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Nikko is Nippon


Signs on the train say "Nikko is Nippon (Japan)" and the guidebook tells us it will be everything we think of when we imagine Japan...

Our trains from Sendai run exactly on time, we arrive at night and everywhere is quiet. We forgot to get directions to the hostel when we last had internet and so sought out a friendly station employee to point us in the right direction - it was a minute walk, perfect. An unassuming little guesthouse would be our home for the next 2 nights. £40 a night for a futon on straw mats in a room with paper walls... it was actually pretty cozy, friendly and good value for accommodation in Japan!

The owner gave us a few eating options and we headed for a Japanese place that was sold as good and cheap, forcing ourselves to walk past 2 Indian restaurants (the only other places that seemed to be open). The restaurant was really good and had 4 people in, which was the biggest group we'd seen so far in Nikko. Pork with garlic and leaks was amazing and a pretty good bowl of steaming ramen (noodles). We finished up and the restaurant was shut up behind us. It looked like Nikko wasn't going to be the place for late night drinking...

We had a full day of templing the next day. Enormous vermilion (red) temples surrounded by huge green cedars, bright reds and yellows from the Japanese maples and moss covered stones spread for miles. We paid to visit most of them and there was enough variety to make it worth it. Having to constantly remove our walking boots to look around was the only difficulty, until we had to decide where to eat lunch that is...

After an hour of walking up and down the same street, we returned to the first place we'd found that had been recommended to us... Sophie had decided that the portions were too small, but then it emerged she wasn't that hungry, so I felt her argument didn't hold water and we went in... Now there was a wait... To try and fend off my grouchiness we headed to a a mochi stall (really sticky rice based things) and I went for the sesame and soy sauce glazed ball things (they are better than they sound and look). Back at the restaurant we were served many small portions that ended up being enough food (I was glad I'd had my mochi though). Some of it was amazing, other bits; not so much...
Before sunset, we wondered along the river, saw many stone men with bibs and little hats (no idea why) and more tree colours. The koyo (autumn colour change) is as popular in Japan as the cherry blossom in spring. This seemed to explain our problems finding somewhere to stay...
After a good day of sightseeing, we planned to do a bit of onsening (having a bath with other people). It seems a bit strange to me but the Japanese seem to love it, so I thought we better see what it was about. This plan was hijacked when we got back to the guesthouse and found that a group meal was available. About a dozen of us were sent to the supermarket, each with an item that we were required to buy... Then we were all to cook together... I befriended a German guy and we decided too-many-cooks and all that, so drank beer and secured the best seats at the table. We ate nabe which is essentially a stew that you cook in the middle of the table and keep adding greens, been sprouts, mushrooms and meat to. The group was fairly eclectic - Taiwanese, Canadian, German, Irish and Japanese. A crazy Japanese girl arrived, introduced herself and gave a bit of her life story and we were to reciprocate. She then started handing out nuts and playing some bells... It was a good evening with some interesting people (and one crazy Japanese girl).

Felix, the German, gave us his bus ticket so we headed up to a lake in the mountains the next day so we took a sushi breakfast and sat in the crisp air for a while, took a little stroll to a waterfall and generally pottered around a bit. The shops were all weird selling various bean based souvenir cake things. They don't taste unpleasant, but they definitely don't taste good. Other than that, if you don't want plastic samurai swords and tea sets, you're struggling... Our Xmas shopping was not going well.
It was almost time to head off on another train, just time to try as many free samples as possible. Every tourist place seems to have a honey shop. We had as many hot honey based drink samples as we dared and bought a honey ice cream for the journey...

Posted by bloorsontour 03:29 Archived in Japan

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I thought the last blog had some lovely autumnal photos, but these are stunning. We were in Japan in Spring blossom time, but Autumn looks a winner! Beautiful! Xxxxx

by Ma and Pa

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