A snowy day in Nikko
We went to Nikko to see the vast array of shrines and temples that are located just outside the town center. We also went with hopes that the weather might warm up a tiny bit. The snow had seemed to follow us throughout Japan for the first part of our trip. When we arrived in Nikko in mid-afternoon, the sun was out and there was a hint of warmth to the air, so we were pretty happy. We walked around the town, had a quick dinner, and made a plan to get up the next day and visit the town’s massive temple and shrine site. Side note about dinner: Nikko is known for Yuba, aka tofu skin, which is much tastier than it sounds. I had layers of it, fried into a cake and served with Japanese curry sauce and rice.
When I woke up the next morning, looked out the window and saw that it was snowing, I was not happy. It was one thing to spend all day looking at shrines in the sunshine, but quite another to do it in a snowstorm. We decided we’d come all this way, so let’s head out. To my surprise, snow actually added an element of peace, tranquility and quiet. It almost transported us back in time, partially by limiting the number of people who visited the shrine that day, but also the magic of snow, which makes everything a little quieter.
I have to admit, at times it was a little daunting: having to take off your shoes constantly to enter these sacred places when the temperature is around freezing was not my favorite thing. There were a few times I went to the bathroom just to warm up. The experience however was amazing. The care and amount of preservative work that has gone into maintaining this incredible historical site is staggering.
To see the final resting place of Tokugawa Leyasu, and the ornate shine built in his honor was awe inspiring. A little bit of history: Tokugawa Leyasu was the first Shogun to unite all the clans in Japan. His family ruled Japan for over 250 years. From 1600 to 1868 until the end of the Edo (shogunate) period.
One of the unexpected things we visited was the Kanmangafuchi Abyss. This beautiful park is home to the “Bake Jizo,” also called Ghost Jizo. The Jizo are bodhisattva statues that care for the dead. One quirk, and the reason for the “ghost” moniker is as our innkeeper stated: “if you count them in one direction there is one number, and in the other direction a different number.” Although this sounds ridiculous, we found it to be absolutely true.