Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nikko's Crying Dragon

~a continuation from the first part ~
We continued our visit to Nikko by proceeding to the next location. Toshogu is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. The shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Ieyasu and two other of Japan's most influential historical personalities, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Minamoto Yoritomo.
DSC02975 copy
The heavily decorated Yomeimon at Toshogu.
The lavishly decorated shrine complex consists of more than a dozen Shinto and Buddhist buildings set in a beautiful forest. Initially a relatively simple mausoleum, Toshogu was enlarged into the spectacular complex seen today by Ieyasu's grandson Iemitsu during the first half of the 17th century.
DSC03005 copy
Another antique looking gate inside Toshogu shrine.
Countless wood carvings and large amounts of gold leaf were used to decorate the buildings in a way not seen elsewhere in Japan, where simplicity has been traditionally stressed in shrine architecture.
DSC03016 copy
The golden walls inside the shrine.

DSC03030 copy

The detailed and colourful wooden carvings on the wall around the shrine.
I only knew one of the three of the Toshogu's most famous carvings - the famous carving of the "Three Monkeys". Placed at the Shinyosha (Sacred Stable), it is part of a series consists of eight panels of carvings depicting the life cycle of a monkey, from giddy childhood to fearful old age.
DSC03044 copy
"Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil"
Unlike my past travelogues where you would see me appearing in the pictures at least once in every other entry, I chose to tone down on that part this time. Anyway, just to clear anyone who is still wondering who was my travelling partner this time around, it was Mingrong who joined me for a couple of days.
DSC02961 copy
Mingrong speaking no evil? What an irony!
Just like any other shrines, there were stalls selling lucky charms and drawing fortune-telling lots for the visitors. The lots were cut into the shapes of the cute "Three Monkeys" that managed to attract young and kawaii Japanese girls to try to look what lies ahead in their future. As usual, the ohh-I-just-cannot-stand-it kawaii voices came out from these girls when they were reading the predictions on the paper.
DSC03037 copy
As for the remaining two famous carvings, it was just opposite the Sacred Stable.
DSC02964 copy
I only realised that I actually took the picture of the two carvings without even knowing about it beforehand. The first carving was an interesting approximation of an elephant, carved by an artist who had clearly never seen one in Japan.
DSC02966 copy
I think this elephant is having some obesity problem, no?
For once, it appears as if I was visiting Buddhist temples in Thailand. As for the third one, it depicted a sleeping cat, called "Nemuri Neko". Seriously, I could not find a concrete reason on why this carving is so famous. Even with my poor art skills, I guess I would be able to come out with a better drawing of a sleeping cat than this one.
DSC03012 copy
Like this also can became famous?
We later proceeded to the next shrine - the Taiyuinbyo. It is the mausoleum of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, the grandson of Ieyasu. The Taiyuinbyo resembles the Toshogu in its layout and lavish decorations, but it is intentionally kept more modest than the Toshogu. Like the Toshogu, the Taiyuinbyo combines many Shinto and Buddhist elements. Taiyuinbyo belongs to Rinnoji Temple.
DSC03083 copy
Nitenmon (Niten Gate)

DSC03100 copy

Only if the place is made of pure gold.
The final shrine we visited was Futarasan Shrine.
DSC03049 copy
The entrance of Futarasan Shrine.
This shrine was founded in 782 by Shodo Shonin, the Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko and who also founded nearby Rinnoji Temple. Futarasan Shrine is dedicated to the kami ("Shinto gods") of Nikko's three most sacred mountains Mt. Nantai, Mt. Nyoho and Mt. Taro.
DSC03051 copy
How the inside of the shrine looks like.
Two more Futarasan Shrines stand at the shore of Lake Chuzenji and on the summit of Mount Nantai.
DSC03059 copy
Some model of cart used during the annual festival in Nikko.
DSC03052 copy
Paintings on the wall inside the shrine.
The highlight of our visit to Nikko that I find it most interesting was the Nakiryu (Crying Dragon).
DSC03036 copy
The hall where Nakiryu can be seen.
It is a painting of a dragon, is painted on the ceiling of Yakushi-Hall, which is located on the back of Korou (Drum tower). The original picture was painted by Yasunobu Eishin, but was restored by Nanbu Katayama after it was burned down. It consists of 34 boards of Japanese cypress are put together to form the ceiling, measuring approximately 6 meter by 15 meter.
DSC03034 copy
What makes this painting of dragon amazing is that it makes a sound like a crying when clappers are struck under the dragon; or more accurately, just axactly below its eyeballs. Mysteriously, there were no echo heard when the clappers are struck at the other spots of the hall. I left the hall feeling impressed with that painting, but at the same time I wonder whether there is a scientific explanation for that phenomenon.
Any future Einstein here mind to do the explaination?


Kevin Tan said...

u shud cover ur ass also. hump no evil. lololol

Anonymous said...

of course irony for him !

calvin said...

@ kevin tan:
thank god that i survived the two dragons of nikko ^^

calvin said...

@ anonymous:
indeed, for someone like him =D

TZ said...

I like the architecture of the building.. the temple looks very old but very well maintained... I think Malaysian should learn from them on how to maintain our old building :->

There's only two of you, your frenz and you were covering ear and the mouth, who was covering the eyes? The person that took this picture? LoL :-p

calvin said...

@ tz:
it just lives up to its billing as one of the world's heritage site. the authorities are trying to preserve the historical buildings in malaysia, but i still believe the effort is still insufficient.

there were only two of us there and the person who took that picture happened to be some western tourist. i don't think he was closing his eyes while taking that picture of us because it turned to be a good shot =D