Taihen osewa ni...
Formerly called Pension Turtle, it has been around for a long while. It was the only accomodation in Nikko listed in a brochure for foreigners back in 1980. Very comfortable rooms and very friendly owners. There was a big Atlas in the living room where travellers from all over the world push-pinned their place of origin. We were the first Venezuelans. They have both Japanese Style and "white" western style rooms. No arabians, no caribbean style rooms. Breakfast and dinner can be arranged.
Make reservations. Walk-in is almost impossible,
especially in days close to festivals. If you want to know about festivals in Nikko drop me a line.
Tosho gu Shrine
The entrance to the shrine , is marked by a large stone torii, and to the left of this is the fabled five storied pagoda, which is designated as a national treasure and highly rated amongst connoisseurs of Pagodas. Originally, this Pagoda, in which the statue of the Five Wisdom Buddha is enshrined, was built in 1650, but was destroyed by fire in 1815, a fate which has befallen much of Kamakura at one time or another. It was rebuilt to its current 34.3m vermilion splendour three years later and has no foundations.
Immediately on the left after entering the shrine is the sacred stables, which currently contain the holy horse of New Zealand. Carved into the lintel of the stables are the world famous relief carvings which depict the ‘hear no evil, see no evil and do no evil’ monkeys, which have become emblematic of Nikko and kept the tacky tourist market afloat for numerous years. Close to this is the Scared Fountain and Revolving Library (unfortunately closed to the public) which is topped with a Chinese style gabled roof and is supported by 12 granite pillars. Beneath the central beam, exquisite in their delicacy, are carvings of carps and a sleeping cat.
Beyond this lies the Honji-do temple, which is the largest building in the complex and is the final resting place for the Yakushi Buddha, the physician of souls. On either side of the golden tabernacle stand the Buddhas which represent sunlight and moonlight and the Twelve Sacred Warriors. The twelve warriors, which represent the gods of war, each have a different kind of animal on their head which symbolise the protection of man from disaster. After braving the long queues inside the temple is a huge ceiling drawing of a coiled dragon. The dragon is known as the roaring dragon, for if one stands underneath it and claps the echo can be heard vibrating around the temple for many seconds. The effect seems to work just as well with mobile phones!!. However, the queues, like elsewhere in Nikko, can be a bit suffocating in this temple, and it should be avoided during peak times which seem to stretch from 9 am till about 5pm.
Climbing further into the temple complex leads to Yomeimon Gate. This beautifully carved gate is a compendium of all the styles in the Edo period. The gate is also known as Sunset gate, because only as the sun sets does the true artistry of the reliefs and carving become apparent. However, in an attempt to appease the gods in the face of such perfection the architect had the final supporting column on the left hand side was placed up side down.
Passing through the Yomei-mon gate to the right is a temple on which a carving of a sleeping cat (another national treasure) can be found. The cat, which was carved by a left handed artist, and the accompanying auspicious flowers and birds are said to represent a degree of novelty and expression never before seen in Japanese art.
April 2nd . The Gohan rice festival. During this festival men are forced to eat huge quantities of rice in a tribute to the bounty supplied by the gods.
April 16th - 17th. A procession of Portable shrines is held at the Futara-san jinja shrine.
May 17th -18th. The grand shrine festival. This is the most important festival in Nikko. It features horseback archery, and many other traditional events which culminate with the delivery of the founders remains to the temple by 1000 costumed men.
October 17th. The autumn festival. This is essentially a scaled down version of the grand festival. The notable exception being the lack of archery.
The best way to Visit Nikko is via the Tobu-Nikko line from Asakusa station in Tokyo, if you like being really squashed then go on a weekend. The limited express trains which take just under two hours cost 2690 Yen and run twice an hour. The alternative is the rapid train which takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes and can be even more crowded. Nikko is unlikely to be a popular for the annual claustrophobic society day out.
A more civilised option is to travel to Nikko using JR services, but it is only really of interest to lucky holders of a JR railpass. The quickest way is to take the Shinkansen from Ueno station to Utsunomia (about an hour, 4500 yen) and then change for the 720 Yen ordinary train into Nikko, which takes 45 minutes. Most of the main shrines and temples are a short twenty minute walk from the station, just turn right out of the station, follow the crowds up the hill and you wont go far wrong. The nice people of the Nikko tourist board have also been kind enough to sign post most things in English so getting lost is quite a challenge. About five minutes away from the station you will pass the Tourist Information Office where you can pick up any number of free maps and other goodies about Nikko.
Places To Stay
There are a number of good places to stay in Nikko. The Nikko Daiyagawa Youth Hostel (0288-54-1974) has beds from 2600 Yen. Slightly cheaper, and ten minutes further from town is the Nikko Youth hostel (0288 54 1013). For a more convivial stay, Nikko has a plethora of interesting and traditional Ryoken. The tourist information centre can help book many of these, but at weekends and during national holidays they fill up quickly, do what everyone else does, commute from Tokyo. Reasonably priced ryoken include the Turtle Inn Nikko (0288 53 3168), the Annex Turtle Hotori-an (0288 53 3663) and the Humpty dumpty (0288 53 4365) which all have rooms in the 5000 Yen/night range.
Places to Eat
For eats you are certainly not limited in Nikko. For rumbling stomach’s head towards the main temple precincts where almost every fare imaginable can be bought at credible prices for a myriad of sidestalls. Check out the heavenly chocolate cakes that many of the stalls sell for a very reasonable 100 Yen. For more substantial food, highly recommended comes the Yoro-no-Taki izakaya, which is situated a few hundred meters away from the station towards the shrines. This offers a comprehensive menu with dishes ranging from 300 - 800 yen, some of the freshest fish knwon to man, fantastically affordable beer, served by fantastically nice people in a fantastically nice rustic style log cabin type affair. Divine…
The ticketing arrangements for Nikko were obviously designed to perplex and separate tourist from their hard earned money. Entrance to the Rinno-ji temple costs 900 Yen, the Tosho gu shrine costs 1400 Yen and the Futara-san jinja shrine costs 300Yen. However, for a very reasonable 900 yen you can buy a ‘two shrines one temple ticket’ (nisha ichijikotsu-baikan-ken) (though you may have some difficulty convincing the less then over enthuastic ticket office that this is a good idea), which covers the principal sites and saves you a considerable amount of money over individual entrance fees. However, this doesn’t cover the entry to the Nemuri-neko (sleeping cat) and Iesaya’s tomb which costs 500 Yen.