Two hours, by train, north of Tokyo (¥500), in the Saitamo prefecture, sits the little town of Satte.
Not much going on in the Satte; a commuter town, but serves as a great jumping point to the north, and there’s an amazing Nepalese restaurant just down the main strip with the greatest cheesy garlic naan/chicken curry in the world.
And, then there’s ‘Carol’, a karaoke joint just outside the train station, recently learned in the art of CCR by a golden-throated blogger.
Satte is also home to heart-throb blogger, good friend, and all around awesome guy—Mr. Daniel Sakamoto.
forced gracious enough to let us crash at his place for many, many days.
NIKKO: Day Trip Ichi (一)
An hour plus train ride (Tobu Line ~ ¥900) from Satte, is Nikko; a small, Colorado-feel town with UNESCO World Heritage Temples/Shrines within walking distance of the train.
The weather brews up something cold and wet, perpetuating the dormancy of most antique and novelty shop owners on the strip up to the park. Across a bridge, up through misty mountain goodness surrounded by verdant, moss-carpeted terrain beneath the ancient cedar umbrellas.
Toshogu Shrine: a noticeable change in style occurs. Gone are the simplistic, somber hues of the previous Japanese temples, scared off by the more colorful Chinese-influenced intricacies, and ornateness.
Toshogu is home to the 3 wise monkeys (Hear No, See No, Speak No Evil Monkeys), which–like the Mona Lisa–is completely mobbed while some of the more stunning artistry on the sacred warehouses, gates, and towers are bereft of camera flashes. Stupid monkeys (kidding, they’re great).
Sitting, watching the rain from under a temple roof, surrounded by an ancient cedar forest, listening to gravel crunch under the politely mute, footsteps of tourists, soaking in the naturally diffused vibrancy of the temple—a zen-influenced, sense-aware tranquility swells.
Deep breath. Then, it gets too cold and I crave hot Ramen like nobody’s biz.
NARA: Day Trip Ni (二)
The town of Nara is located about an hour south of Kyoto by train (~ ¥600). After days of visiting shrine after shrine, temple after temple, a common side-effect of Japan is Temple Burn or Shrineitis.
Nara offers no rest from Temple Burn, but rewards with gorgeous pagodas, architecture, and…deer. Huh?
The gregarious deer just wander wherever they want, pooping/peeing freely. Women sell cookies to tourists, to feed the deer, for more pooping. They’re pretty mangy (the deer, not the cookie women), these four-legged free-loaders.
See their ten-yard stare? Stoners. Like those Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel guys. They beg people for handouts, eat organic cookies all day, and nap. Then they go and bite, kick, butt, and knock-down the hand that feeds them. Fucking hippies.
Todaiji: A massive buddhist complex, and according to most outlets, the world’s largest wooden structure. Amazingly, Todaiji is 30% less of its original size, as fire/earthquakes/godzilla’s grandpa ate away at a significant amount. The current rebuild is from 1709!
Inside the deer-less complex sits a massive, 50 foot-tall bronze depiction of buddha, or Daibutsu (large buddha). The picture above really doesn’t do justice, but this was an impressive scene, with some awe-inspiring wood/metalworking artistry; artistry I could definitely manage with the proper tools, time, and…oh who am I kidding, no fucking way I could this.
We walk through Nara’s endless park, taking in the beautiful weather, lakes, gazebos, and cherry blossoms.
Contrary to US (nationalistic) thought , Cherry Blossoms are not native to Washington DC (and do not bear fruit), but were gifted from Japan in 1912, and ceremoniously planted by then first lady, Helen Taft.
Helen Taft’s husband, William Howard, died of complications from a cherry eclair addiction— cherry eclairs mass-produced in NaraDeer, New Jersey. Coincidence? I think not!
Join me next week for more Japan Adventures. I’ll also be posing a very important question to the masses of Roam About readers — Mike