Today once again begins with cute kids :)
The main activities this morning were packing & keeping kids out of moms' way as they packed. The plan was for Momo, Hiroko, & the kids to leave Nikko on the 12:04 pm train to Tokyo, via Utsunomiya. Momo had sent the greater part of her luggage here by a parcel service, & she was getting ready to send it all back home via the local convenience store (pretty cool service, if you ask me). Hiroko was doing the same with a smaller bag, so at 10:30 they left all of the kids with us (!) and headed around the corner with their luggage. Charlie broke out the finger puppets he'd brought & turned on the tv, although the only program on was about learning business-related terms in English (it was pretty funny). Aoi-chan divided her time between puppets & rapt attention to the tv (she has been taking English classes since she was 2). Mai-chan climbed the stairs, under heavy guard. Nozomu-kun did pretty well until he realized his mom was gone then the waterworks opened up.
On our way back to the house Charlie & I explored a bit. We found a little Shinto Shrine on the way, the Hotoku Ninomiya Jinja, which was built in 1898 in honor of Sontoku Ninomiya, who helped rebuild the village of Imaitchi when it was destroyed in a natural disaster. Nowadays kids come to pray for success in school. The main sign at the entrance was interesting, as it had a musical score engraved into it.
We went to the nearby supermarket next to get lunch & breakfast food, as we are now on our own again, meals-wise. You know our healthy diet will suffer now...
We rested a bit in the early afternoon, then decided to take the train into Nikko one more time to see the World Heritage Site temples & jinja there. The afternoon was as warm as it's been here, nearly 60 F, and still sunny & beautiful, so we thought it would be nice to walk around. The plan was to take a taxi from the train station in Nikko to a temple in the middle of the site, & then walk back to the station, which the guidebook said would take half an hour or so. Then maybe catch dinner (though I secretly hoped the crepe stand we all shared a crepe from yesterday would still be open).
Charlie took a photo of the entrance to our home away from home here in Nikko. It's the little brown door on the left that says "Welcome". We unlock that door, go through a longish passageway, to another door, then it opens to the sky again & we walk a few more yards, & there's our door. Pretty typical for Japan, actually :) The store under the yellow sign is a bento shop.
It was a bit after 3:00 pm when we got to the station, & the book said things close early in Nikko in March. The next train wasn't due for half an hour, so we decided to take a taxi from the Imaitchi Station to the Rinnou-ji Buddhist Temple. It took about 15 minutes & turned out to be a good idea, since things did start closing up as we walked around.
The Rinnou-ji had that certain look that afflicts at least one of the temples we try to visit every trip- it was completely covered with a building & renovations were going on inside the building. At least they had a nice image of the temple on the building...
All of the world heritage sites are clustered at the top of a hill, so it made us doubly glad that we'd planned to take a taxi there. A taxi driver had told Momo yesterday that they had finished renovations on a gate in the Toshougu Shine, the site of Ieyasu Tokugawa's burial, so it would probably be mobbed this weekend. Even close to closing time there were lots of visitors. We didn't pay for admission to the Toshougu because it was so close to closing, but there were some interesting buildings outside the shrine, such as the 5-storied pagoda, which was preceded by this sign explaining that the pagoda is as tall as the Tokyo Sky Tree. The pagoda is also interesting because it has not foundation. It hangs from a pole in the center, which allows it to remain unharmed during earthquakes.
We then walked to the Futarasan Jinja, where miko were closing the place to the beat of taiko drums.
Then we decided to walk back into town, down, down, down that big hill. At the bottom there was a beautiful bridge. There was a sign at the entrance of the heritage site that say the one who crosses the bridge will find good luck. However, the bridge is closed! Bummer!!
On the walk down to town we couldn't help but notice the beautiful Nikko mountains again. They are just breathtaking!
We got down to the shops near the station & realized we weren't hungry for dinner :) So we bought a couple of yuba manju & walked to the station, tried to puzzle-out the train schedule, then saw the sign informing everyone that the Niko line was shut down (no explanation we could understand). There are 2 stations within a block of each other, one being JR (Japan Rail) & one local, and we had hoped to use our JR passes for this trip, but we headed for the other station after reading the sign. Only to find that their next train wasn't for 40 minutes... so, back in a taxi to the Imaitchi Station.
We went to the conbini so Charlie could buy a rice ball for dinner (I still wasn't hungry) and went home. Tonight it was our turn to sort through luggage and repack for our voyage to the south of Japan tomorrow, which begins with a 9:04 am train. Charlie had a soak in the four & I finally was hungry for a crazy dinner of left over mostly-boiled egg & spinach from breakfast, and two kinds of manju.
Before bathing Charlie took a nice photo of the senbei we'd painted yesterday. Charlie painted his impressions of Nikko. Mine says "oishii" (delicious) in hiragana.
I miss those kids so much!! But tomorrow we get to see more friends we haven't seen in a long time, too, so I'm really happy to be heading to Matsuyama :)