Saturday, July 17, 2010

Forever Young

Thank goodness for my girlfriend Ashley.
Maybe it's because her father once traveled to Japan, but she had an adventurous spirit and wanted to travel to Nikko.
It's August 25, 1990. I have no idea where Nikko is or what is there, but if it meant spending more time with Ashley, I would go to Hell and back - which if you've been keeping up with my frenetic pace, you'll know we once visited Beppu - home to the 7 Hells. GO TO HERE

Me being lovestruck allowed me the luxury of traveling in Japan without having to get lost - unless she told me to do so... but you don't want to here about all of those times.
I've prepared for you a few photos of my first visit to Nikko... you'll notice that Ashley is in a lot of them... looking at them again 20 years later, well, she was skinnier than I remember - I'm not trying to be mean here - but I understand the initial attraction now. It wasn't just convenience.  
I eventually figured out that Nikko is a 40-minute train ride west of Ohtawara - as the crow flies. As we are not crows, we took the JR (Japan Rail) train from Nishinasuno-eki (station) and traveled 40 minutes south to Utsonomiya-shi (city) the capital of Tochigi-ken (Province of Tochigi). From there, we changed trains and traveled an additional 40 minutes northwest.
Stepping out of the train station, I am not impressed by the town of Nikko. It's the boonies (do-inakka). The houses all look run-down, the town is small - but because I'm with Ashley, I let her lead the way past the town, finally arriving at our true destination - Nikko's temples and shrines.
Nikko translates to "sunlight" - and when you step into the temple area (to the west of the town) it is blindingly beautiful.
The area houses the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, a very famous shogun (warrior emperor of Japan) who unified Japan in the early 1600s.
Beginning in 1603 until 1868 Japan had an isolationist policy - no foreigners/gaijin. This was something Ieyasu dreamed up to protect Japan from Christianity and other many things.
Also enshrined here is his grandson Iemitsu, also a famous shogun and the Futurasan shinto shrine which was built in 767 AD. No, I did not leave a number out - its over 1,300 years old..
What is shinto? It's a religion that Buddhist Japan also practices, worshiping gods that live in nature - trees, grass, water, etc. In fact, most Japanese houses have a shinto shrine each family member prays to in the morning and the evening - I believe the correct way to bow twice, clap twice while praying/wishing, and then bow once. It's a 10-second thing, if that.
Anyhow... that's enough history/information for you. To see photos of the trip, BOW & CLAP

Somewhere wondering what the big deal is over those stoopid monkeys,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Today's title is by Alphaville, and can be heard HERE.
Picture up above is of the famous Three Wise Monkeys: Hear No Evil; Speak No Evil; and See No Evil.

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