Fuck babies. Or at least that's the mentality with which I started out this tour. This little baby was actually well behaved. She was speaking in baby talk a good portion of the time, which is super cute. She only cried towards the end of the tour, which I don't fault her for.
At the first rest stop. Bear pastries! It was too early and he wasn't ready to serve them yet. Hell I already had breakfast, but I really wanted one!
And here we are at the Nikko Toshogu shrine. I know, at this point you're probably thinking, "enough with the damn shrines." Initially I was thinking the same thing, but I was glad to save this shrine for last. It was the coolest one that I've seen thus far. Most of the individual temples were very intricately decorated, with wood carvings that you could not imagine were possible.
See for yourself:
The stone torii gate (Ishidorii) above survived the recent earthquake due to its sectional construction. All the pieces of it fit together like a puzzle, with shock absorbers built into the joints.
Kinda hard to see, but all the animals of the chinese zodiac (not sure if I'm getting that right) are carved into this 5 story pagoda.
The elephants pictured here were carved by an artist that had never seen a picture of an elephant! The artist at the time carved these out of his own imagination, after having heard stories describing the creatures. Damned accurate, right?
Spell-check police =p
Hallo Yomeimon gate. You are considered the most impressive structure within this shrine, yes?
This building was JUST reopened to the public, it had undergone renovations over the past three years, so I was pretty fortunate to see it in its super-brand-new state.
Don't mind the ladder. This professional restoration guy was applying, or "painting" on the little sheets of gold to the inside-facing part of this doorway.
Can you imagine this thing when it was brand new? (I guess it's pretty brand new at this point)
And below is temple that housed the crying dragon.
Like the Vatican, no pictures were allowed once inside the worship area. So, I will describe it to you. On the ceiling is painted a huge dragon, roughly 8 meters long. This one.
And once you get underneath the dragon, a demonstration is played out for you. The demonstrator guy has two wooden blocks that he claps together; a series performed right underneath the face of the dragon, and another series of claps in a different part of the room. When he's not underneath the face of the dragon, the two wooden blocks slap together as you'd expect them to sound. CLACK!
But, when he's underneath the face of the dragon, the clacking resounds throughout the room with a higher-pitched entity tailing the initial strike. CLACK-CLACk-CLAck-CLack-Clack-clack...
The resounding clack generated under the face of the dragon is said to be the sound of a crying dragon. It did have a mystical ring to it. 0o0o0oo.
POS camera phone disallowed me from taking a better picture of the above. Say hello to Nemuri Neko, which is the sleeping cat. This is a very famous carving crafted by Jingorou Hidari, who is said to have had his right carving hand chopped off. It was said that the other carvers were jealous of his talents, and did not want his carvings to overshadow theirs, so they cut off his right hand. But did he show them. He carved this here motherfucking neko (cat) with his left hand. Assholes. Our tour guide mentioned that this is one of the most recognizable pieces of artwork across Japan.
Note, fat american woman on the left struggling to walk down the stairs. Note the Japanese woman on the right climbing the stairs, with a briskness that could only be matched by the american woman had there been a twinkie prize at the top. Plus, the Japanese woman had a baby on her back.
Truthfully I had trouble getting up the stairs. I did about four sets of squats and four sets of deadlifts, about 6 100meter sprints two days prior and my legs were still hurting on Sunday, haha.
And here lies the remains of Tokogawa Ieyasu, who was the most powerful man in Japan for a good long while. Starting with Ieyasu, the tokogawa shoguns ruled Japan for over 250 years. Bad ass mothereffer, this man was.
And you've seen the see/hear/speak no evil monkeys. But did you know that they originated here in Nikko, Japan?! They're actually featured on this one building, and they serve to tell a story in comic-book fashion. Click the pics to read about the story.
Stupid ass camera phone.
This part was not included in my ticket, so outside-looking-in shot only for you.
Little old ladies keeping the place free of tree debris.
And this is a GIF of me leaving the part of the shrine compound I detailed above. I started taking pictures 1 step apart, then slowing increasing it to 2 steps, then 3 steps apart, and so on, until I was taking them roughly 20 paces apart. I was hoping to make it look like I was moving at light speed =p It's actualy more fun to watch the guy in the yellow jacket, haha.
The GIF is over 9 megs btw, haha. Hopefully your browser doesn't choke.