Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 10: Toshogu

After breakfast at the ryokan, we travelled by bus to Toshogu, the shrine complex built for the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

This shrine was built by the second shogun, Ieyasu's son, to deify his father as a guardian of Japan. This shrine was maintained as a sacred place by the samurai for the hundreds of years they were in power.

It was cold and raining the whole time we were there which was unfortunate, but at least the rain made the fall colors look vibrant. It doesn't really come out in the pictures, but this shrine is built inside a magnificent old forest in the mountains. They really chose a great location to build such a place.

Entrance into the shrine complex:

Monkey carvings that go around the stables. This carving of the three monkeys is very famous:

There were many buildings in different courtyards, almost like a small college campus. The buildings included libraries, living quarters, and a temple. This complex was built in a year and a half using 4.5 million people at a cost of over 40 billion yen ($400,000,000 USD).

Intricately detailed gate leading to the temple where Tokugawa's spirit is enshrined.

This cat is carved above an entrance to a long staircase which leads to the place where Tokugawa Ieyasu is buried. The cat is also very famous. Some people say the cat is sleeping because the world is safe but others say it is only pretending to sleep. The way it's carved, you can't really tell:

This gate is the entrance to the area where Tokugawa's remains were laid to rest. When the samurai were in power, only the reigning shogun was allowed to pass through here:

...but those times are long over, so now we foreigners can go through like we own the place. This is where Tokugawa Ieyasu is buried:

Drum tower:

After Toshogu, we went to our next hotel and immediately hit up the onsen. Man, it felt good to get in a giant steaming hot bath after a long day in the cold rain.

Nikko is known for their water quality and their rice, so they are naturally also known for their sake. So while we were in town, we picked up a bottle to share when we got back to the hotel. While Michelle, Chun-Fang, and I were drinking and talking it started to get warm so we opened the door to our porch, when we suddenly discovered that it was snowing outside! Everyone immediately had the same thought - onsen time! We gathered our towels and raced for the rooftop.

The men's and women's onsen are on different ends of the building, so we had very different experiences. Apparently, over on the women's side there were a bunch of women there enjoying themselves with kids playing in the snow. Over on the men's side, it was a totally different experience. Our side was all howling winds and stinging wet snow so the guys were only using the indoor bath. I was the only one crazy enough to go out, but it was awesome.

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