Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Break Part 7: Nikko

On the 27th Lauren and I went to Nikko, which is famous for the elaborate Toshogu Shrine. Unfortunately the Yomeimon gate is under renovations and covered up. That gate is usually what is shown in pictures of Toshogu Shine so I didn't know if it was really worth going or not. But it's under construction until 2019, I've wanted to go to Nikko for a while, and we hadn't gone to Kyoto or any other culturally touristy place yet, so we went.

Lauren found out about a good train pass online. It's called the 2 Day Nikko pass and it includes the round-trip train fare from Asakusa to Tobu-Nikko Station and unlimited bus rides in Nikko. It was only 2,600 yen (It's now 2,670 because of the tax increase on April 1st.). We were only going for a day trip but it's good for two days so it would still be good if you spent the night in Nikko.

We were pretty rushed to make it to the station on time, but we got to Asakusa Station just in time to find the office to buy our tickets. The woman who helped was was super efficient. She sold us our tickets, gave us some brochures, and explained a lot of information very well very very quickly! So we made it onto the 10:40 train just in time. We were lucky because the next train that we could have used with that pass wasn't until 12:40! Though I think if that had happened we just would have paid a bit extra and taken the limited express train at 11. You can still use the 2 Day Pass but have to pay an extra fare.

The train took about two hours and twenty minutes, but the train wasn't too crowded and it was a pleasant ride, though I kind of half slept part of the time.



We had a bit of trouble finding somewhere that we wanted to eat so we just ended up getting some food from a Sunkus konbini. I got a couple of nikuman. We ate our food on a bench outside the station and then crossed the street to where the buses were. We were taking pictures of each other by the welcome sign and a really nice woman offered to take a picture of us together.

The bus ride didn't take very long at all and dropped us off near Shinkyo Bridge.


I was kind of sad that we couldn't walk on it though. But I just looked it up on Japan Guide and you can if you pay a 300 yen fee. I didn't see any people doing that or anyone that looked like they were selling tickets though. Maybe it was closed then? Though I'm not sure if 300 yen is really worth it to just walk on a small bridge anyways.



It was a bit colder than it had been in Tokyo and there was still snow on the ground in a few places! I really hadn't dressed warmly enough for the weather there. But luckily the sun started coming out then and it wasn't so bad anymore.


We didn't know exactly where we were going and just kind of walked in the general direction. Luckily we found Toshogu Shrine first and didn't get distracted by any of the other temples and shines in the area because Toshogu Shrine was closing at four! We hadn't realized that it closed so early. Though it's open until five April through October.


That point was at the same elevation as the top of Sky Tree. 





A famous carving of three monkeys is at Toshogu Shrine. I saw a few groups of people doing poses for hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil. We didn't have three people though so I just did all three myself.





The shrine is so super detailed and there are so many carvings all around.  I would have loved to see the Yomeimon Gate, which I think is the most elaborate of all, but even without seeing that the trip to Nikko was definitely still worth it.





There is also a carving of a sleeping cat. I'm not quite sure why it's famous, but it's a cat so it's awesome! :)


As we were walking down a path I was excited to be passed by a miko (shrine maiden) so that I could sneakily take a picture. Their outfits are so cute and they remind me of Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon who was also a shrine maiden!





The shrine was closing at four but we had had plenty of time there and left about fifteen or twenty minutes before then. Our train wasn't until 5:39 so we walked back to the station instead of taking the bus. We stopped in a souvenir shop and I bought some strawberry gummies shaped like the three monkeys. So cute!



We also got dango (a dumpling made from rice flour that is very similar to mochi) from a small stand along the street. It was covered in soy sauce and heated over the fire. Yum! 


We went back into a Hello Kitty gift store that we had been in earlier and bought matching birthstone Hello Kitty phone straps. Tochigi, the prefecture that Nikko is in, is famous for strawberries.


While Lauren was paying for hers, the woman working there noticed the Matsujun keychain attached to Lauren's purse and got excited. So Lauren posed with her package and keychain next to the statue outside of the store.


We got near the station and still had a lot of time left so I decided that I wanted to go back to Sunkus and buy a cute soda that I had seen there earlier. 



I'm not sure why there was a squirrel carving, but it was cute! And we had time to kill so I had to take a picture of course.


Hahaha! Lauren said she could probably actually convince people that that is actually a McDonald's Happy Meal in Japan. It wasn't McDonald's though and Happy Meals at McDonald's here are called Happy Sets. 

Earlier when walking around to find food Lauren and I saw a man walking with a shiba dog and then saw it tied up outside of a store. It came up to us and we petted it. Later we saw this sign where it had been though. We found it really funny at the time. We hadn't seen this sign earlier and I don't know if it would have really stopped us anyways since the dog came up to us! And it was cute!


It had started out as a gray dreary day but it ended up being really beautiful. The mountains were amazing!

 
We got on the train a bit early and while we were just sitting there I sat out my snacks to take a picture. I bought the green tea Oreos and soda at Sunkus. The soda is called Yume (dream) Cider. I'm not quite sure what the flavor was (similar to Sprite though I guess), but it was good.

 
I drank the Yume Cider and ate some of the Oreos on the train but I didn't eat the gummies. I finally ate them last week and they were really good! I wish I had bought more of them actually.


I sort of slept again on the way back to Tokyo. We went back to Tokyo Station to get our luggage before heading to our hotel in Oimachi. Toyoko Inn had been pretty full when we booked and couldn't find one for five consecutive nights, so we had to switch a couple of times.


I thought that Tokyo Blossom sign in Tokyo Station was really cute and pretty.

In Oimachi we decided to eat at Denny's. It was fancy for a Denny's! We were led to our table by a guy wearing a suit and tie!


I didn't get dessert there, but some of them looked interesting.


I had hamburg curry doria, which was rice and hamburg steak with curry sauce. It was really good!


The waitresses had cute outfits!


I took a picture after we paid and left. It didn't look like any Denny's I had been to before.

I really enjoyed our day trip to Nikko. It had been a while since I had been to a touristy famous temple or shrine like that. It's pretty inexpensive as a day trip so I definitely recommend it.

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