Saturday, December 1, 2012

日光 (Nikko)

Two weekends ago (November 22-23) we went on our second and last field trip to Nikko. You know what that means...the end is near (more on this later). But anyway, Nikko was a great little break! Our Japanese university had a 4-day long weekend because high school students were taking their entrance exams, which we all chose to ignore and call "Thanksgiving Break" instead. So we traveled on Thursday and Friday and all (okay, just some) came home and started throwing up from Friday-Sunday. WHAT A BREAK!

Before the vomit ensued, in Nikko, we visited two major areas: Toshogu Shrine and Ryou Ravine - both of which were breathtaking. The Toshogu Shrine area also encompasses another shrine and one temple, along with Ieyasu's tomb and 3 extremely famous carvings. The first is the 3 "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" monkeys (pictured to the right).  The second is the sleeping cat (no picture because it cost more money to go see it) which was supposed to represent how peaceful the world could be in the front - as it is sleeping - but how you always have to be prepared for attack (or something of that sort) - as his claws have sharp nails in the back. The third of the famous carvings is of elephants. The men who carved the elephants had one of the hardest tasks I've ever heard of. They had to carve elephants without ever seeing them. Now that does seem pretty dumb, yes, but it worked out mostly for the best. I guess with a little research you can do anything, right? The picture of the elephants is 100% from google, some nice man took some pretty great pictures of it and posted it to his flickr. Thanks, dude!

After Toshogu shrine we headed back to the ryokan. This time, we were in (for lack of a better word) a real ryokan. AKA there were more than 30 people who I already knew staying there. We settled in and headed down to dinner which was *drumroll please* an all you can eat buffet. For those of you who watch 30 Rock, WHAT THE WHAT?! They had STEAK. Steak, people. Steak. They also had sashimi and ice cream and tempura and crab legs and fruit and, oh yeah, a chocolate fountain. Hello, heaven. I'm not sure how dramatic I'm actually being about this buffet but I hope you all know it was just simply magnificent at that point in time.

Once we gorged ourselves full of delicacies, we headed to the onsens which were also bigger and better than in Kanazawa. They had individual stalls where you wash yourself and about 6 different baths inside, along with 4 outside, and a sauna. I really wish onsens didn't make you so hot and dizzy after about half an hour because I would love to spend all day/night there. We frolicked around naked for a while, though, and it was a very enjoyable time!

On the second day of the trip, we started with more buffet time at which I chugged all the coffee my body would allow. Our first stop was Ryou Ravine. We hiked around and walked up and down stairs and rocks and mountainside and it was absolutely beautiful. There was waterfall after waterfall and a river and bridges. Living where we do really has made me appreciate the sight of trees and water and NATURE. God, I love nature.

After that, we had a pretty complicated lunch where you had to cook for yourself. It's fun and all to cook your own meals at restaurants, but in Japan I usually have no idea how to do it. The best part of the meal was the giant paper bibs they gave us. Check out these lookers:

The last stop of the trip was a wood carving store/mini museum, where they showed us how a traditional wood carver in Nikko does his work. In short, he uses the most impractical tool you could think of and it was the worst idea ever. Okay that I know is dramatic, but I probably couldn't have been worse at it. No pictures to save what's left of my pride after this semester.

And then, God said, let there be vomit. 

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