Wed 22 Jun 2005 25 °C
Next stop on our tour of Japan was the small town of Nikko, home of the World Heritage listed Nikko Shrine and Temple complex and the National Park. We were waiting for the hour long bus ride to our hotel mentioned on the internet when Janelle noticed a courtesy bus of theirs picking up some other guests. We talked our way onto that courtesy bus and 5 minutes later we arrived at our hotel, baffled as to why the regular bus would have taken an hour. Turns out my directions were for another Hotel Kanaya in the not so nearby town of Chuzen-ji.
The Hotel Kanaya is a beautiful old building, (1873) quite rightly noted in our guidebook as an 'architectural delight', with impeccable service and beautiful garden view rooms. There is a long list of famous people who stayed at this hotel, with photos dating back a hundred years plastered all over the walls.
We went down the road for lunch in the pouring rain and soon came across 'The Little Yakatori Bar'. It would seem this place is notorious among travellers. It has several glowing guidebook reviews tacked on the wall and inside the whole place is plastered with notes and business cards from people who have eaten there. I think the main highlight is that it serves vegetarian food, which isn't necessarily easy to come by. We found the food reasonable, but not nearly as exciting as the glowing advertorials would have you believe. The old lady was very friendly though and the atmosphere was pleasant. Naturally, you can now find a Travellerspoint card on the wall as well Interesting to note is that all the other nearby restaurants seem to be copying The Little Yakitori Bar's tactics now, making a big deal out of their list of international diners.
The primary attraction in Nikko are the numerous shrines and temples and the various buildings and gardens are truly awe inspiring to behold. It was handy wearing sandles for this excursion though, as it would have be a royal pain in the you know what taking off your shoes every time you need to enter a particularly important place. What more can one say about looking at temples? Scary looking statues, lots of incense burning, golden buddhas and such things. Some pictures below should give you an idea. It's a very enjoyable place to visit.
Exiting the temple district, we decided we would take the bus up the mountain to Chuzen-ji, where the other Hotel Kanaya is located. We made some dumb choices regarding transport, passing up the option of a shuttle service the hotel runs, opting for a regular bus instead. Little did we realise it would come to 1000 Yen a person each way. Oh well, such is life. Oh, I forgot to mention the other lure of the mountain, namely wild monkeys.. Anyhow, halfway up the mountain, nearing our final destination, we experienced a moment of confusion when the bus pulled up at a very scenic lookout offering people the chance to get off. Strangely enough, we decided to get off and see what there was to see, despite the protests of other passengers on the bus. A very nice view mainly, but also a chair lift up to err.. an even nicer view, this time of the lake and town we were trying to get to. Ok, that sightseeing need taken care of, we returned to the bus stop to complete our journey. And it turned out the next bus would be here in, let's see, an hour! argghh .. Perhaps to torment us while stuck on this block of cement with nothing but a toilet to entertain us, there was an interesting sign stating not to 'approach the wild monkeys with food'. Unfortunately, no monkeys were available to approach. So, there we stood for a while in the drizzling rain waiting for the next bus. A friendly lady said it was a twenty minute walk to Chuzen-ji from here, but we decided to wait anyway. Either way, by now it would be roughly the same time waiting or walking. Then they came, first one crossing the road, then a swarm. At least a dozen hairy, red faced monkeys (don't ask me for the species) were wandering around the place, some with young. Naturally, I took note of the sign and didn't approach them 'with food', instead approaching them with my camera - hey they're monkeys, they're clever right? Later we spoke to an Australian who had been attacked by a gang of vicious furry monkeys, so this perhaps was not a very wise move on my behalf - note to kids, don't sneak up on monkeys.
Oh, and Lake Chuzen-ji and the nearby waterfall were also well worth the trip. See the pics below.
Now, we're being bulleted to Osaka at 300 km/h. I must say, these Shinkansens really do make you feel like you've entered a warp zone of some sort. A very pretty warp zone too..