World Heritage Plenty

When leaving Tokyo on Tuesday in the early morning my destination was Nikko. A famous World Heritage Site north of the capital city. Since then I’ve also been to Hakone on my way to Kyoto, where I will stay until Tuesday. Therefore I’m packing everything into this post, making it a bit longer and coming with some more pictures than usual.

I spent last Tuesday walking amongst the impressive temples. The weather was overcast as often since I got to Japan. The light conditions were therefore rather challenging. But what I like about that kind of weather is that with its lightly misty property it somehow puts the buildings in a kind of mystical atmosphere, which I tried to capture. The Tōshō-gū shrine is also the home of the famous three wise monkeys representing the proverbial principle to ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’.

World Heritage Site: Shrines and Temples of Nikkō
Taiyū-in Reibyō Kōkamon part of Rinnō-ji temple
The three wise monkeys

However I could have one without the cold. Thanks to warming noodle soup I was ready to have a look at the last couple of buildings and then go for a walk along the river in town. A cemetery, a stone park with statues and the river itself provided some rather photogenic motifs. Additionally the sky started to clear up towards the end of the afternoon, which was good with respect to my plans for the next day.

The group of Jizo called 'Bake-jizou'
Kanmangafuchi Abyss

The next day, Wednesday, I went to Hakone, a scenic area between Tokyo and Kyoto not too far from Mount Fuji. I was pretty lucky with the weather for the first day there. However, the second day was a disaster weather wise. It was freezing, pouring down and heavily overcast. I was lucky to see a bit of the peak of Fuji from the rope-way and from the stop up on the mountain before going down the other way towards Lake Ashi. The region is known for its scenery and especially for the hot springs. Set on the remains of a collapsed volcano there are plenty of traditional public baths called Onsen. Additionally there are traditional guest houses all over the place, the well-known Ryokan. Thus I booked a night at such a place which featured its own hot spring and hence Onsen. Included were the dinner and the breakfast. The stay was nice and very relaxing. The next day as mentioned was gray and wet. However, it is in this very setting that I experienced what I would call a ‘Zen Moment’. My third bath of the morning was in the outside hot spring bath near the river. With the lower part of my body in the warm water the cold rain drops felt like needles on my back. All this was surrounded by the sound of the river next to it, the chirp of some birds and the smell of the vegetation. A truly peaceful moment.

A glimpse of Mt Fuji from the rope-way
Lake Ashi at Dusk

Thus the second day was not really suited for scenic views. I ended up in an neat little museum: Musée du Petit Prince de Saint-Exupéry à Hakoné. It is very lovely and would provide a lot of information about the author’s life and the origin of the story of the Little Prince. If you can read Japanese that is… still it was good for a rainy day. And I didn’t know the work has been translated into Quechua!
I also liked a statement of Pierre Georges Latécoère, founder of the first transcontinental air service, for whom Saint-Exupéry also flew.

J’ai refait tous les calculs … notre idée est irréalisable, il ne nous reste qu’une chose à faire: la réaliser!

Le Musée du Petit Prince de Saint-Exupéry à Hakone

From there I got the train to Kyoto. The rides on the Shinkansen are fun. These trains really go pretty fast! Kyoto is full with temples and shrines and many of them are on the list of the World Heritage. The city used to be Japan’s capital for a long time before 1868 when Tokyo took over. Unfortunately the rain makes the exploring of the temples and the often vast gardens only half the fun. Still it remains very interesting, not only the temples though…

Cemetery overlooking Kyoto on the way to Kiyomizu-dera temple
School class on Kiyomizu-dera temple

Kinkaku-ji better known as Golden Pavilion for obvious reasons

Bamboo forest in Arashiyama

There would be more, but I’m done. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Oh, and I almost forgot… props go out to Khalil, who was so nice to let me use his laptop to write this blog entry!

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