The alarm goes off but I linger in bed, not wanting to deal with the cold. I already planned out my layers. I get up and peak out the window.
Ah, I need to leave now! The mountains…! It was dark when I arrive yesterday that I didn’t see them properly but today the sky is bright and clear.
I step out into the sunlight. The sun! The mountains! My heart soars. I’m giddy, hop off the stairs. I know this is hard to believe with my resting bitch face.
My first stop is to go back to the train station, the other part next door, which I read was built by Frank Lloyd Wright and is the oldest operating station. There’s a water fountain in front to sample the excellent local water. Don’t mind if I do.
On the way over here, I noticed a bakery so I stop in before going to the bus stop. I get sandwiches and sweets. Some to eat now and some for later. The bus arrives soon and a few others get on as well.
Get ready for photos… I took about 120. There’s a ton of shrines and temples. 🙂
Did I get off the bus at the right stop? I’m not sure but find my way to the first shrine regardless. Entrance fees are typically around 600 yen so I was quite surprised by Toshogu Shrine which was easily double the price despite the ongoing renovations. It is worth it though. Toshogu Shrine is the top attraction.
Toshogu Shrine consists of several buildings. There’s a pagoda near the entrance gate. A couple schools are on a field trip here.
Pass the entrance gate are a few buildings you can’t enter but are nicely decorated. There’s the famous wood carving of the three monkeys–see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil. This area also includes a horse from New Zealand. Why import a horse? I don’t know but the horse showed me their rear when I tried to take a photo. Sacred horse indeed!
Here’s some more detail photos…
They like gold here. I’m not complaining.
Next is the Yomeimon Gate, which at the time escaped being closed for renovations.
But before getting into the main shrine where you can’t take any photos because it is so lovely and unfair, I swing right and follow a group up a few flights of stairs to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s mausoleum. There’s a rest area here with a vending machine so I eat one of the bakery items.
What I surprisingly did not realize on my way up was the other famous wood carving–Nemurineko, a sleeping cat. I stop to see it on my way back.
I love all the animal carvings here! Looking closely, you can tell the place needs some work with all the chipping paint. Lovely nonetheless…
Now I turn toward the main shrine building. To my utter dismay, visitors must remove their shoes. I tried to prepare myself but there’s nothing you can do about the cold. So, I’m wearing socks on this cold path that leads to the entrance and the shrine is decorated and it is quite lovely. Dragons improve everything.
After that, you have to put your cold feet back into your cold shoes. Your toilet seat will be warm but they can’t keep your shoes warm. Such is life.
There’s another building to the left and sake stand.
Exiting Toshogu Shrine, I left turn to follow a path through trees that leads me to a crossroad of another shrine.
I take a peak at Futarasan Shrine but decide to spend my yen on Taiyuinbyo, a mausoleum but to me, uneducated, it looks like a shrine/temple.
All my picture taking gets me stuck behind a tour group. While climbing one of the flights of stairs, it begins to snow the tiniest of flakes. I hardly believe it. I love snow but I’m not dressed for snow.
I follow the group inside the pray hall (haiden?). I can’t understand anything they’re saying but enjoy their chatter and their awing in unison. It’s a nice break from walking. I admire the decor and when the guide finishes his lecture, I join the group as they eye the artifacts presented.
Back outside, I put on cold shoes again and leave the group behind.
I continue on to the toward the end of the Takino’o Path. This section cuts through a wooded area where naturally one finds a few shrines and a tiny waterfall.
As I approach Shiraito Falls, I meet a family who knows some English. I offer to take their photo at the falls and they are surprised that I’m traveling alone. A common theme on this trip.
I walk on ahead to one of the Takino’o Shrines at the end of the path. It starts to snow again and it makes me giddy.
There’s no where to go from here other than backtracking and looping back to the beginning from the other trail.
I run into some more shrines and stone figures. There’s a Legend of Zelda vibe around here. Just grab the Master Sword and run.
Eventually the wooded area merges into town. I’m surprised I’ve managed to navigate this well. There’s a couple more sites on the way though my enthusiasm is waning.
I finally reach Shinkyo Sacred Bridge which is more or less where I started.
I look in on a shop for anything interesting (also need to warm up!) and debating whether I should continue on or not. The bus going forward to some other falls is not for awhile. I wait outside. It’s cold and windy and I do need to remember that it gets darker earlier these days.
I settle for ramen instead. I managed to get there right on time as the restaurant will be closing soon.
That was a good idea. I hop on the bus go to the hostel. (I know today I stopped at the visitor’s center but can’t recall if it was the morning or evening. Gotta get my stamps!)
I stop at the supermarket a couple blocks behind the hostel for more snacks of course and a hot drink. It’s times like these that I appreciate the hot drink options! Back home you’re lucky to find hot coffee without ordering from a cafe. At the store they have samples of mandarins (yes!) and so I bought a bag.
Back at the hostel, the heat is on and I crash on the couch to enjoy the hot lemon drink and later some snacks. The Japanese and Taiwanese woman join me on the couch. One offers chips and sake, the other strawberry pocky. I add the bag of mandarins and some cheese almond snacks. This is awesome!
We talk as best we can in English. What we’re doing here in Japan and what’s home like. The Japanese woman is from Tokyo, visiting for the weekend. An American guy from Texas joins us. The Taiwanese woman is an actress for children’s shows. These shows are far more interesting than back home! One is about death, a child with cancer. Another is Alice in Wonderland but instead of Alice changing shape, she changes gender. Third one is based on a Neil Gaiman book. Cool stuff. The American and I exchange our Japan travel stories.
We stay up way too late.
I looked at tickets to New Zealand but only looked. That’s progress.
Tomorrow morning is going to suck. I stayed up way too late! 😦