In Tokyo, I stashed my luggage again before proceeding to turn myself around crazily on the subway system and waste, oh, nearly an hour and a half. Eventually, however, I managed to make my way to Nikko, which is a little city on the outskirts, full of temples and shrines and monkeys.

I didn’t actually see any monkeys. I think they’re a bit outside the city itself, in the rural onsen. I’m quite sad about that, though everybody tells me that monkeys are often quite aggressive and tend to leap at people and steal their things.

There’s a brilliant deal in Nikko that involves a combination ticket and that saves quite a lot of money. I was tremendously pleased by this. Almost everything is included. I saw the three gold-lacquered buddha figures – one of the 1,000 armed Kannon, one of a lesser known buddha named Amida Nyorai, and one of Kannon with a horse’s head. They were very shiny. And large, though not on the same scale as the Nara Daibutsu, of course.

The Tosho-gu, a famous shinto shrine, was particularly beautiful. All of the buildings were extensively carved, in high relief, with beings both real and mystical. There were some dodgily rendered elephants which looked nothing whatsoever like an elephant, as well as birds and fish and dragons galore. One building is carved with many monkeys, including one small panel with the three monkeys warning against evil. (Bizarre truth: somehow I associated those monkeys with Christianity, but apparently I was entirely off base there. I’m very puzzled about that.) There is also a famous carving of a sleeping cat, beloved for it’s realism. It’s nice, but ultimately it’s awfully small.

Sadly, my camera battery conked out quite early on this day. That’s the peril of night buses – not staying at a hostel means there’s no place to plug in and recharge.

Awesome Nikko Fact: the Japanese have a tendency to do bizarre and masochistic things in the name of good fortune, and Nikko has it’s own crazy tradition. Every year, on the 2nd of April, the wealthiest men are invited by the local priests to participate in a festival called the Nikko Torment. During this ceremony, the wealthy dress like samurai and the priests dress like mountain ascetics. The priests present the wealthy men with enormous bowls of rice – larger than my head by a substantial margin – and then force the wealthy men to eat every bite.

I headed back to Tokyo, and thought I’d have time to visit and onsen (I needed a shower so badly) and hit up a net cafe and then make it to Shinjuku to make my night bus. But transport in Tokyo always takes longer than I think it will – often double, sometimes triple – and I decided as I was on the subway that I didn’t have time for an onsen, and then I realized if I tried to tote all my bags to the ‘net cafe I wouldn’t have that much time to actually be there before I had to start walking back. So I found a plug in the station, and parked myself in front of it.

It was actually the only plug I saw anywhere, and I’m not entirely sure I was supposed to be using it. A station person dashing by shouted something at me – not angrily or rudely, just informatively, but he didn’t stop for clarification. I thought I heard something about “security” – but I decided that rather than unplugging or even moving I’d just put my computer away and read my book instead while my phone charged discreetly, and that I’d do something more if they cam back and actually spoke to me. I managed to improve the charges on almost everything before getting on another night bus for a long, uncomfortably cramped nap. But Sendai was the last stop on that train, so I didn’t have any similar problems with missing my stop.

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