Summer in Nikko

During my time in Tokyo, Japan, I made the decision to venture out somewhere. This decision was reached prior to knowing to where that was. So, I picked up the nearest Japan book I could find, and checked out a list of day trips from Tokyo. I read of a mountain town to the north, full of temples and shrines and hiking. It sounded like the right place to head.

From Asakusa Station in Tokyo, I boarded the Tobu train bound to Nikko. I set out on my solo adventure to a place I had only heard of the day before.

Once out of the seemingly endless urban sprawl, outskirts and suburbs of the world’s most populous metropolitan area, I finally entered the Japanese countryside.

It looked like endless greenery, with the foreground being full of rice fields, the background being dominated by tree-infested mountains . I remember always learning about Japan in school, how very little of the land was arable and much of it was covered by mountains that were impossible to be developed, and there I finally was, taking it in.

After the Tobu train finally arrived in Nikko, it resembled to me one of those unknown Oregon mountain towns, rather spread out and not very populated.

Later on, I made my way later to the shrine and temple area, uphill, in the sweltering heat and humidity. I could have crossed a sacred bridge for a fee, or taken a picture of it on a parallel bridge for free, and I chose the latter.

I trekked even farther uphill to enter the attractions, which were quite a series of eye candy.

The dark shades of the emerald moss on stoneĀ sculpturesĀ almost made me forget about the bothersome summer sultry.

Of course I had to take a picture of the highlight, the Three Wise Monkeys of the Tosho-gu shrine. For many years, I have been familiar with the proverb, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” This associated image has been portrayed as a cliche to me in various cartoons and t-shirt designs, perhaps with monkeys or other cute animals. But, throughout the years of life, I did not know the inspiration for this concept would have been in front of me in a random journey in Japan.

To escape from the heat later, I also decided to take the bus up into the hills, far from gravity pulling down the sunlight, into the region that was reaching to the clouds.

The first evening I went, and enjoyed pacing around the trails, in the slight rain, getting my boots muddy and damp, taking breaks to view the calmness of the lake.

The next day, I needed another uphill journey. I decided to hike farther into this forest. I followed the path of the stream, and ascended up into the hills to satiate my curiosity of what Japanese forests looked, sounded and felt like up close and personal.

Though I’m familiar with forest, it was a novelty to see new trees, smell new soil, and be greeted with “Konnichiwa!” by fellow hikers.

New woods and new views of water are always a treat. Unfortunately, I found out later that most people have been scared of from traveling to Nikko for fear of nuclear radiation. It is sad that the recent natural disaster and its consequences have hurt this country in so many levels.

For whatever had led to the make-up of my trip, in the end, I had gotten to Nikko alone, explored alone, and even slept in a hostel room all alone. It was an interesting trip by myself, making mix-ups and learning my own way about a small town in a distant land.