Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Japan 4: Peace and Quiet.

Our first glimpse of the more Zen side of Japan was on Sunday after we'd had our fill of pink bows and socks and trendies in Harakuju and went to the nearby Shinty shrine, just because it was there. We stepped through an enormous wooden gate and suddenly we didn't feel like we were in a 20 million metropolis any more. We walked through a park of tall trees for a bit until we got to the shrine (Meiji-Jinto), washed our hands and face at the entrance, and just soaked in the tranquility of the place. It wasn't actually that quiet, there were plenty of tourists there, but the contrast to the rest of Tokyo couldn't have been stronger.

Although we are quite aware of the danger of overdosing on temples and shrines too early, we still made a day trip to Kamakura on Monday, where there is a large Buddha Statue (Daibutsu). We started our tour at a small shrine with a mountain spring enclosed by rocks, where Koi carp were swimming in the ponds. As we sat down to have our lunch, a Japanese lady came and gave us some sweets (yes, we did take sweets from a stranger). They tasted a bit odd, but looked beautiful, wrapped in leaves. We then ended up hiking over the hills to the buddha in absolutely glorious weather, and chatting to a local retired postman who wanted to improve his conversational English.

On Tuesday, after watching a bit of Kabuki theatre (pretty confusing at the best of times, but made even less comprehensible for me as I kept nodding off) and checking out the newest gadgets at the Sony Building, we headed to Nikko, a small mountain town famous for its concentration of temples and scenery. We were greeted by a flurry of snow, and almost decided to turn back rightaway... but the snow made for very pretty views the next morning (after I'd taken part in the one-to-one morning yoga session!). We covered all the temples, in very dramatic rocky settings between big trees, saw the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" monkeys, but went back to the hostel when the snow was washed away by rain. Celebrated Dan's birthday in relatively sedate fasion by polishing off a bottle of Sake while writing travel recommendations in the book provided by the hostel (most notably Weston-super-Mare and Swindon...).

We've now arrived in a rather hippiefied hostel in Kyoto and preparing ourselves for even more temples, but this time in a more urban setting again!

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