Picture yourself in Shibuya, center of Tokyo. You like the spot and neon lights, huge crossroads, big crowd… you feel overwhelmed though, you fell like going to some quiet, calm and traditional place… Then just go inside Shibuya station, take the JR Shonan Shinjuku line, stop at Omiya, take the Shinkansen, stop at Utsunomiya, take the JR Nikko line and there you are finally, in the great city of Nikko.
I’ve been twice in Nikko, on winter and summer and I’ll probably go again if I visit Japan on Spring eventually.
Although the city is famous because of its amazing temples included in UNESCO that I liked so much, I think the place I like the most was the area of Kanmangafuchi Abyss where you can find the Bake Jizō or Hyaku Jizō. Jizō statues use to be dressed up by parents who have lost a kid. In Buddhism is believed that when children have died so young, they haven’t done enough good actions in their lives and they have cost so much pain with their death to their parents, so they go to limbo waiting for Buddha to let them entering into Heaven. The red colour is supposed to keep evil and disease away. They use to be in roads and paths to protect travellers. There are more or less 70 Jizōs left out of the 100 that used to be, because a big flood in 1902 washed them away. People say that it’s not possible to get to know their real number because they change their positions to confuse you ;).
The Jizō statues are looking to the gorgeous Daiya river …
You can enjoy this area a little bit more and take a walk on the forest. You can listen all the time the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), also known as snow monkey, but take care if you meet them, they can try stealling your food in a non-friendly way…
After Kanmangafuchi Abyss you can go to Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park, it’s very close, you just need to cross the bridge and walk a little bit. You can go inside, it’s just 500 yens, but I remember it’s been closed because the Earthquake affected the structure. But I guess if it’s not open yet it will be open soon, and it’s pretty amazing to visit all the rooms (it’s huge btw) and the Zen gardens surrounding the place are awesome. I was lucky because some days a year, in January, they open the third floor and you can enjoy the amazing views of the gardens…
If you are into plants you can do a brief stop at Nikko Botanical Garden, although if flora is not your thing, you can also go and enjoy the great view of Kanmangafuchi Abyss from the other side of Daiya river. This Botanical Garden is not the typical one I’m used to see, I guess it is because it’s inside the Nikko National Park. There are not spectacular flowers either plants, it’s more about the most common flora you can find in Japan. Maybe if you go on spring it can be more impressive. Anyway the spot of Kanmangafuchi and Daiya river is beautiful.
The most important thing to visit is Toshogu Shrine, the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan about 250 years until 1868. The are famous carvings too, as the three monkeys (San Saru) and the sleeping cat (Nemuri-neko). The Yomeimon gate is truly impressive.
Other important temples you should visit are Futarasan Shrine, Rinnoji and Taiyuinbyo.
And probably the most photographied place in Nikko is the Shynkyo Sacred Bridge.
More information and pictures in: http://www.minube.com/viajes/japon/tochigi/nikko