September 07, 2010

Walk in the woods - behind the shrine complex in Nikko Last Thursday we had some errands to run, and as much as I hate errands, I can’t complain too much in this case. One of those errands brought us to Futaara shrine in Nikko. See what I mean? There are plenty of a lot worse places you could be forced to visit on official business. Like the Immigration Office in Utsunomiya, or the drivers license testing center in Kanuma. I’ll take the Shrine and Temple complex anytime. Since we are chronic cheapskates and hate paying for parking (which, as you can imagine, is rather expensive in touristy areas, and you don’t get any more touristy than Sannai in Nikko), we did what we always do. Instead of stopping at one of the big parking lots nearby Rinnoji, we continued up the mountain, past the grave of monk Shodo, towards Takinoo shrine. Yep, along this road. Be careful, it's narrow. You want to park for free when visiting Nikko? Then you gotta do the same. Follow the narrow, twisty road along the river and soon you will see plenty of spaces where you can park your car, 100% legally, for free. The downside of this arrangement is that you still need to walk to the shrines. But you walk alone, or almost alone, through the woods. There are no loud tourist crowds, no information booths, no commotion. Just you and a stone path through the forest. But don’t worry, the path is well maintained. It’s the same path that the shinto priests use during Yayoi festival when they carry mikoshi back from Takinoo shrine to Futaara. Not a soul in sight. The path will take you by the entrance to Mt. Nyoho. Seeing the sign there, I realized that it might be a good idea to climb this mountain as a practice run for next year’s Mt. Nantai midnight extravaganza. Yes, we’ll be climbing that mountain again. And again - at night. Sad, this is the shrine by the entrance to Mt. Nyoho. People, who do that, should be tarred and feathered and made to wear a sign around the neck proclaiming "I have an IQ of a stool sample." And Marielle (because I'm pretty sure that's who wrote it - judging from the crossed out "Andrea" above) - yes, you're stupid. Anyone who disrespects any place of worship like that is a moron. Case closed. But Nyoho is relatively easy to climb, or at least those familiar with it say so, and I’d like to believe them. So maybe in September when the weather’s nice and not too hot, we'd give it a try. Are you up for some Nikko mountain climbing this fall? You're welcome to join us. This time we’ll do it, like normal people, during daytime. Statue at the entrance to Mt. Nyoho. Following this stone path to Futaara, you’ll exit the woods at the back of the shrine. You’ll also get to see a lovely view of Taiyuin along the way (it will be on the...
Walking while foreign I had to get a re-entry permit today and that, of course, required a trip to the Immigration Office in downtown Utsunomiya. I didn’t need to get it today, because I’m not going anywhere until December (yay! Malaysia!), but since I had time and the weather was nice (read: not hot and muggy, just pleasantly warm and breezy), I thought it would be a grand idea to walk from Takiyacho all the way downtown. So, I’m happily walking along and taking photos here and there, mostly of old dilapidated buildings, and suddenly a police car stops next to me. I was just taking a picture of this building. And yeah, it looks like someone actually does indeed live there. A nice policeman got out and approached me very cautiously. He wanted to know what and why I was photographing in this neighborhood and asked for my ID. And here I did something that I always do in awkward situations – I make them even more awkward by pretending not to understand a word of what is being said to me. Easy to do in Japan. The policeman wasn’t prepared to speak English to me, and I, sure as heck, wasn’t going to willingly give him my personal details. I wasn’t committing any crime, I was careful not to stand on anyone’s property, and he had no reason to ask for my ID. He would have had to take me to the police box (a small, local police station, a.k.a. “koban”) in his big, shiny police car, if he really wanted to see my passport or alien card. And I’m not going to hand over either one to anyone without my husband being present and without documenting the whole incident on video. Hey, I haven’t committed any crime, so they shouldn’t mind, right? This was the first time it happened to me in Japan – to be stopped by a cop while WALKING and minding my own business. I’ve read about such incidents before, but I always thought they happened to burly, scary-looking foreign men. Not to dainty, almost middle-aged ladies. The cop proceeded to ask me questions, still very pleasant and smiling, and I proceeded to be a stupid foreigner, still very pleasant and smiling. He pointed at my camera and asked why I was taking pictures around here. I pointed at my camera and said in English “hobby”. I waved my arm around and said “Utsunomiya pretty”. And then I took out my name card (still better than a passport) and pointed out both blog addresses to him. “See? Brog writing. In Engrish. And here, Tochigi photo brog. I rub Tochigi.” The cop didn't quite know how to react, he smiled, took the card, got in his car and drove off utterly defeated. I felt sorry for him. He was young and cute and so polite, and if I were 15 years younger and single, I would have asked for HIS personal details. The sad part is, that if...

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