Nikko is an interesting tourist town in which itself and in the surrounding environment one could spend a lot of time. In the town itself one of the prime attractions is a collection of shrines and temples at one end of town, essentially at the opposite end from where the JR station from Utsunomiya is located. Reasonable bus service is available, but on both of our trips by train we walked from the station to the temples and shrines. As at so many sites we have visited here too, one of the major attractions, Rinnoji Temple - Sanbutudo was being renovated so we decided not to see what was available to be seen inside.
We continued on and saw Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple, Futarasan Shrine and Toshugu Shrine where Ieyasu Tokugawa was buried. Nikko experiences a lot of snow in winter and in a couple of places we did see small piles of snow. There are a lot of foreign Caucasian and Asian tourists here and we could see that some of them had never seen snow before.
The temples here are renowned for their elaborate painted sculptured artwork. We saw some that had been stripped to barebones white and were going to be repainted. Japanese people at that time had never seen animals such as lions, elephants or giraffes yet they sculptured these based on imagination of descriptions they had heard. Giraffes were believed to consume only water and air and were thus very peaceful animals. The famous sculpture of monkey no see, no hear and no speak can also be found here. A stable on the grounds was traditionally used to house horses used by shoguns to visit Ieyasu's gravesite and currently a gray roan was being displayed here for a few hours a day. The horse is a gift from the prime minister of Australia.
We climbed the long flight of stairs to Toshugu Shrine along with a group of bikers younger than us, but obviously not in very good physical condition. At the time the Toshugu Shrine was built only one person, the shogun, was allowed to visit. And eventually the most famous shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa made his last very final trip here. Many people were still coming here to pay their respects.
After making the rounds we walked back to town and found a restaurant in which we each had a noodle bowl set. After lunch we walked back to the JR station and on the way saw preparations for the Yayoi Matsuri (festival) taking place in two days. Large wooden wagons decorated with very pink flowers could be seen. How could anything be so pink, but in Japan anything is possible. A little further up the street were some small trees that had real very pink blossoms just like the festival float's.
We had a delicious dinner at the Fukuda's where we were staying along with another guest, a friend of Fukuda-san whose primary residence is the Nikko area.
Photographs of the day can be seen on Picasa at Nikko.