We took the Tobu train to Nikko from Asakusa in Tokyo because we didn’t get the JR Rail pass as it wasn’t worth it for us. We walked out to a rainy town and bought some fresh warm mochi before heading off. We were quickly stopped by a Japanese woman who mimed if we’d like to try a strawberry. There was a famous strawberry festival or something going on and they asked if they could take a picture of us and told us we would be in the paper tomorrow. I’m guessing it’s because FireBear is European and the only European I saw in the entirety of Nikko when we were there. Most others were Japanese or Asian tourists. We stopped by a local library the next day, but couldn’t find our picture in the newspaper. Oh well.
The strawberry was the sweetest and tastiest strawberry I’d ever had, and inquired about buying a bucket, but it was 500 yen per strawberry. Oh my! For some reason fruit in Japan seems really expensive. I’m not sure why.
It was about twenty minutes of walking to our hotel in the rain with our suitcase because we couldn’t really figure out the bus schedule and there weren’t any taxis. We managed to put our suitcases in lockers at our Airbnb, then realized we were at the wrong hotel when the manager said he didn’t have our reservation. Oops?
We turned in quickly as the jet lag had finally caught up to us. The hotel didn’t have showers in room, but had communal showers in the basement with a group onsen. You picked your favorite shampoo (yay, shiseido!) out of 6 and then showered to make your body clean before you sat in the onsen. It was quite relaxing, even if it was a little odd being naked with another person in the room.
The next morning, we went and saw the historical sights of Nikko. We first walked up to the Futarasan Jinja, a sacred bridge that was rebuilt 100 years ago after being washed away. It’s 300 yen to cross the bridge, which some people do for luck. You can just look at it on your way to the other UNESCO sites if you’d like.
After a 15 minute walk up many steps, we reached the entrance of the Rinno-ji Temple. At first, I thought it was a museum for artifacts due to the odd picture of a temple on the front of the building. Once inside, I realized they constructed a structure to protect the temple while it was undergoing renovations. The temple is 8+ stories high and workers were working on it just as if it had been built centuries ago. They had different interlocking puzzles for actual interlocking structures that were used on the temple and it was pretty interesting trying to figure them out. Amazing the techniques used to build temples just a few centuries ago! Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of the cool locks and couldn’t find any pictures on google for examples :(.
We went back down to the entrance of the UNESCO site and chilled in a small cafe with a bowl of clam chowder and red bean mochi. Uncertain why there was clam chowder in Nikko, but it was quite delicious. It also gave us a chance to put our wet socks and shoes near a portable heater since it had been raining all day.
Next to the cafe was a statue with people trying to throw pebbles on it. There was also another game somewhere else, but I can’t remember what exactly we were doing. We were a bunch of tourists, all trying to have fun.
We walked to a different set of steps and took a tour around the Tosho-Gu and looked at the three wise monkeys carving. They remind people of the phrase, “See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.” The Tosho-Gu and Rinno-ji temple are part of the National Treasures of Japan and UNESCO heritage sites, and are really unlike anything else you see in Japan. If you have a free day, you should stop over.
While we didn’t stop by the famous onsens and see the monkeys, you should absolutely do it when you’re in Nikko. We only had a day in our schedule so we chose to see the historical sights this time.
On the way back to the train station, we stopped by a store with the most gorgeous little trinkets. I love kimono fabric due to its colorful and vibrant quality. After we arrived back in Tokyo, we took the train to Kyoto. I was starving and had heard of the gorgeous bentos and asked the train operator for one. Don’t be like me! The amazing bentos are bought IN the train station, not on the train. Here’s mine, but if you want to see more amazing ones, this website has compiled a nice list. Tune in for our Kyoto visit :).
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