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Day 5: The Heavens Open in Nikko

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Up very early this morning and leaving the ladies behind to head out to the ancient capital of Nikko which has something like 9 UNESCO world heritage sights. Sadly the weather had regressed from merely overcast to full on torrential rain and by the time I had taken my first shinkansen bullet train out to the mountains it was really starting to dump down.

There was apparently lots of mythical significance to the red bridge but it didn't translate into much of a view on a rainy Monday morning. The temples were a different story as set into the hills with the rain pouring they really seemed to be almost from a different time. The other great thing about the appalling weather was that it had kept most of the other day trippers in the warmth of their hotels so I had much of the complex to myself for the first hour or so.

The whole set of temples were built in a staggeringly short period of time (I think 3-4 years) by a huge number of workers (over 3 million!!) as a mausoleum to
the grand unifying shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The carvings on all the buildings were spectacular and the only shame was the difficulty in trying to do them photographic justice whilst also holding my umbrella and getting progressively colder and wetter.

Some interesting bits such as the original see no evil, say no evil, hear no evil monkeys as well as a famous crying dragon and finally an odd shaped cat that is apparently famous all over Japan for warding off evil spirits. By midday I was pretty wet through and very cold so extremely happy to find shelter in a nice little restaurant who served up an excellent katsu kuri. Was hoping to visit the emperor's world war II home but sadly was closed on tuesday so just made my way home.

Had arranged to meet the ladies at the Tokyo tower or later at Shibuya crossing. They missed the Tokyo tower which was a shame as the view as the dusk turned to night was pretty special. With the rain in the air the lights on the roads blinked in a very surreal way and I was struck dumb once again by just how awesomely big the Tokyo metropolitan area is. Without question the most sky scrapers I have ever seen extending out all the way across the bay and back towards the mountains. Finally met back with the ladies in Shibuya where we tried unsuccesfully to get into the J-pop bar which was hosting a wedding. Instead we found ourselves in the Attic Bar where we were duly offered something smaller than an attic to sit and have a beer.

Dinner was proving to be a bit of a challenge until we by chance went downstairs into a place that seemed from the entrance to specialise in smoked fish, never the most promising of sights, particularly with two vegetarians in tow. Despite this inauspicious start, their selection of veg dishes was actually second to none and the enthusiastic way everything was served by the staff was infectiously enjoyable. Once again we were given our own private dining room - perhaps Japanese people prefer not to watch Gaijin eating?


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