March 25, 2008 After spending a day in Tokyo, the next stop I made during my spring break trip last month was Nikko, a small city approximately three hours train ride from Tokyo. Nikko is located at the entrance to Nikko National Park and it is most famous for the Toshogu, Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine complex and mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. Nikko has been a center of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries, and Nikko National Park continues to offer scenic, mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails.
The train we took to Nikko was mostly consisted of the retired elder generations, who equipped themselves with sophisticated photography devices that were miles away better than my digital camera. Visiting Nikko during the spring season may not be the best option, as the place will be covered with colourful maple leaves during the autumn and it is considered one of the best spot for enjoying the breathtaking scenery of autumn foliage, usually around mid October to mid November.
The Sinkyo Sacred Bridge was the first stop we made, at the entrance of the main shrines and temples of Nikko.
Sinkyo is one of the three most unusual bridges in Japan. This beautiful red bridge across Daiya River is the gateway to the shrines and temples area of Nikko. A walk around the bridge would cost us as much as 300yen (RM10), that we decided to only have a look at the bridge from afar. Looking at the bridge, I must say that it appears just like any other bridges that you usually see and certainly it didn’t live up to the billing as one of the unusual bridges in Japan.
One of the reason that thousands of tourists visit this place all year round although it is located in a relatively secluded area is because the shrines and temples in the Nikko district have been registered as part of the "World Cultural and Natural Heritage".
This simple and boring? Maybe this place doesn't get as much fame and attention like those in other historical sites found in other parts of the world like the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids in Egypt. Nevertheless, I was quite sure that a visit to Nikko would never disappoint me and after I visited those shrines and temples, I was quite right. The first temple we went was Rinnoji, Nikko's most important temple. It was founded by Shodo Shonin, the Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko in the 8th century.
Rinnoji is one of the three largest headquarters of the Tendai section of Buddhism.
The interior of the temple.
If you might notice the picture above, there is a painting of a dragon on top of the ceiling.
The temple's main building, the Sanbutsudo or the Hall of the Three Buddhas, houses large, gold lacquered, wooden statues of Amida, Senju-Kannon ("Kannon with a thousand arms") and Bato-Kannon ("Kannon with a horse head").
The three deities are regarded as Buddhist manifestations of Nikko's three mountain kami ("Shinto gods") enshrined at Futarasan Shrine.
Opposite Sanbutsudo stands the temple's treasure house with Buddhist and Tokugawa related exhibits. Shoyoen, a small Japanese style garden, is located next to the treasure house. We didn't enter the garden because doing so would require us to pay a few hundred yen more. Furthermore, judging from the view we saw at the entrace of the garden, it was not the best garden you would come across that we decided to skip on that.
If there is one golden rule that I went against during my time at the shrines and temples, it was this signboard.
We were made to pay for quite some amount to visit these shrines and temples and yet, they forbade us from taking pictures at almost every main section of the shrines and temples. It was just not right and I wanted to make sure that the entrance fee I forked out was worthy. Hence, I stayed as a true Malaysian by ignoring those signboards and continued taking pictures at these areas. The worst reaction I got when my action was noticed by the authorities was me being instructed to stop taking pictures in those prohibited areas. I just smiled sheepishly and walked away.
But if I were to follow the rules, you would not have seen those pictures, which include the dragon and the Three Buddhas.
~ to be continued ~