with charcoal.
Been meaning to get some of those lights for the office - they are called Tourou [灯籠].
Our Yuki-chan joins us for the weekend.
After leaving our stuff in the room, we head out to a very small town nearby.
Probably one of the quietest towns we've visited.
Inside a convenience store grabbing some drinks. Even in our neck of the woods, paraffin heaters are used - a paraffin tanker truck would come by once in a while playing a jingle.
The purpose of a kettle being placed on top is not to boil it but to provide moisture in the room.
I'm sure I saw this in Silent Hill or something.
Back at the ryokan for dinner - when you check in they will ask what time you want to eat as they need to prepare everything for you.
Looks like Yuki-chan is hungry too.
The restaurant is on the premises too - full of traditional atmosphere.
When we arrive, we have some nomnoms waiting for us.
Main course is DIY style.
Yuki-chan doesn't like the heat ><
Our Soya soup is cooked in cooking paper like so.
Looks like Yuki-chan is full - time to go for a dip in the hot springs.
The ryokan grounds are quite large and you need to cross a small bridge to get to the hot springs.
By the time we get back to our room - the beds have been made for us by the hotel staff. They typically don't have double beds but that hopefully should not be a problem as you can just drag the futons next to each other.
Time to head out to see what the area looks like at night.
We discover a load of igloo thingies.
Hardly anybody about though.
Back at the ryokan - the view from our room.
Yuki-chan about to fall asleep.
Gorgeous sunny morning the next day.
And this is what the ryokan grounds look like from our room by day.
Heading off to Toshogu.
Stopping by a nearby dam as one does.
A view that inspires the thought "SOON."
Arrival at Nikko Toshogu.
Before entering the shrine, one should purify themselves using these steps at the fountain usually located at the entrance.
If you like taking photos then you are in for a treat at Toshogu. You will need to bring the zoom lens to capture details of the buildings and a wide angle too capture the scenery. All these photos taken on the Sony NEX 5N.
Remember to beautifully use the restroom.
The 3 wise monkies who hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.
Lots of stairs to climb at Toshogu.
"People bear heavy loads throughout life. One must go as far as they can so one should not rush" is my poor attempt at translating. If you can do better then let us know in the comments ^^
The Omikuji fortunes which didn't turn out so fortunate - these are usually tied to a fence so that the bad fortune doesn't come true.
Ema [絵馬] - tiles of wood which you write a wish on.
See the hazy part in the middle of the photo? Its actually a cloud of pollen. I didn't know but the Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica) tree is usually planted in high concentrations around shrines. This is particularly bad for wifey and I who suffer from hay fever. We were pretty much sneezing and drizzling for the entire day ><
If you are a hay fever sufferer too then you may want to avoid visiting Nikko Toshogu during March.
More about hay fever in Japan in this post.