[日光]

6 08 2008

on monday duncan and I decided to go to nikko [日光] to visit 温泉 (onsen – hot springs) a last. we chose nikko over hakone or other possible onsen resorts because of the proximity and the beautiful national park – apart from 輪王子 temple, 東照宮 and 二荒山神社 shrines, there are several waterfalls and hiking paths that take you to 中禅寺 lake and it’s onsen resort.

we had in mind taking the first morning train, but lady duncan needs a lot of time in the morning, so we missed our train – sorry duncan, but it’s true. however, thanks to that we met michelle, colin, alex, mika and asami! they were heading for nikko too, so we started conversation in the train and ended up spending the day together. they were all art college graduates – michelle, colin and alex from rhode island school of art and mika and asami from a school in tokyo. some of them were specialised in glass – colin showed us too of his works, small glass marbles with flower-like forms sprouting in their cores. they were in asia because they had had a show in seoul thanks to a korean friend they met back in their college days – I wish I could have seen more of their work… and since then they had been travelling a while: hongkong, korea, japan… うらやましい。。。

all in all missing that train wasn’t bad at all.

when we arrived at nikko i was definitely glad we hadn’t gone elsewhere – even if tokyo has many parks and vegetation there’s nothing compared to the forests you see there: huge trees with thin bare trunks like overgrown mushrooms stand so close together that you get the feeling you will have to move around like in a crowded pub; mountaintops covered in thin fog and green everywhere!!! *nature loving mood* the air smelled of rain and ferns… >_< うれしい!

we found a very nice antique shop on our way through the main street – I could have spent hours there! the boys bought ukiyo-e (traditional japanese painting) and I found some pottery that made me fall in love with it immediately – duncan told me “oh, so you found the best piece in the shop, snatched it quickly and left nothing for the rest of us! I see!”

then we went to have a bite to a soba and udon place (thin and fat japanese noodles). since one of nikko’s specialties is [yuba] (some kind of tofu), nearly all of us ordered yuba soba to honour the tourist’s spirit. it was actually very good – maybe because it was not some shit-hole in shibuya, but a real family restaurant hundreds of kilometers away from tokyo.

as I said before, nikko national park hosts a Buddhist temple and two shinto shrines (one of them is tokugawa ieyasu’s tomb – founder of tokugawa dynasty that gives name to the peaceful era after centuries of war in japan. I’m no expert in japanese religious architecture, but still it was nice to see the differences between shinto and Buddhism in the symbols they use and the priests’ outfits. the shinto shrines were a frenzy of taking off and putting on your shoes a hundred times – when you’re wearing converse and have to tie and untie laces twenty time you start considering walking bare-foot. photos are not allowed inside the temples, so there are none in the album and anyway, I think the only thing I would have liked to convey about the shrines was the lovely feeling of tatami under your feet – and no photograph can do that yet. we prayed at one of the altars, shinto-style, imitating carefully the japanese people: two bows of the head, two claps, pray, clap, bow. I even managed to compose a simple prayer in japanese *proud of myself*

after that it started raining cats and dogs and we had to take refuge in a small derelict coffeeshop – considering how much it was raining and the fact that I had previously persuaded duncan not to buy an umbrella, I think he was in his right to ditch me in the nearest sewer… we were soaked from head to toes, so dripping wet we didn’t even miss the onsen. we sat in the cafe trying to decide what to do next and waiting for the rain to stop while we ate yuba ice-cream (tastes like turron ice-cream, I swear) and drinking ice-coffee. the storm went on for an hour or so, lightning and thunder included. the girls and I practised some origami and then we all went for a smoke outside. by-passers kept coming to take shelter at the entrance, but only us remained. the road had become a real river – asami, who had to cross over to go to the bathroom, seemed to be doing rafting, her feet ankle-deep into the raging water.

by the time it stopped there was not much left to do anymore; the last train was due for 18:50 and we still had to get back to the station, so we just walked back looking at the occasional open shop and buying snacks and souvenirs.

[album]

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