When most of the opportunities you have to travel consists of two day weekends…you can really only travel so far away. Nikko is one of those towns that is close enough and has enough to do that makes the price of a Shinkansen ticket worth the trip. In just over two hours you can reach Nikko where there are a multitude of temples and shrines in close proximity to each other (which makes for an easy, but long, day of walking to all the top spots.) Nikko has two World Heritage shrines and one temple, but there are lots of other historic spots to see while you’re there. Unfortunately, many parts of the shrines and temples are under renovation which means that many parts were off limits. It kinda ruins the experience of visiting these historic places when half of it is hidden underneath a complex web of metal pipes and plastic sheeting. I get it…it’s just a bummer. I know most of these structures are over 400 years old and they are of great historical significance, so of course they require constant upkeep. I read somewhere that the renovations are going on until 2019 are cost over 40 billion yen (which is almost 40 billion dollars). I guess maybe that’s why it’s so expensive to go in and see (what you’re able to see), which was about $14 to enter the Nikko Toshogu Shrine complex.
If you want to visit any of the other shrines or temples it’ll cost you too. You want to cross the Shinkyo Bridge….that’ll cost you. In no other city have I have felt so ‘nickel and dimed’ . I mean, I paid $14 to enter this complex, but if I want to see “this” is costs extra, or “that” it cost extra. Everything cost $$ but everything seemed to be only half visible. If anything I felt like things should be cheaper because of the state of things….well I’d be wrong. In reality it's petty to complain about the cost considering that just being able to be stand in front of such historic sites in and of itself is really priceless.
I also took a bus out to the Kegan Falls, It was about an hour bus ride on some crazy, curvy, mountain roads. It was pretty, but It was getting late in the day and the sun was setting. Everything in the town was already closed. Even the elevator down to the bottom of the waterfall was already closed. Oh well at least it didn’t cost me any money to look at the waterfall! Gotta love mother nature for freely providing such beauty.
Another thing that Nikko is famous for are the hot springs. Where there are hot springs—there are onsens. And where there are onsens—there are naked people. And where there are naked people—there is NOT me! Luckily I have tattoos, which is like a doctor’s note to skip gym class. Since most onsens have a strict no tattoo policy, I always have a good excuse bypass the onsen experience. I love fashion…I think people look better with clothes on, so I like to keep it that way. I don’t want to bond with friends or co-workers while being naked and sweaty in a communal pool of old hot water (no matter what alleged healing magic ingredients the water contains). Aside from the nudity, one thing I learned in nail school were the types of communicable hidden germs and funguses that lurk in warm moisture rich environments (like public baths)…..uh, no thank you. Millions of people, both locals and tourists, visit onsens each year, so I'm obviously in the minority with my lack of love for this experience.
I prefer to socialize fully clothed and fungus free at places like restaurants and bars, drinking beers together and eating local cuisines. In Nikko, their famous food is ‘yuba’. Allow me to explain what yuba is….it is the byproduct of boiling soybeans in the production of making tofu. It is the film or skin that forms on top of the surface of the liquid which is then collected in sheets and dried. Imagine the skin that forms on the top of a bowl of pudding that’s been left in the fridge a little too long, but it’s nothing like pudding…its like tofu. And when dried looks very similar to say….the human skin that Buffalo Bill made a lampshade out of…..sounds delicious right?! Well it’s not quite that bad. It’s about as good as tofu, so it tastes like whatever it’s flavored with. It’s really just the idea of it’s ‘skin’ness and the fact that it looks kinda like you’re eating an ace bandage that turns me off. Maybe on second thought, I should just stick to socializing over beer…just beer.