We set off early for Nikko. Only a 2 hour drive, we went directly to the carpark for the Shrines. Our first port of call took us through Shoyuen Gardens opposite Rinnoji Temple. Shoyuen is a small traditional garden in typical Japanese style, with trees sprouting new green leaves under carpeted with hostas, azaleas, ferns, irises and other low growing plants. The conifers were as usual trimmed into neat topiary shapes.
As Rinnoji Temple is undergoing renovations we had a very quick look then walked on through the Tori gate of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We wandered through beautiful forest up the "Sei-chu."….. the long pathway lined with stonewalls sprouting delicate ferns, leading to the Togoshu Shrine. It is apparently etiquette to walk to the side not the middle of the Sei-chu.
Day Two and we headed back into the city to visit the Edo Architectural Museum of Tokyo. Tomoko organized a guide who was excellent. He spoke very good English and was extremely interesting.
We spent several hours wandering around the museum which had historic and antique displays, maps, videos, puppet displays....... as well as interactive displays and antique vehicles… a penny farthing bicycle, horse and carts and other historic forms of transport set up for visitors to sit in …..irresistible to big and little kids alike !
We got the full history of Edo which Tokyo was previously called, until the Meiji period in 1868. The museum gives you a wonderful history walk through to today and many things we have seen at different times in Japan and wondered about fell into place.
For example - The fire service was an important organization, as you can imagine with all the wooden buildings. All the different standards representing each fire group were displayed. Below the logo displayed on a large shield they have these long wide leather strips at the very top of the pole rather like a large mop head, which they could twirl. .I have often wondered what they are and why they are designed like this. The revelation was that these are to keep the sparks from the fire off the carriers head. Very clever!
There were intricately detailed models of villages and displays of the interiors of houses, geisha houses, kimono and fabric shops and much more. The large wooden bridge you cross as you walk in is a half size replica of Nihonbashi Bridge.
You can stand on the bridge and overlook the replica Nakamura Theater which has regular activities and shows, but unfortunately we missed them as the theatre was closed at 4.00pm before we had finished our tour with the guide. There are several interactive displays and you learn about the many things that have shaped Tokyo city today.
There are several parts to the museum. The Edo period, Tokyo - which is about the westernization of the city, while one level is totally devoted to the Edo Castle.
As we left we passed the Sumo Stadium where there were competitions going on. You can often go and watch some sumo here if you are interested.
On our way to the train station from the gardens, we stopped to have a look at this weird clock! On the face of the Nippon TV Tower it was designed by famous ( in Japan anyway) anime maker, Hayao Miyazaki. and sculpted by Shachimaru Kunio. This is his Nittere Ohdokei clock designed to represent his famous movie masterpiece, Howl’s Moving Castle, an animated Japanese fantasy film.
The largest animated clock in the world…this incredible creation is 32 feet high by 59 feet wide and weighs a massive 28 tons. It is certainly as fantastical as you could see anywhere with a series of windows with obviously characters from the movie, doing various activities. Like a cuckoo clock… at set times everything swings into action and you have all these little vignettes doing different things. There is so much detail you can spend some time looking at all the features….really fascinating.
The animated show when it all springs to life starts 3 minutes and 45 seconds before each hour.
The Times Are –
Monday to Friday: 12:00, 15:00, 18:00, 20:00
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00, 12:00, 15:00, 18:00, 20:00
After leaving the clock as we headed for the station, we passed an area where elderly men were playing a board game with tiles rather like slim mahjong pieces, second hand books filled temporary canvas stalls and an old steam train rested in colourful gardens creating an interesting feature. Tokyo is a city with a split personality. You have interesting, very modern glass monoliths towering above and unique human interest areas like these indispersed between them.
We, Gail and Brian, have permanently itchy feet .
Our list of travel aspirations never seems to get shorter, despite visiting many fascinating countries over many years. While we have both visited about 100 countries each - not all the same, we look forward to enjoying many more, as we satisfy our "Yen for Travel".