A day trip to Nikko National Park
Our trip to the mountains north of Tokyo started with a transfer from subway to train in the Asakusa area of the city, with enough time for a morning walk. The tiny shops in rows of low buildings were closed, allowing us to see the murals painted on their roll-top doors. One mural was typically spread over a whole block of shops, 5 or 6 doors.
After a two-hour train ride, we left the crowd of tourists behind by taking off on foot while they all left by bus. The extra walk up through town of Nikko made us appreciate the beautiful scene at the bridge to the park a little more. Up close, the bridge needs work, but from this view, off the highway bridge at the proper angle - with the river framed under the graceful arch - it's perfect.
The many temples and shrines provide many experiences of passage and heightened awareness. From huge Torii, lined up at the end of a forest path, to fearsome protecting guardians, it's clear that you are small and insignificant compared to the powers that made this place. This guy's pet snake looks nasty enough by itself.
Once inside, a well provides the opportunity to purify your hands and mouth, and school children happlily learn and practice the procedure. The inner guardians are less fearsome, and much more handsomely appointed. All that shiny gold stuff is... gold, of course. If the make-believe guards didn't scare you, I think they probably had some real live guards in towers like this.
We stumbled upon the horseback archers getting ready for the big festival, the next day. At first, the riders and horses milling around among a crowd of gawkers, fenced off, but not not far away, grabbed our attention.
Then, we were let into the path after the riders had returned to the other end. We got to stand right next to one of the targets and watch the riders practice at full speed (but with their bows)!
On our return, we had another chance to walk around the Asakusa area, but now the whole place was switched on, with shops open, wall to wall crowds in the covered streets and all through the row of shops. At the end by the Asakusa Kannonji, teams of acolytes were dancing huge portable shrines through the crowd, with shouts, clapping, whistles and cheers. The local equivalent of the Friday Night Cruise, State Fair, and Easter Parade, all rolled into one.
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Tom von Alten tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org