I spent today practicing being on my own by taking a day trip to Nikko. It was a little difficult getting there – at Tochigi I ended up taking a train in the wrong direction. This was after a nice woman and her son had helped me (I was trying to purchase a ticket from the wrong type of machine). I told them that I was all set and did not need any help before I realized that I actually had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, the station attendant helped me afterwards to buy the reserved seat I needed and I made my way there.
Nikko is famous for its shrines. After I enjoyed a nice soba lunch and took pictures of the famous Shinkyo Bridge (only the shogun was allowed to cross it), I walked into the complex only to find what looked like a huge warehouse. The shrine known for its three large Buddha statues was undergoing restoration under protective cover. The viewing platform allowed me to see things I normally wouldn’t have, though. For instance, each of the wood shingles had a prayer (ranging from ‘we were here’ to ‘may world peace occur’) written on it after an offering was made. While building something based on hopes and dreams sounds like the recipe for failed relationships, the shrine may fare slightly better.
The place I enjoyed the most was the Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa. After the Meiji Restoration, the emperor lived here for a few years. The surprising things, such as the presence of both a billiards room and an air raid shelter, were far less noteworthy than the mere beauty and craftsmanship of the place. A guard made sure to point out the absence of locks – this place would have been well-guarded back in the day.
My last stop was the Kanmangafuchi Abyss, a set of statues perched alongside a bubbling river. While it wasn’t as gaudy as the bridge or as sleek as the emperor’s village, it was a quiet place in a really beautiful setting. The biggest smile on my face came from the 130 yen green tea ice cream cone I picked up from a roadside vending machine on the way back to the station – it wasn’t special to Nikko but I just really enjoy ice cream.