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Day Trip to Nikko

Staying in Asakusa had several advantages, one being easy access to Nikko. I had debated whether to visit Nikko or Kamakura from Tokyo, both home to old and famous temples, and easy to reach. The feedback I got favored Nikko, but I was less impressed than I expected.

Nikko at its best

But it was mostly like this

True, Rinno-ji was covered in scaffolding for renovations, but it looked like the three gilded Buddhas, the largest in Japan, were permanently located in an inconvenient passageway. At least Rinno-ji was quiet. Elsewhere I encountered a stream of school groups, interspersed with regular tours. Forget serenity.

The three wise monkeys, one of Nikko's most famous sights

Most of the groups made the pilgrimage to the tomb of Ieyasu, the founder of the Shogunate. I joined them, although when I discovered just how many steps I’d have to go up, and worse, down, I wished I hadn’t. I didn’t find the site particularly interesting, when I finally got there, either.

Tokugawa Ieyasu's tomb

I was interested to see an obvious VIP in Arab robes and headgear, escorted by several Japanese men in Western dress. He gamely made it up to the tomb too, where he posed briefly for photos with some of the school children. All of the school groups had their pictures taken at designated places around the site – the fetish for being photographed in front of sights is established early.

Rooted in moss

The best part of the day came near the end, when I found an almost deserted walkway flanked by towering cedars rooted in moss, and a subsidiary shrine with few visitors. Since I spent around four hours on suburban trains getting there and back, the excursion took an entire day. But at least I picked a dry day – the next morning, the rains started up again.

A quieter spot

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