Cherry blossoms in full bloom and temperatures in the late twenties last Sunday can only have meant one thing! However, i ignored the temptation to have a ‘hanami’ party and went about 140km north to visit Nikko in Tochigi with Gideon. After getting up at 7am we finally arrived there at about 11.30am having buggered up our final connection and sampled the local speciality straight away with Yuba (soy bean milk) soba for early lunch which I thought was very nice but as is often the case in Japan it wasn’t so filling.
First up on the sightseeing was the UNESCO World Heritage listed Toshogu Shrine which really is a beautiful sight and thats coming from somone who doesn’t really like shrines (which may surprise regular readers who have maybe read some of my dull reports on other shrines and temples recently) so much and is often underwhelmed by most things.
I first visited this site nearly three years ago during the summer of 2004 and that was not such good timing as the place was packed full with coach-loads of schoolkids but this time it was nowhere as busy on that scale but still full of other tourists as is the case if you go anywhere in Japan on weekends or national holidays which tend to be the only times when the Japanese don’t work.
About a month ago I had never even heard of the ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ monkeys until my eldest sister Ruth told me about them and not-so-subtly suggested I buy her one. Typically I didn’t even notice this sacred stable of carvings last time but it caught my eye instantly this time and with many people re-creating the three poses I thought I would copy them but with an added twist which can be seen below and will please fans of the ‘Austin Powers‘ films!
We spent a few hours looking round the shrine which was maybe more to do with Gideon taking so bloody long snapping away in every direction and getting every possible angle. Our ticket entitled us to get entry into a few more temples and shrines so we visited a couple more which were very quiet and nice too though not a patch on the tourist trap of Toshogu. I did enjoy one though for no other reason that it had a hoop throwing game which i was very successful with getting a brace of perfect scores.