Friday, March 11, 2011

Our Family Trip to Nikko, Japan

Over Columbus Day weekend, we decided to take a family trip up to Nikko, Japan to see the waterfalls and famous temples there. It is about a 4 hour drive, so we loaded up the kid and the car and headed off. Mallory was thrilled, as you can tell-ha!
It rained pretty much the entire drive there, which had me worried for the weekend. All the activities there are outdoors, so it could put a damper on things. Mallory at road trip cheetos and didn't seem to mind :)
We checked into our hotel, which was right in the heart of the little town of Nikko, by the train station. We wandered around the town a bit in the rain (but as Japanese citizens we were prepared as you learn to pack umbrellas and rain coats when you go places around here), and then went to dinner at a ramen shop. Yummy!! Mallory got a kid's ramen meal, complete with a bowl of ramen, orange juice and a toy.
The adult ramen bowl- there was a LOT!
Daddy and Mally share a "Lady and the Tramp" moment :)
After ramen for dinner we headed back to the hotel and just hung out and chatted. The bonus to going out of town in Japan is that, even though there is a tv in your hotel room, there aren't any English channels, so you are pretty much forced to turn it off and chit chat with your family! Mally played with her "happy meal" toy from dinner and then we all settled in for a good nights sleep on the tiny, rock hard hotel bed, hoping for better weather in the morning. Luckily, we woke up the next day to bright and sunny skies! Yay!
The view of the train station "square" from our hotel room.
Tori gate into town

We set off to see the waterfalls and Lake Chuzenji. There are 3 main waterfalls along this drive up thru the mountains. M fell asleep as we reached the first, so we decided to drive to the top and work our way down instead of waking her up. We passed the lake as we drove along.

There is another, smaller lake at the top, so we got out and took some pictures. I'm no photographer, so my photos do not do justice to how beautiful it is in Nikko. We also went right as the leaves were beginning to change colors in the fall, so it was just gorgeous.

I love this pic of M and Dada walking along.
Out of the carseat and stretching her legs a bit.
Checking out the lake from the "good seat" way up high!

So beautiful and serene!

After a stroll by the lake, we went to see the first waterfall. It was amazing.

There were some shops set up by the parking area. Fish stick anyone? (I will never think this is an acceptable food- gross!)
Driving back down the mountain to waterfall #2.

Aren't the fall leaves gorgeous?
Walking to the second waterfall. I will never get over what the Japanese wear sometimes. Here we are, on a mountain that is totally surrounded by nature, and these girls choose these outfits to hike around in...check out the heels on the boots....seriously???

The second waterfall, Ryuzu Falls
Just gorgeous

After that, it was lunch time, so we stopped at a cute restaurant about 1/2 way down the mountain. It was very Japanese, but cute and we had some more noodle bowls and some curry for lunch (pretty much always a safe bet- at least you know the main ingredients). There was a porch outside, so Brett walked out there and took our picture.
Front of the restaurant
After that, we drove back down towards the bottom of the mountain to the last waterfall. We passed this building covered in red ivy that I thought was really pretty.
The last waterfall is called Kegon Falls. There was a line to get into the parking lot and we debated about even stopping (I mean, it's just another waterfall, right?) But I'm so glad we did. We had saved the best for last, without even knowing it!
It is simply breath taking, and amazing!
Family shot by the falls- clearly M had fallen asleep again.

The sides of the mountain by the waterfall were pretty incredible to look at.
The sign says that the amount of water falling on that day was 1 ton per second. Incredible! It is 97meters high, 7 meters wide, and 4.5 meteres deep at the basin. Wow~
The falls and lakes were beautiful and so worth the days drive. Very relaxing to spend the day with family seeing them all. On the way back to the hotel, we passed this bridge, which is famous and sacred in the town. I'll admit, I have no idea the story or history behind it really, but it is pretty. We didn't get out and walk on it as you have to pay, and we are cheap like that :)

We went back to the hotel after a full day and had dinner at a little cafe near the hotel. Apparently Nikko shuts down by about 7pm, and it was literally the only place we could find open. It was either that, or random snack food from the 7-11 up the street. The next morning we got up at ate breakfast at the hotel, in this little lobby area.
The front of our hotel (not a bad place, but it was no Ritz Carlton either).
The next day was Sunday, so we were going to see the famous temples in the area and then drive home. I'll admit that after living in Japan awhile, and not practicing the Shinto or Buddhist religions, after a while a temple is a temple is a temple. But these are famous and listed on the world heritage sites, so we figured we should go see them. So off we went.

The tori gate into the temple area.
Another set of Japanese ladies sporting some interesting "temple wear"
5 story pagoda- you can't go into these but they are always very pretty and Japanese looking to me
There was a horse outside one of the temples. For a few hundred yen you could buy some carrots and feed him, so we thought we would see if Mallory would get close this time. (She was petrified of the horses at Tama on July 4th). Daddy was close by, so she didn't seem to mind too much.
She did close her eyes when the horse started to munch on the carrot.
Dada can feed him and then she was ok.
This was about as close as she got and I think she was glad when we decided to move on to other parts of the temple.

The main reason these temples are famous is this right here: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Pretty cool to see the original. Although I'll admit, I thought it was going to be much bigger. The monkeys were just carved onto the side of the wall, and weren't very large at all.

This horse was inside one of the temple buildings. You couldn't feed him. Actually, I didn't realize he was real, as he literally didn't move. Kind of a boring gig for this horse, if you ask me :)

The shrine with the monkeys carved into it. See, they aren't very big, are they?
A family tori gate picture (with about 20 of our closest Japanese friends :) - it was pretty busy at the temples that day.
Me outside one part of the temple. They are very ornate and amazing to look at.

This is a "fortune". Basically you pay 100 yen (about $1.20 these days) and pick a piece of paper. There is a Japanese character on it that tells you "how much luck" you have. We didn't pay to play, but I thought it was an interesting concept.

My husband, the Samurai Warrior- hahaha!
This huge circle wreath is also a good luck symbol for the people who practice Shinto (the religion is based a lot on luck and the earth and things like that). Basically, you had to walk thru it clock wise and then counter clock wise and then straight and then write a wish and hang it on the side.
We pretend to take this pic of the tori gate and me. Really, we wanted to get the back of that girls' shirt behind me. "There is, at a glance, dynamic yet delicate"....huh? I crack up here at shirts sometimes. They want to wear things with English on them, but I'm not quite sure who their translator is!!
One of the places of prayer at the temple. The 2 people facing the building put a coin into the box, clap and offer up prayers.
The "lightning bolts" are also a Shinto symbol.
Brett in front of the entrance to yet another part of the temple (these temples are huge and have lots of buildings).
I think Brett was trying to look like this guy. Kinda hard to do with a baby hanging off your chest :)

So ornate

After touring the temples completely (or as completely as these 2 Americans were going to do) we hopped in the car and headed back home. It was a wonderful family weekend filled with Japanese culture, food and language. We really enjoyed Nikko and I'm glad we took the time to go up there and see it. I'm really going to miss Japan when it is time for us to leave here.

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