The sleepy town of Nikko

I’d like to tell you a story. A story about Japan’s Grand Master of coins. It all started on the Romantic Highway…

Day 3 in Japan, or day 2 depending on how you want to look at it, and the rain was falling. We were expecting some wet weather, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t miserable at the prospect of lugging our rucksacks around the damp streets of Nikko.

We pulled in at Nikko Station, on a charming little suburban train, at around midday. Our first job was to make sense of the bus timetable which, as it turns out, is a pretty simple numbered system. We were at 1 and needed to get to 7. Easy. (We definitely weren’t confused by this at all!). 6 stops later and we had arrived at our destination. Our hostel wasn’t allowing check in until 4pm, which would have been fine if they’d shown just a little bit of hospitality. Humph! We decided to dump our bags and head out for some food.

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This was from a little restaurant called Aburagen. The local specialty in Nikko is Raw Yuba Sashimi (thin layers of soy milk skin), which sounds all sorts of wrong but is actually very tasty. I chose Tochigi Beef, while Laura opted for Himitsu Pork. It was chucking it down outside, but our stomachs were full so all seemed well.

Our next stop was the Shinkyo Bridge. The true history of the bridge is a bit of a mystery, but it is respected as sacred. (That would be why we had to pay ¥300 for the privilege of walking across). However, Japan’s Grand Master of coins would later tell us something that would make us see the bridge in a whole new light…

We then ventured in to Nikko National Park. One of the temples, Rinnō-ji was undergoing some major structural work, but it did mean we were able to get closer to certain areas than normal. No photographs were allowed, but it was very majestic. I even gave Buddha a little rub. We also stumbled into a prayer room where a monk was blessing some followers. It was fascinating to watch, but we did feel as if we were intruding on something sacred. We scarpered.

Then things got weird.

A huge press event was taking place on the grounds. For strawberries. Yep, strawberries. They seem to be a big thing here; they’d put up a marquee and everything. We took that as our cue to leave.

We took a bus up in to the mountains on a seemingly endless winding road. But once we made it to the top, we found Kegon Waterfall, Lake Chūzenji and a warning about wild monkeys. I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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Once we returned and had finally checked in, we decided to venture out for some well deserved food. Unfortunately everything closes down really early in Nikko, and we ended up roaming the Romantic Highway looking for sustenance. That’s when we found Japan’s Grand Master of Coins. Or Akira as he is more commonly known.

Akira was a kindly old gent who ran a small Chinese restaurant. He was very welcoming, laughing at our pathetic attempts at Japanese. We weren’t just given food, we were also taught a coin game (of which Akari is the master), asked some mind bending philosophical questions (nothingness is definitely greater than emptiness, right?) and shared our love of Craig David. He showed us how to write our names in Japanese, told me I was John Travolta’s son (which could well be true!), and gave us a great tip: Don’t walk on the bridge, walk around it.

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Nikko done. Fuji here we come.

Alex and Laura or…

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