Nippon Trip: Nikkō

Michele Moricci

NIKKŌ Armed with the Japan Rail Pass, we jumped on a on-time and fast train to Nikkō (日光市 – literally “sunlight”), about 140 km north of Tokyo. According to some friends and the National Geographic guide is an obligatory destination for its ancient temples hidden in lush vegetation. The town is small and a little ‘run-down, to ascend to the Temple you need to take a shuttle bus that leaves us at the foot of a path that arrives at the Toshogu Shrine and Rinno-ji Temple.

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It takes just one day to visit but it is difficult not to gape. The large stone steps seem directed towards paradise and the red vermilion, which outlines the architecture of these shrines, contrasts strongly to the blue sky and the green of the leaves. The Toshogu Shrine is a perfect example of rococo richness, with its thousands of gold foil and the lush Chinese elegance of the Ming dynasty. There are pieces of wood carved with representations of animals and bright colors. And it’s precisely here that the notorious monkeys “don’t see, don’t hear, don’t speak” were born, in fact, along with the sleeping cat they adorn the wood of the Temples. Next to the temple is a five-levels pagoda and in the relaxed atmosphere, despite the amount of tourists visiting, we do find a single contact with Buddhist spirituality. Not far away there is the Rinno-ji Temple, another example of Chinese-inspired architecture. Perched on the mountain and at the end of a long flight of steps, in it are preserved vestments, and at its entrance the statues of guardian spirits looking scary and colorful.

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Returning downstream we crossed Shin-kyo, the “sacred bridge” on the river Daiya. A little further down we find an inn where we order Sobu and cold vegetables to freshen up. We sit at the common Japanese table, crossing our legs comfortably on large cushions on the floor. For the first time we listen with horror, the tremendous suction that comes from the numerous tables of our guests. We knew that the suction is satisfaction index, however it’s so strong that we are surprised and amused.

NEXT STOP > ŌSAKA


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Michele Moricci