blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Outing to Nikko in more detail

Without the help of the girl who rescued us at Kita-Senju station yesterday, I doubt if we'd ever have reached Nikko. I have never been in such a confusing station. Many different lines and railway systems connect there and all the instructions except for some of the destination names are written in Japanese characters. We felt very stuck and she saw us looking helpless in a queue for the wrong information office; she led us away to another one where she wrote out the tickets for us for the Limited Express (stopping) train and gave us copious, written advice on where to go, where to stand on the platform, which cars (carriages) to enter (either 5 or 6, because the train would be split on the way), which bus to catch when we arrived at Nikko, even. What an angel in human guise. She'd learned her English in Seattle. As we were about to get on the train, she came running down the steps to find us again, clutching a bus timetable for Nikko.

[Journey description to be added later.]

The founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate had a “pompous” shrine built in his honour at the Rinnoji Temple on the side of the forested hill at the small town of Nishisando, on the edge of Nikko. The temple itself was founded in 766 AD and is presently in the midst of a major restoration, inside a great, hangar-like shed. When it's finished, it will be spectacular. They are in the process of carving the cylindrical pillars which are put together without nails. One of the tourists exploring the place with us nodded to us and said, “Japanese carpenter!” to make sure we appreciated this. Inside, three gilt Buddhas over 8 metres tall were sitting beside one another on an altar. Behind the shed and beyond the Yomeinon Gate, very ornate, were a pagoda and further temple buildings including the Taiyuin Mausoleum shrine to a 17th century Shogun who's motto was “Live a simple life!” The natural surroundings, the tall trees, the cold air, so noticeably refreshing after polluted Tokyo, the spring water (that I tasted from my hand after pouring some from one of the copper cups) would have been conducive to that, but the Buddhist ceremonies and rich ornaments looked complex to me and the explanatory signs, in translation, were not as crystal clear as the mountain streams that ran through these temples:
In Edo it was built the Kidomon gate or barrier gate here. Worshiper [sic] who visited the temple and the shrine were tightly checked about their resident and their name. On the left [...] there was the Banya or guard station or putting up notice board. This was the most important place as the entrance of NIKKO. From the records of the past, we can know a lot of things like this.

We witnessed a ceremony at the next shrine on the self-guided tour, Togashu, the place where the Three Wise Monkeys and other monkeys were depicted as carvings, reliefs, on the wall. When we walked quietly in -- “Be silent! No photographs!” said the notice -- the ceremony was in full swing, the priest chanting and occasionally shouting fiercely as he banged sticks on metal objects at a blazing fire into which he threw the sticks one by one, after making strange hand gestures. It was a very serious and magician like, repetitive performance. At the end of each sequence he waved a fan briefly at the flames and threw something on the fire to make it crackle.

At another part of the Togashu Shrine I took my shoes off to enter the temple and had two sticks clapped at me as I stood in line to see its altar. The polished floor was very cold under my stocking feet, part of the penance? At the exit another blue-robed monk shook little bells, hoping to sell me one. I also went barefoot into the temple at the Futarasen Shrine, where a pyramid of those expensive $3 apples stood on the altar as an offering to the Buddha, with mysterious, golden chambers behind a screen, not all of which I could see. Metal sculptures of cranes and lotus plants decorated the adjacent tables. Very beautiful. Best of all I liked the many steep flights of stone steps up to each shrine and their outer walls with the ancient stone pillars standing in rows with their pedestals in the snow. They reminded me of dovecotes. Pilgrims had laid pebbles on some.

To my disappointment the mountains were hidden from view behind the hills at the temple area, but we caught the No. 7 World Heritage Bus and saw them again in the sinking sun from the main part of town, where we ate an early supper or late lunch of mango lassi, chicken saag and an enormous naan bread apiece, famished, in a restaurant run by a man from Bangladesh who told me he found Nikko a bit too cold and quiet after Tokyo. He had only lived in Nikko for a month. I imagined it would be livelier during the spring and summer when the tourists started to arrive.

1 comment:

Amor said...

Follow you to see the world :)